Gap Returns to TV With Fall Campaign

As Brand Bounces Back, It Invests in TV for Second Time in Seven Years

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Gap's Fall 2013 campaign,
Gap's Fall 2013 campaign,

Gap is making a comeback on the small screen.

The brand's fall campaign, "Back to Blue," will include TV buys for the first time in four years. It's only the second time in the last seven years the brand has advertised on TV, the last time being Christmas 2009.

Peterson Milla Hooks is handling the fall campaign, touted as Gap's broadest-reaching campaign in modern history. It includes print, outdoor, direct, social, in-store and digital, in addition to TV. The TV ads will be unveiled through an "innovative" partnership in mid-September, though Seth Farbman, Gap's global chief marketing officer, declined to share any specifics.

"We feel that after this two-year journey…we've turned that corner. We have momentum. We have clarity on what we want to say, and now we want to say it in the broadest way possible," said Mr. Farbman. "We have always been a brand that benefits from moving pictures, sound, emotional engagement. …Also, the reality is that TV continues to be the medium that gets you mass reach quickly."

The investment in a far-reaching campaign signals the tide has turned for the long-beleaguered brand. Gap Inc. Chairman-CEO Glenn Murphy hasn't minced words when it comes to discussing what it takes for the company's brands to merit marketing investment. Back in 2008 he said that the brands must have good product, well-run retail environments and an "imaginative, creative" message. The fourth criterion involves assessing whether the consumer is ready to respond to marketing.

"It's one of many positive indications the brand is on the right track," Mr. Farbman said of the campaign.

Sales gains
Gap brand's sales are also looking up globally. It has posted positive or flat same-store sales for the past year. Last month, the brand reported same-store sales rose 7%, building on a 10% gain in July a year ago. Analysts have been upbeat on the brand, noting that is products are on trend and compelling promotions have attracted a steady stream of consumers.

"The early fall merchandise in stores now, looks particularly appealing," said Richard Jaffe, an analyst with Stifel. "We anticipate momentum to continue at this division."

Mr. Farbman declined to comment on how the TV buy would affect the brand's 2013 marketing budget. And another TV buy is being considered for holiday, though that program is still in development. According to Kantar Media, Gap brand spent $60 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, up from $26 million in 2011. The last year the brand bought TV, in 2009, it spent $97 million on measured media in the U.S.

Core denim
"We don't look at TV as an incremental spend that you layer on an existing plan," Mr. Farbman said. "We put a new media model together that looked at internal and external data. …There was quite a bit of science. But there is an emotional value that comes from using all media, especially TV. It suggests your confidence is there and you have something to say."

Mr. Farbman noted that consumers today are looking to have experiences and share them with others, as well as align with brands that have value and substance -- gone are the days of oversized logos and disposable fashion. Those insights informed "Back to Blue," which Mr. Farbman calls a "triple threat."

"It means something to us internally, and it reinforces that we know who we are externally. And it brings us back to core denim," Mr. Farbman said. The fall collection will prominently feature 1969 denim, as well as a wide assortment of denim jackets and chambray shirts.

Also as part of the fall campaign, on Aug. 29, Gap plans to be the first brand to take over all of Tumblr's mobile ads. A contest, launching Aug. 12, asks consumers to create original content, sharing what "Back to Blue" means to them. The winning pieces will be featured on Gap's Tumblr and turned into ads. Gap is also teaming up with street artists to create 10 outdoor murals, titled "Art of Blue." In 30 countries, Gap will utilize Styld.by, adding Mashable and Eater, which will style tech influencers and chefs, respectively. Refinery29 will continue to style fashion and lifestyle bloggers for the site.

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