Target ditches storyline approach in holiday campaign

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Unlike previous years, consumers won't see an Odyssey-filled adventure, a celebrity-packed musical or a heartwarming tale of child generosity in Target's marketing this holiday season. Instead, the Minneapolis-based retailer is pushing "Gather Round," a series of colorful, upbeat spots that include a new song from Sia, but lack an overarching storyline to connect them.

"We walked away from that linear storyline—each piece of creative is able to stand on its own," says Rick Gomez, exec VP-chief marketing officer. "We don't call them media plans anymore, we call them blueprints, because we anticipate they're going to change as we go into the season with daily tweaking and changes in real time."

In total, Target will be airing 20 English-language and 18 Spanish-language spots this holiday season, beginning Nov. 1. That's a marked increase over 2017, when the retailer ran 10 spots focused on a group of kids brightening up a house for the holidays. Last year, Target spent $156.6 million on measured media in the U.S. in November and December, according to Kantar Media. The brand is increasing its holiday marketing investment year-over-year by a percentage in the mid-single digits, a spokeswoman says.

The ad push includes a mix of ads with and without holdiay themes. Spots touting products for entertaining and decorating are set to a modern version of 1950s hit "Round and Round" performed by Sia. The retailer will exclusively sell the remake by the Australian singer.

Target will also be pumping up the volume on its "Run and Done" campaign, developed last year as a way to highlight its quick service offerings, including a program in which consumers order online and pick their good up in store parking lots.

"It will be an important part of our advertising campaign, letting the guest know how easy we've made it to shop at Target this holiday season," CEO Brian Cornell recently said at a media event in New York. For the first time, the 1,800-unit chain will also be running free two-day shipping Nov. 1 through Dec. 22, in a move to help it compete with rivals Walmart and Amazon. "We'll run the Target Run and Done campaign right up until the very last minute before you start putting presents under the Christmas tree," Cornell said.

The ads come as Target is riding a new wave of momentum. For its most recent second quarter, Target posted its strongest same-store sales, up 6.5 percent, in 13 years. Revenue was up 7 percent over the year-earlier period to $17.8 billion, which included a 41 percent rise in digital sales for the quarter. Target reports third-quarter earnings later this month.

To capitalize on the space left open in the retail landscape by former competitor, the liquidated Toys R Us, Target is nearly doubling its toy assortment this year and has added more store space, including interactive play areas, for the category. Competitor eBay is also ramping up its toy offerings in the hopes of winning the holidays.

Along with its TV commercials, Target will also push content out via social media channel and print, and has partnerships with media outlets such as PopSugar, Univision and Refinery29. The chain's in-house agency Target Creative worked with Deutsch LA on the new campaign; Target also worked with Knock and LatinWorks, while Essence handled media duties.

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