Target Boosts Digital, Social to 61% of Holiday Budget

Toy-Filled 'Odyssey' Campaign Features Bullseye, Neil Patrick Harris Plus Tie-Ins With Mary Poppins, Star Wars

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Target's holiday dreams are set on a sea of whipped cream and feature a giant octopus made of Twizzlers and plenty of talking toys. "The Holiday Odyssey" campaign features three children, along with faithful pup Bullseye, embarking on an adventure-filled quest to light a Christmas tree in a land of toys and the occasional dessert. This is the Minneapolis-based retailer's fourth holiday campaign with 72andSunny.

"We have landed in a place this Christmas that will separate us from the pack," said Jeff Jones, CMO at Target. The campaign includes 12 commercials in 60-second and 30-second iterations, which will begin airing on TV Nov. 4. The spots are meant to tell a single story throughout the season, with spots dedicated to supporting specific events like Thanksgiving, Black Friday and even the premiere of the newest installment of Star Wars. "This story resolves in an awesome way -- an odyssey linked to the seasons and how people go through shopping," explained Mr. Jones.

Target is dedicating a whopping 61% of its media spending to digital, up from 51% last year. Mr. Jones said the company is spending less on print and outdoor advertising and more on social media and mobile. "That's where our consumer is," he said.

The digital and audio book is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris
The digital and audio book is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris Credit: Target

The Odyssey campaign will also include a 13-minute digital and audio book narrated by Neil Patrick Harris and an updated WishList app. In addition, the retailer will partner with ABC and Disney to bring the film classic "Mary Poppins" back to network television for the first time in 14 years on Dec. 12. During the film, all 12 of the retailer's holiday ads will air in sequence. On Dec. 18, a commercial featuring Storm Troopers will air in cinema during the premiere of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

In addition to 72andSunny, Target worked with LatinWorks to create nine Hispanic spots. Target Creative, Carrot Creative and 360i were tapped for social promotion, while Knock provided in-store merchandising. Hayworth and Group M handled media buying.

Target is spending roughly the same amount on this year's marketing as last year, though executives declined to provide a figure. The 1,805-unit chain spent $170.6 million on measured media in November and December last year, according to Kantar Media. Same-store sales during the critical holiday period from November through January were up 3.8%.

Banking on the attractiveness of hot items like sequined apparel, metallic home goods and exclusive Star Wars toys, Target is again offering free shipping beginning Nov. 1. It has also pushed back the deadline date for customers looking for Christmas Eve delivery to Dec. 21 from Dec. 20 last year.

"We're allowing our guest to shop anytime, any way they want to -- it's an on-demand experience," said CEO Brian Cornell.