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Kmart's Sophomoric 'Ship My Pants' Video to Air on TV

Will the Success of the Spot Help DraftFCB Hang Onto the Account, Currently in Review?

By Published on . 7

America loves a good poop joke.

Kmart's pun-filled "Ship My Pants" online video has been so popular--netting 12 million views in the span of a week--that it's now getting ready to debut on TV.

Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, a spokeswoman for the retailer, said the ad, which was created by DraftFCB, will start running next week on "select cable networks."

Since it was published on April 10, the video has racked up 11.6 million views on YouTube. It has nearly 40,000 likes on Kmart's Facebook page. And it rocketed to the top of Ad Age's Viral Video Chart this week, inspiring more than 30 related clips from fans.

The spot promotes Kmart's Shop Your Way program, which lets consumers ship items they can't find in store to their homes for free.

In the spot, a Kmart employee explains to a customer the free shipping policy, the customer, incredulous, declares, "Ship my pants, right here? Ship my pants, you're kidding." Cut to an older woman saying, "I just shipped my pants, and it's very convenient." Another woman exclaims, "I just shipped my drawers." A gentleman lying on a bed says, "I just shipped my bed." You get the idea.

That Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned DraftFCB could sell in such a concept comes as a big surprise given Kmart's not exactly known for out-of-the-box advertising. And taking big risks is hardly the typical course of action for an agency smack-dab in the middle of an agency review. DraftFCB is currently defending the business after a request-for-proposal went out in January. One thing seems certain: the client, Andrew Stein has a sense of humor. He stepped in to lead marketing for Kmart, as interim CMO when Mark Snyder departed in September 2011.

"We're very excited about the video. We thought it was irreverent, funny humor," Kmart's Ms. Armstrong-Fowler said. "We knew it would have traction with some people."

Some of those people include consumers who long hadn't felt any connection with the retailer and are engaging with the brand once again. Said one commenter on YouTube: "Good job advertising this Kmart. You're back in the game." And another: "This is a great commercial, it makes me like Kmart again!"

Still, Gary Getto, president at Advertising Benchmark Index, an advertising tracking firm, characterized the ad as "average," noting that likeability scores showed the ad could be polarizing to some consumers. Call-to-action scores were good, he said, though overall awareness of the ad was low.

The looming question now is whether TV viewers will embrace the ad as much as online viewers have. And, importantly, can the heft of media dollars on cable TV help Kmart go from making consumers chuckle to making them go into stores and open their wallets?

Kmart, whose parent Sears Holdings Corp. is among the top 20 advertisers in the nation, saw same-store sales fall 3.7% for both the fourth quarter and the year.

To use their ad budgets wisely, brands are increasingly launching ad campaigns via the web first to dip their toes into the water and see if they've got a viral hit on their hands before investing media dollars into a campaign. One of the most popular ads of last year, Chipotle's "Back to the Start," first debuted on the web before a media buy was undertaken to get further reach.

Kmart's Ms. Armstrong-Fowler said a TV run was always part of the plan for "Ship My Pants." But an online push will continue. She noted: "The Shop Your Way program is about social commerce. We use social content to engage that customer. We'll continue to engage that customer through social and digital channels, as well as traditional advertising."

As for the agency review--in which DraftFCB is defending the account against sibling agency McCann and Dentsu-owned McGarryBowen--it can go two ways. Either DraftFCB's funny little poopy video just saved them the account, or the shop can say they gave it their all before the "ship" hit the fan.

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