Forget the Heartstrings, Retailers Are Pushing More Deals

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Thanks to the election, retailers got a late start to holiday advertising this year, but they're trying to make up for lost time by ramping up the promotional offers right out of the gate. Campaigns from retailers including Target and Kohl's are pushing deals and discounts.

Ace Metrix, which measures the impact of video advertising, found that of the 47 retail ads that have appeared thus far in the season, 55% are deal-related, including specific Black Friday promotions. Last year at this time, 111 ads had aired, and roughly the same amount were devoted to deals.

The shopping has already begun, according to the National Retail Federation, which found that 55.7% of consumers had already bought holiday gifts as of the Monday before Thanksgiving. The NRF predicts that overall holiday spending will increase 3.6% this year, up from 3.2% last year.

Many retailers are relying on value to spur buying from consumers who may have been taking a wait-and-see approach during the election or after its surprising result.

JC Penney began offering its Black Friday deals earlier than ever this year -- unlike last year, when the 1,020-unit chain waited until Thanksgiving. All Black Friday promotions will be offered online on Wednesday, a day earlier than in 2015, according to Mary Beth West, exec VP-chief customer and marketing officer at the Plano, Texas-based company. Earlier this month, she told Ad Age that shopping on Thanksgiving Day, when the retailer opens its doors at 3 p.m., has "become a tradition" for many customers.

Last week, Target executives said on an earnings call that the chain intends to increase its value messaging in marketing in coming weeks. The strategy already helped to drive traffic and sales in the third quarter to the brand, which is amplifying its holiday value marketing by 20% this year over 2015.

Yet not all brands are screaming deals and offers. Macy's opted for an emotional and nostalgic spot in celebration of the 90th anniversary of its Thanksgiving Day Parade. The department-store chain is also running a commercial around children believing in Santa.

"Macy's is doing more storytelling -- it hits people's emotions," said Dan Fisher, senior VP-exec creative director at the Martin Agency's London post.

And some brands are using the holidays to market a different message. REI will continue its successful "Opt Outside" campaign for the second year by closing on Black Friday and urging consumers to spend time outdoors. Similarly, SunTrust, the bank, is urging consumers to learn about their finances and start saving in order to live better in a new iteration of its "On Up" campaign, which it debuted earlier this year. The holiday messaging will appear via TV and digitally.

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