Saks' Latest Media Buy: a Double-Decker Bus

High-End Retailer to Ferry Shopaholic Tourists to Museums, City Landmarks

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Saks Fifth Avenue's latest "Want It!" advertising campaign has presented it with an interesting opportunity.
Saks - Want It!
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The Saks' 'Want It!' ads were created by Dutch graphic artist Piet Paris.


The ads, created by Dutch graphic artist Piet Paris, are practically a billboard for New York City. And given the recent influx of Europeans looking to take advantage of the tanking value of the U.S. dollar, Saks has decided to embark on several tourist-centric initiatives around the launch of the campaign next month.

'Want It!' imagery
From March 13-15, a double-decker bus wrapped with "Want It!" images will ferry customers from Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship to the Upper East Side, where they will receive free admission to several of the museums featured in the ads. Saks' fashion director, possibly Mr. Paris and other personalities will also likely make appearances on the bus, said Kimberly Grabel, senior VP-marketing at the retailer.

"[Tourists were] really the trigger to think about the bus concept, because they are the first to hop on the bus and do the tour of New York. So we expect a lot of tourists on the bus," Ms. Grabel said.

The retailer will also take the opportunity to plug plenty of its high-end fashions. "Our guide will not only be dressed in 'Want It!' fashion, but they'll have a script that includes both the trends of the season as well as a little history of Saks Fifth Avenue," Ms. Grabel added.

Several of the landmarks featured in the ads are also offering up unique experiences to Saks customers. Nine or 10 customers will accompany Saks' chairman-CEO, Steve Sadove, to the New York Stock Exchange for the ringing of the closing bell on April 10. And 25 customers will have the chance to take a private tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

$2,000 handbags, $3,000 gowns
While a double-decker bus might not seem a logical marketing vehicle for a retailer that touts $2,000 Prada handbags and $3,000 Versace gowns, Ms. Grabel said the retailer has seen a marked increase in the number of tourists shopping its stores, especially in New York and other gateway cities.

"Our total company comp-store sales in 2007 were quite strong, up 11.7%," Ms. Grabel said. "The New York City flagship, which makes up about 20% of total company sales, outperformed even this company average, and the strong performance was positively impacted by both foreign and domestic tourism, although it's difficult to quantify to what degree."

The new campaign, handled in-house, is the fourth in the "Want It!" series, which has also featured the artists Michael Roberts, Marian Bantjes and Mats Gustafson. Mr. Paris used spray paint, collage and water colors to create illustrations that seamlessly integrate trends such as tunics and shoulder bags with the New York City skyline for the spring '08 season.

'Whimsy and humor'
"New York is our heritage. We really wanted to make New York the hero, if you will," said Terron Schaefer, group senior VP-creative and marketing at Saks. "Piet had a sense of whimsy and humor that I thought would be an interesting approach."

Saks is also partnering with New York Magazine on its Best of New York issue, which hits newsstands March 3. "Want It!" ads will be the opener of every major section in the magazine, and there will also be a foldout that features key trends, Ms. Grabel said. The issue will also be "brought to life" March 13, with some of the personalities and products from the issue slated to be featured at the Fifth Avenue flagship.
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