The CMO Interview

Why Tommy Hilfiger Boosted Ad Budget by 60%, Aired First Branded TV Spot Since 2005

Q&A: Exec VP Avery Baker on Brand's Latest Investment Built Around 'The Hilfigers'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Hilfigers, a fictional family oozing Americana, has been awfully busy as of late, as has Avery Baker, exec VP-global marketing and communications at Tommy Hilfiger.

Members of the Hilfiger clan, along with Ms. Baker, were just in Paris for the opening of the lifestyle brand's largest store in France. Globally, the company counts some 1,000 stores and brings in $2.25 billion in annual revenues. Meanwhile, a branded TV spot -- the company's first since 2005 -- began airing in the U.S. It features a chaotic Hilfiger family picnic, in celebration of the holidays. The Hilfigers, introduced earlier this fall in a print campaign, have also made appearances in New York, attending Fashion Week and the U.S. Open, as well as Tokyo where the brand recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The Hilfigers celebrate the holidays with a picnic in this still from the newest TV spot.
The Hilfigers celebrate the holidays with a picnic in this still from the newest TV spot.
"It's become a really fun part of the campaign, a great layer of guerrilla marketing," Ms. Baker, back in Amsterdam, where the brand's European headquarters are located, said of the Hilfigers' appearances. "We've found that wherever they go people are just so drawn to them."

The characters' appeal is a big part of the reason why the brand, in order to run TV spots, boosted its second-half ad budget by 60%. According to Kantar, Tommy Hilfiger spent $10 million on measured media during the second half of last year. The campaign, created by Laird & Partners, is slated to run in the U.S. through Dec. 5.

"We really felt this campaign would come to life through [TV], because of the sense of the characters and the sense of narrative," Ms. Baker explained. "We really feel that this campaign defines the Tommy Hilfiger brand today."

Ad Age spoke with Ms. Baker about why now was the right time to drive home a message of "classic American cool" with a new campaign.

Ad Age: This is the brand's first major foray into TV in years. Why now?

Ms. Baker: The brand and the company are in a really interesting position right now. There's a lot of positive momentum behind the brand. The business has been performing extremely well. We felt it would be the right time to act on that momentum and bring this campaign to a much wider audience, as you can only really do with television.

Ad Age: What other media channels are you tapping into?

Ms. Baker: Print is the backbone of our plans on an ongoing basis, but in addition, we've really stepped up our activity in the digital space. We think the combination of that with TV is essential. The two really need to work in tandem. Already, for example, on Facebook, on Twitter, on our own site, the Hilfigers have been engaging with fans on a frequent basis. We actually saw in one month our fan base grow by 25% on Facebook, once we started to feature these family members as an active part of the brand experience. We think the more we can push this campaign out in traditional media, the more we can pull consumers in to engage with the family and with the brand in social media and the digital world.

Ad Age: This year's ad budget was increased significantly for this campaign. How will you determine whether that investment is paying off?

Ms. Baker: Because it's a branding spot, we think the repercussions will probably be longer term and maybe not as immediately obvious on the sales floor. We've been really, in the last several years, fine tuning the message of the brand to consumers. If this can continue to really drive home the image of Tommy -- classic American cool but with that very preppy point of view -- we'll be really pleased with that.

Ad Age: In the U.S., Tommy Hilfiger is exclusive to Macy's. So, why does it make sense to do a brand spot? And is Macy's footing part of the bill?

Ms. Baker: No, [Macy's is not]. This is a brand initiative. ... Of course Tommy is featured personally in Macy's spots. But what we feel this campaign does is communicate the total Tommy brand position and lifestyle in a way that Macy's spots wouldn't do. That wouldn't be the main objective for the Macy's spots. We think Macy's will definitely benefit from this campaign, as an overall brand message for Tommy, and it will also, of course, benefit our own retail stores and website.

Ad Age: What brands are you watching right now or looking to for inspiration?

Ms. Baker: The unbelievable success of something like the Old Spice campaign and what that character was able to become. We never set out for the Hilfigers to become that, but it's interesting to see, as a device, how appealing that can be for consumers. It's also interesting; when we were discussing whether or not to go down the road of television, we looked at brands like Apple, which is arguably one of the most innovative brands out there, and even they use TV. So, everyone can say television is a dying medium and everyone should be online, but I think the brands that are having the most effective reach right now are really doing both.

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