To Sheep or Not to Sheep: Serta Debuts First Work from Leo Burnett

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The sheep are baaaaaaaack in Serta's new campaign, the first marketing work from the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based mattress brand's new lead creative agency Leo Burnett.

In an era of challenger brands, such as growing bed-in-a-box players Casper and Tuft and Needle, the heritage bed company is seeking to differentiate itself and re-energize with consumers.

In a new spot, Serta highlights the fictional Rick Blomquist of De Pere, Wisconsin and his comfortable life. Every day, Rick eats his comfortable breakfast in his comfortable, ranch-style home, and travels to his comfortable job in his comfortable shoes. Then, when he tries out a Serta mattress, surrounded by snuggly sheep, Rick realizes his life is only "sorta comfortable." "I've been living a lie," he mutters before a voiceover proclaims, "Not just sorta comfortable, Serta comfortable."

"People need comfort more than ever," says Andrew Gross, exec-VP of marketing at Serta. "They need permission to indulge in comfort."

Serta previously worked with Doner, which first created the humorous "Counting Sheep" messaging in 2000, a campaign in which sheep are out of work because the mattress is so comfortable. Gross says that though the sheep have been a "tremendous property" for Serta, consumers have "lost track of the story." The wooly mammals were not included in Serta's most recent campaign, last year's "Declare Peace," which spoke to consumers on a more emotional level about the role beds play in their lives.

Serta began working with Leo Burnett in October, following a review.

Warren Kornblum, interim chief marketing officer of Serta's parent company Serta Simmons Bedding, touted the sheep's connection to Serta. "Consumers know the counting sheep are true to the Serta brand," he says.

While Serta is still Number 1 on the list of U.S. bedding producers, its sales slipped in 2016 by 5 percent to $1.7 billion, according to industry publication Furniture Today. Meanwhile, Casper is gaining ground by expanding its partnership with Target. The New York-based ecommerce brand just hired a new chief marketing officer.

Serta is spending more than half of its budget on digital for the new campaign. Online spots are rolling out this week, while three 30-second TV spots will air beginning Feb. 19. The campaign also includes social media and some out-of-home. Gross declined to say how much Serta is spending, but noted the investment is on par with previous efforts. In 2016, Serta Simmons Bedding spent around $25 million on measured media in the U.S., with about half promoting the Serta brand, according to Kantar Media.

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