Old Navy CMO Aims to Lessen Brand's Reliance on TV

'Backbone' of Back-to-school Campaign Is an Online Music Video

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Old Navy is looking to online video this back-to-school season as CMO Ivan Wicksteed works to steer the retailer away from its reliance on TV.

At the center of that effort is an online music video for an original song called, "Unlimited," which plays on the anxieties of the first day of school. The online video aims to build on Old Navy's success with a recent series of TV spots starring Amy Poehler, whose outtakes went viral on YouTube. Ms. Poehler is also slated to appear in TV ads during the back-to-school season.

"We're trying to produce content that lives outside of TV," said Mr. Wicksteed. "It's more organic content that people want to watch."

Ivan Wicksteed
Ivan Wicksteed

Mr. Wicksteed, is working to broaden the TV-centric retailer's horizons, even as the medium still "commands the lion's share of the budget," he said. Old Navy spent $176 million on measured media last year, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

Though Old Navy's ads typically focus on moms throughout the year, the retailer turns its attention to kids during the back-to-school season. Mr. Wicksteed says music can help bridge the gap with younger generations. Though, it's worth noting that "Old Navy Records," an earlier campaign from the brand with a heavy music component was deemed "ineffective" by Gap Inc. executives.

"If you want to talk to this audience, you have to engage them using media that they interact with," said Mr. Wicksteed, who cited Disney's 'Frozen' as an example of the impact music can have. The movie's anthem, "Let It Go" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Music is something they're used to interacting with in a major way. We're really just tapping into that as a cultural phenomenon."

Mr. Wicksteed declined to comment on the budget for the campaign, but said the online video is the "backbone" of Old Navy's back-to-school efforts.

For the video, Old Navy tapped AwesomenessTV, an online distribution platform with a strong reach among a younger demographic. The artists on the platform who are featured in the video are producing original content around it. CAA Marketing also worked on the anthem, which is available on iTunes.

Old Navy's back-to-school campaign also include in-store, digital and social. TV ads featuring Ms. Poehler were handled by Chandelier Creative.

Camp Old Navy, the brand's partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America, which serves underprivileged youths, is also incorporated in to the back-to-school campaign. The program, which is mentioned in the music video, will receive proceeds from the iTunes purchases of "Unlimited," as well as in-store donations.

Other retailers have taken cause-related marketing approaches this back-to-school season to drum up support for students in need. Target, for example, aims to donate $25 million in school supplies -- one product for each product purchased from Target's school-supply line Up and Up.

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