Target, Amazon Trounce Walmart in Holiday-Ad Poll

Study Finds Quirkiness, Whimsy Favored Over Savings Messages as Shoppers Weary of Recession

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Walmart's money-saving messaging won over consumers a year ago, when they ranked its holiday ads their favorite of the season, both on TV and online. But this year, with the recession officially declared over, Target 's quirky, whimsical TV ads won over consumers, as did Amazon's online and email promotions.

Quirky's in.
Translation: Quirky's in, penny pinching is out.

In a consumer survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and BigResearch, nearly 30% of consumers ranked Target 's commercials as their favorite, compared to 17% for Walmart. Likewise, more than one-quarter of consumers selected Amazon as their favorite online or email ad, while 14% chose Walmart.

Top Ten: Best TV Commercial
Retailer Agency
Target Wieden & Kennedy
Walmart Martin Agency
Macy's JWT
Best Buy Crispin Porter & Bogusky
Kmart DraftFCB
Sears Y&R
Old Navy Crispin Porter & Bogusky
Kohl's McCann Erickson
JCPenney Saatchi & Saatchi
Toys R US Rosenbaum Inc.

Target hit a home run with its Black Friday ads featuring Maria Bamford. The polarizing character who obsessively prepares for the holiday topped Ad Age's viral chart earlier this month. Target 's main holiday campaign from agency Wieden & Kennedy features original songs from artists such as Guster, Blackalicious and Little Jackie.

Macy's and Best Buy also ranked among consumers' favorite commercials. Best Buy introduced a new animated character, Kenneth the Blue Elf in its holiday spots, while Macy's ran its "Believe" campaign for the third year in a row.

Online, Amazon began billing Black Friday weeks in advance and kept up a steady stream of Facebook and Twitter updates throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. Some two dozen updates @amazondeals on Thanksgiving Day whetted consumers' appetites, while nearly 50 updates were posted on Black Friday.

EBay, Target and Best Buy rounded out consumers' top five favorite online or email promotions in the BigResearch study.

"In 2008 and 2009, it was comforting for shoppers to hear messages about saving money. But there's only so much of the economy that shoppers want to be reminded of," said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "Marketing and advertising this year are reminiscent of pre-recession. Quirky seemed to work for shoppers. And ads that didn't necessarily have to do with saving money but saving time and preparing for the holiday resonated."

In another sign that consumers may be bouncing back, the influence of coupons dropped for the first time since 2007. Forty-two percent of consumers said coupons influenced where they did their holiday shopping this year, compared to 45% a year ago.

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