Best Buy Unleashed Holiday Marketing Earlier This Year

Company Says Ad Blast Is Based on Research in Attempt to Target 'Chief Gift Giver' (Mom)

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Kids were still sorting through their Halloween haul when Best Buy's first yuletide spots began airing.

The retailer's first holiday commercials launched Nov. 1, some 10 days earlier than last year. Christmas Creep? Best Buy says no; its new strategy was born of intense research that led it to target a new customer who starts making their shopping list earlier, requiring an adjustment to its media buy.

Eight months ago, the electronics giant began conducting research around the holiday period, said Drew Panayiotou, senior VP-U.S marketing. What Best Buy discovered was that it should be putting more emphasis on mom, or the "chief gift giver," as the company has begun referring to her. Nearly 80% of families with kids purchase a tech-related gift, while 61% of females purchase tech gifts during the holidays, Mr. Panayiotou said. Given those stats, Best Buy began realigning its holiday campaign to appeal to moms and females -- a shift for a retailer that had long focused on its traditional, male-leaning target .

The change in its target caused a domino effect and moving up advertising to reach women, who tend to be holiday early birds: Mr. Panayiotou said women have already begun crossing items of their holiday lists, or are at least beginning to research holiday gifts. Electronics, after all, require more research than a sweater or action figure.

"If we went out there and had the same message or a message that was just product and price, [the consumer] would say 'Tell me that when I'm ready to buy the gift,'" he said. "But it's OK to start earlier, because ... we want to have a relationship all through the holiday, and we want to talk to them about things that remove obstacles for them."

But what about those consumers who refuse to carol until December and bemoan hanging out the holly before the Thanksgiving turkey's even in the oven? Mr. Panayiotou is unconcerned. He points out that Best Buy's consumers are celebrating holidays beyond Christmas, like Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 1. The retailer's messaging is also broader this year, including a range of spots that focus on products as well as services, like free tech support, in-store pickup and financing. And there are a dozen commercials -- more spots than it's ever produced for the holidays -- so there will be no wearout.

One of the spots that launched Nov. 1 hyped Xbox Kinect as a great gift for the family, while the other introduced Kenneth the Blue Elf and focused on Best Buy's free tech support. Kenneth will be a recurring character throughout the holiday, while other spots will build on Best Buy's "True Stories" campaign.

The retailer has also changed its media mix this season, emphasizing network TV rather than cable as it looks to reach more women and more families with kids. Digital spending is also up. MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky is Best Buy's creative agency, while Publicis Groupe's Starcom handles media buying and planning.

"We're confident about our marketing plan. We're confident with the feedback from consumers," Mr. Panayiotou said. "One thing that came through from consumers is they want help during the holidays, and they want help in this category more than ever."

And, it seems, earlier than ever.

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