Macy's Bets on Power of Santa Belief This Holiday

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There's a lot of wishing going around this holiday season, and Macy's is hoping to capitalize on that desire for positivity with the latest iteration of its "Believe" campaign. Now in its ninth season, this year's marketing push centers around the new Santa Project, a social media call to arms asking consumers nationwide to post Santa belief-related photos, messages or videos on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube under #SantaProject.

The retailer is debuting a two-minute digital video featuring kids talking about how and why they believe in the man in the red suit. One child calls the North Pole, while others guess about the number of elves in Santa's workshop and the possibility of Mrs. Claus being pregnant. The video then switches to the prospect of not believing in the realness of Santa.

A compilation of certain selected responses from the social media campaign will air in a 30-second TV spot late this month.

"When you look at the internet right now, there is a lot of negativity out there," said Joe Feczko, senior VP-brand marketing at Macy's, in a statement. "We're asking people to come together this Christmas to flood the internet with a groundswell of positivity that preserves belief for kids everywhere."

In preparation for the campaign, Macy's researched the idea of belief and how it relates to childhood development. Working on a study with Liminal Research, the retailer found that such faith and trust is important to critical thinking, creativity and imagination in kids today.

The new push is Macy's first holiday work from Figliulo & Partners, which it tapped in the spring, along with BBH New York, to handle its holiday marketing. J. Walter Thompson had creative duties for Macy's for the past eight years. This also marks the first holiday selling season for Richard Lennox, Macy's new chief marketing officer who was hired from Toys R Us in August.

"The story of Santa has played out for generations in songs, film and TV, but when kids search for Santa on the internet, they're getting a very different answer," said Mark Figliulo, founder and chief executive of Figliulo & Partners, in a statement. "The Santa Project has the chance to change that and give them a more thoughtful response from as many people as possible."

As part of its holiday marketing, the department store chain also plans to debut its first parade-focused commercial, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, on Nov. 24. That spot was created with BBH New York.

Macy's, a $27.1 billion chain, spent $220.3 million on measured media in the U.S. last year from November to December, according to Kantar Media. It is the third largest marketer in retail following Amazon and Walmart, according to Ad Age's Datacenter. The company is again partnering with Make-A-Wish, the wish-granting charity, and plans to donate $1—up to $1 million—for every letter to Santa it collects.

Last week, Macy's reported a third-quarter earnings decline of 4.2% to $5.6 billion, compared with the year-earlier period. Same-store sales fell 3.3% in the quarter. Macy's, which also announced a new agreement with real estate firm Brookfield Asset Management to remodel 50 of its fleet, expects full-year same-store sales to decline between 2.5% and 3%. It is in the process of closing some 100 of its 728 stores.

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