Ellen vs. J Lo Ad Smackdown: Who Wins?

Talk Show Host's JC Penney Campaign Edges Out Diva's Kohl's Spots

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In the Ellen vs. J Lo smackdown, Ellen wins -- but mainly by default.

Campaigns featuring both stars have been in heavy rotation in the past few weeks. The lovable talk-show host has been shilling for JC Penney, which is in the midst of reinvention, while the pop star has been promoting her Kohl's line. JC Penney's ads were created by San Francisco-based creative firm Brand Advisors. Kohl's agency is McCann Erickson, New York.

Both stars have rabid fan bases, as proved by support for Ms. DeGeneres after One Million Moms protested against JC Penney for selecting her as its spokeswoman. The effort backfired as consumers took to social media to pledge that the choice would make them shop at JC Penney stores more than before.

Ms. Lopez's collection for Kohl's, meanwhile, has seen strong sales. Shortly after its launch last fall, Deutsche Bank analyst Charles Grom said in a note that the line had "generated buzz and excitement around the Kohl's stores" and "led to greater customer awareness and a rise in traffic." More recently, Richard Jaffe, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, said that the brand is performing well and should continue to drive strong results during the first quarter.

Coincidentally, both women have ties to "American Idol." Ms. DeGeneres judged season nine but departed only a year into her five-year contract. Ms. Lopez took her spot in season 10 and is now judging season 11.

But only one star can come out on top in this ad duel. "In the Ellen vs. J Lo battle, Ellen wins. Not because the Ellen ads are so exceptional, but because the J Lo ad misses the mark," said Gary Getto, president at Advertising Benchmark Index, which measures ads' effectiveness across all media channels.

Ads in both of the campaigns are highly likable and have call-to-action scores that are well above average. Yet the message isn't always clearly communicated in either. And awareness scores are well below average. Mr. Getto suspects viewers may be confused about what is being promoted in the Kohl's ads -- Ms. Lopez or the retailer -- while the JC Penney ads are "hit or miss."

"For JC Penney, the logo is flashed only at the end of each ad," Mr. Getto said. "And since [two of the ads] are 60 seconds, there is a lot of time before the brand is identified, then only briefly, and perhaps the JC Penney [part] is not yet resonating."

Yet when all is said and done, ABX found the JC Penney ads generally had better scores for "reputation" and "relevance" than the Kohl's ads. The "message" scores were mixed for JCP and low for Kohl's.

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