No More 'Thriller:' Party City Debuts Campaign From Hill Holliday

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Though the state of the world—immigration, health care, politics—might seem scary enough, the actual spook fest of Halloween is next month. Party City is taking advantage of the timing of the Oct. 31 holiday—its most lucrative sales period—to debut its new rebranding campaign. The "Oh, It's On" work is the first from Hill Holliday since since Party City brought on the shop as lead agency in April, succceeding Zimmeran. Party City spent $38.3 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media.

In two new 30-second spots airing this week, Party City explores the spirited aspects of Halloween for both kids and adults. One ad pits neighbors against one another competing for better decorations; another prepares children for "maximum candy effect." The new tagline, however, is meant to be applicable to events beyond Halloween as Party City broadens its scope.

"We all have those moments that 'Oh, it's on!,'—you get an invitation, get dressed up for bit parties or small parties—you're getting ready to do something exciting," says Pat Duncan, senior VP of marketing and chief digital officer of Rockaway, New Jersey-based Party City. "Halloween is definitely our Christmas, our biggest time of the year, but we also have an everyday business and we needed a campaign that could speak to all of those times of the year."

Indeed, as Amazon gains ground in the party supplies space, Party City, which was founded in 1986, has been expanding its assortment of products to take advantage of more movies and sporting events, for example.

"These improvements will be better reflected in our mounting campaigns, where, following our recent appointment of Hill Holliday, we will be creating more of an emotional connection for our customers around events and life celebrations through a combination of social, digital as well as traditional advertising," said James Harrison, chief executive, on an August conference call to report second quarter revenue. Party City saw net revenue for the quarter ended June 30 rise 5% over the year-earlier period to $541.7 million.

Party City also shifted most of its advertising expenses from the second quarter into the third quarter to take better advantage of the new campaign, executives said on the call. More of the spending is now dedicated to digital.

After the first two Halloween spots, Party City will launch several others. The fully integrated campaign includes social media, display ads and short-form digital video, Duncan says.

He declined to disclose a budget for the push, but noted that it is "big." Duncan joined the brand earlier this year.

Previously, Party City had made an annual tradition of using Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in its October advertising, while working with Zimmerman for some eight years.

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