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Retailer Hopes to Avoid the 'Commercial Box'

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Joining the content-commerce convergence trend, retailer Aeropostale will launch its
With a mini-movie approach a la BMW Films, this 2-minute-30-second Aeropostale TV spot features a quiet but touching drama of teen romance.
first advertising campaign with 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.

The 'commercial box'
Aeropostale decided to eschew print and TV in favor of a non-traditional approach because "we didn't want to preach or do anything in a commercial box," said David Lipman, chairman, Lipman, N.Y., Aeropostale's ad agency.

"We'll never say we have the lowest rise or the best stretch or we're for every generation," he said, making a reference to ads for Levi Strauss & Co. and mall rival Gap stores. "We have no pretense; we're not trying to create a lifestyle that doesn't exist."

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.

Strong sales
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 ended 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 targeting younger teens, 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.

More films to follow
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

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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