Kohl's Upping TV Spend for Holiday Campaign

Retailer Will Focus Its Push on an Emotionally-Charged Spot

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Kohl's kicked off its holiday campaign on Sunday with an emotionally-charged spot, highlighting the magic of the holidays with a father-son moment.

The ad is the centerpiece of Kohl's holiday marketing. It marks a new approach for the retailer, which usually diversifies its brand push during the season.

"This year we really wanted to break through and have a strong commitment to the spot that we know will touch millions of hearts," said Nancy Carruth, senior VP of brand creative at Kohl's.

The retailer is investing more in TV this year -- running more ads and attaching itself to major programs, like NBC's "The Voice" and holiday specials like "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Kohl's is also partnering with Disney for a promotion during the American Music Awards that aims to tap into the popularity of "Frozen." Ms. Carruth said this will be a "very big play" for the brand. She declined to provide the campaign's budget.

The retailer was recently called out in a report by Stifel analysts for failing to communicate its low prices in order to drive sales. But Ms. Carruth said the company plans to maintain the same balance between heart-warming and promotional ads as it did last year.

"We are heavily promotional and we will continue down that path," she said. "The portion that we express emotionally, when done well, actually has a much greater impact."

The new ad aims to build on the success of last year's holiday spot, which Ms. Carruth says was one of the most talked-about campaigns Kohl's has ever done. The push was part of a new marketing strategy led by chief customer officer Michelle Gass, who favors emotional messages over promotional ones. Ms. Carruth said the spot "over delivered" in terms of customer feedback and social media, and helped build brand awareness.

"We hit on a universal truth and really made an emotional connection," said Ms. Carruth. "It really opened up to a lot more consumers what the Kohl's brand is about."

While last year's spot highlighted an act of kindness, this year's showcases family.

"We wanted to extend that emotion and focus more on family relationships," said Dave Peterson, creative director at Peterson Milla Hooks, the agency behind the campaign. "It's finding that magic in the moment of the holidays."

Ms. Gass aimed to expand Kohl's digital and social reach after joining the retailer from Starbucks last summer. In line with that goal, the brand is shifting more of its spend to those channels during the holiday season, including digital ads and a partnership with Buzzfeed meant to further capitalize on the "Frozen" brand.

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