Aeropostale ad: latest mini-film

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Joining the content-commerce convergence trend, retailer Aeropostale will launch its first advertising campaign via a two-and-a-half-minute short film on Viacom's MTV.

Called "Backseat," the film is part of an estimated $8 million deal with MTV. Thirty-second teasers start Sept. 4 and the short film, designed to be reminiscent of a music video or independent film, airs Sept. 17 during the premier of "The Real World, Las Vegas." The only clue the film is a commercial message will come at the end when the Aeropostale logo flashes on the screen (AdAge.com QwikFIND aan93g).

Aeropostale decided to eschew traditional print and TV because "we didn't want ... anything in a commercial box," said David Lipman, chairman, Lipman, N.Y., Aeropostale's ad agency.

In the film, six teens drive around in a convertible, but the action centers on a shy boy and girl getting to know each other in the back seat. At one point, a magical storm of red petals encircles them, and the boy reaches up to pull some of them out of the girl's hair. She then tucks them in her pocket. Unlike sexually provocative ads from competitor Abercrombie & Fitch, the spots are intended to portray an "innocence," said Julian Geiger, chairman-CEO, Aeropostale.

For Aeropostale stores open for more than one year, a key retail barometer, sales rose 11% for the second quarter, although the company posted a loss of $2 million for the fiscal quarter ending Aug. 3.

"They don't need immediate sales help now," Mr. Lipman said, which is why the retailer opted for a branding effort rather than a direct sales push. "They already have large sales increases."

Mr. Geiger said the retailer has secured its niche by focusing on the 12- to 16-year-old. "The competition has concentrated on older segments" of the teen audience, he said.

Aeropostale, started by Federated Department Stores' Macy's as a private-label brand, was sold four years ago and became a publicly traded company in May. It has grown from 119 stores with $123 million in sales to 346 stores in 35 states with current sales of $308 million. Mr. Geiger said the company will spend about 1% of sales on external marketing this year, but plans to increase that figure over time.

Three other films will follow "Backseat." A holiday one will focus on a long phone call between a girl and boy parting to go off to college. Two others are set at a house party.

The film's music will be released as a CD. The film will air simultaneously on MTV2 and on MTV.com.

A number of Wall Street analysts are high on Aeropostale, but other retail experts expressed concern, especially given today's slow back to school selling season. "We have a lot of specialty stores that are not going to find the going very easy," said Kurt Barnard, president, Barnard's Retail Trend Report.

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