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JC Penney Ads Win Big at Oscars

Ads Starring Ellen DeGeneres Score High on Effectiveness

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Is JC Penney's big refresh already paying off?

The retailer's ads starring Ellen DeGeneres were among the most effective commercials to roll out during the Oscars broadcast, according to Ace Metrix.

Four spots, in which Ms. DeGeneres went back in time to see whether befuddling return policies and pricing strategies have always been the norm, each scored between 630 and 552; the average Ace score for department stores is 510.

Ace Metrix results are presented on a scale between 0 and 950.

The spots, created by San Francisco-based creative firm Brand Advisors, also marked a series of personal bests for JC Penney, whose average Ace score is 516.

The most effective ad was "Roman Returns," in which Ms. DeGeneres attempts to return a toga in ancient Rome but is thwarted by her lack of a receipt.

It especially struck a chord among women 21 to 35. It was the fourth-most-effective and the second-best new ad, with an Ace score of 630. The most effective commercial during the Academy Awards was for Samsung Galaxy Note, with an Ace score of 686.

"The 'returns' ad especially had all the markings of a great spot," said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. "It was funny, everyone likes Ellen, and it was well-produced, with some of the comments saying that it was like watching a great movie."

Mr. Daboll added that the spots scored exceptionally high on relevance, as they were communicating frustrations shared by shoppers but also marking the company's move in a new direction.

Previous ads that teased the overhaul, created by Mother New York, didn't do so well, especially a series of short ones featuring people screaming when at coupons and sale signs, said Mr. Daboll. "The Ellen ads told a story and had a clear message that resonated."

The work marks one of the biggest campaigns for JC Penney since it announced a major marketing overhaul in late January. The company rolled out a series of sweeping changes, including announcing Ms. DeGeneres as its spokesperson, a logo redesign and "fair and square" pricing that eliminates door-busters and 99-cent add-ons.

The retailer also ended its five-year relationship with agency Saatchi & Saatchi in December. It divided creative duties between multiple shops, including Brand Advisors, Peterson Milla Hooks and Mother .

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