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Old Navy Goes All The Way With the Griswolds for the Holidays

'National Lampoon' Cast Reprises Role in Series of Commercials for Retailer

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Old Navy is extending its strategy of tapping popular characters from the 1980s and 1990s in its advertising with a set of holiday spots featuring the Griswolds.

Chevy Chase for Old Navy
Chevy Chase for Old Navy

The fictional family from the campy, comedic "National Lampoon's Vacation" series will reprise its role in five commercials for the retailer. In the first spot, Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, reenacts the famous scene where his family shivers outside while he tries to flip the switch on the Christmas lights on their house.

"We have a strategy this season to be doing it all the way, larger than life. Gifts all the way; Cheer all the way," said Michelle Wlazlo, global senior VP-adult merchandising and licensing, as well as interim chief marketer. "When we thought about how we would bring Christmas to our audience with the next round of celebrities, there's no family that 's more all the way than the Griswolds."

Juliette Lewis, who played Audrey Griswold, and Beverly D'Angelo, who played Ellen Griswold, both appear in the first spot. Other actors who played Audrey and Rusty will appear in subsequent spots. In the last year, Old Navy has teamed up with Mr. T , as well as members of the casts of "Blossom" and "90210." George Takei, best known for his role in "Star Trek," is appearing in Black Friday ads. CP&B handles creative for Old Navy.

The use of stars who built their careers decades ago is strategic. Old Navy targets a 25-to 35-year-old customer who has an emotional connection to those characters, Ms. Wlazlo said. "[The customer] is responding and thanking us for bringing back some of their favorite people," she said. "We're bringing them back in a way that is credible and relevant and fun. We're not making fun of these people they love so much."

The brand's measured media spending was down 13% in the first half of this year, compared to the first half of 2011. During Gap Inc.'s third-quarter conference call, execs said they are pleased with the amount of marketing behind Old Navy, noting there's a "great lineup of promotions" planned for the holiday season. Ms. Wlazlo declined to comment on budgets, but said Old Navy's presence will be felt consistently throughout December.

The retailer has been without a top marketer for more than 18 months, though its parent company recently brought on some big-name talent in Michael Francis. The former Target CMO and JC Penney president spends two weeks amonth at Gap Inc.'s offices in an advisory role. Ms. Wlazlo said he's been a "great resource" since coming onboard.

During the conference call, CEO Glenn Murphy said Mr. Francis has already added "great value" to Old Navy. He noted that Mr. Francis, along with Old Navy leaders, will be looking closely at the brand's media strategy in the coming months, though he said Old Navy and TV advertising "go hand-in-glove."

"What [Michael] sees is an opportunity to change the mix of our marketing and maybe get a little more bang for our buck like some other brands out there. Maybe we're a little too married to our television exposure," Mr. Murphy told analysts. "The work that Michael's done since he's been here is really not only about the creative positioning of Old Navy and all the tools and mediums available for us, but how do we get more for the money we have?"

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