Kohl's taps Martin Agency for 'Westworld'-inspired holiday spot

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Some retailers are eschewing larger, anthem-style holiday spots this year and opting for more product-focused, pithy videos. Kohl's is not one of them. Like last year, the retailer is producing another cinema-level, epic commercial, this year tapping the Martin Agency to create the 30-second video.

"Last year's spot was the best we've ever done so our goal this year was to top it," says Greg Revelle, chief marketing officer at Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based Kohl's referencing last year's "Game of Thrones" meets "Braveheart" mash-up. Beginning Sunday, consumers will see a commercial that Kohl's said was inspired by "Westworld." It features a fictional "Mrs. Johnson" as a horseback hero who saves the day with gifts for all.

While the retailer has recently worked with Peterson Milla Hooks on fashion-related marketing, it chose Martin for brand work, a relationship that is ongoing, Revelle says. The chain will also be running promotional spots to highlight Kohl's loyalty program Kohl's Cash and merchandise.

"The real combination of the top-of-the-pyramid brand work with the mid-level value proposition and promotion work is the best [strategy to make Kohl's top of mind]," Revelle says.

Last year, Kohl's worked with Energy BBDO on its holiday spot; BBDO is the agency-of-record for competitor Macy's. Kohl's posted a comparable sales increase over the 2017 holidays of 7 percent.

The retailer is also amping up its marketing this year, spending roughly 4 percent more on media over last year. In 2017, Kohl's spent $94.6 million on measured media in the U.S. in November and December, according to Kantar Media.

While the company is increasing its online media spending by 10 percent over last year, it's also planning more broadcast TV and less print. In addition, with the bankruptcies of competitors including Toys R Us, Sears and Bon-Ton, Kohl's is running targeted digital media, including some radio, in areas where stores have closed. "That's a big part of our strategy," Revelle says.

The company, which now accepts Amazon returns at more than 100 stores in a growing pilot with the e-commerce giant, is also testing a host of in-store services such as locker pickups for online shoppers, self-checkouts and central service areas.

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