The WPP Group agency was looking for a "monumental entertainment experience" that would build upon the brand's association with the Christmas holiday, similar to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and July Fourth fireworks display, both of which are nationally televised.
So Mediaedge teamed with New York animation studio Curious Pictures to create a family film, "Little Spirit: Christmas in New York," for the department store that will premiere on NBC Dec. 10.
Nostalgic for the '60s
Chet Fenster, managing partner of MEC Entertainment, said Macy's and his team were particularly inspired by 1960s holiday movies such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
"We love[d] not only the warmth, but the magic that those Christmas specials garnered for the family coming together," Mr. Fenster said. "We thought, let's try and create the next one."
Mediaedge went to Curious Pictures with the idea for branded entertainment. The animation studio also had a great story, based on the personal experience of the movie's writer-director, Leopoldo Gout. When Mr. Gout first moved his family to New York City, his son lost (and then found) his beloved pet dog.
Starring the voices of Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu and Brian Williams, "Little Spirit," which took a year and a half to develop, has a similar narrative. In the movie, it's Christmastime, and a young boy, Leo, feels utterly alone without his dog. But when he befriends a fairy-critter, he discovers how warm and helpful the city can be. Just like in "Miracle on 34th Street," a big part of the movie's holiday charm comes from Macy's Herald Square flagship store.
Holly Thomas, Macy's operating VP-public relations and cause marketing, thought the story of "Little Spirit" was right in line with the Macy's brand.
"As a store we have a legacy of creating beloved holiday traditions," Ms. Thomas said, noting that Macy's was the first to have an in-store Santa in 1862 and, later in the 19th century, holiday window displays. "Little Spirit" is a "sweet and charming addition" to this seasonal heritage, she said.
Three days after the movie's premiere Dec. 10, it will replay on Telemundo, dubbed in Spanish.
"We have worked with Telemundo in the past, and they're obviously a very large property in the Hispanic media world," Ms. Thomas said. "[The Hispanic audience] is a very important audience for us."
Mr. Fenster said the decision to broadcast on Telemundo and make Leo and his family Hispanic evolved during the creative process. Mr. Gout was born in Mexico City.
NBC will promote the film along with its other holiday programming, and Macy's will engage in a "360 approach" to get the word out, including press outreach, direct mail and advertising drop-ins, said Ms. Thomas. During the hourlong movie, Macy's has "one or two spots," said Mr. Fenster, adding that the rest of the ad inventory had been sold to NBC.
"Little Spirit" will also amplify Macy's new holiday platform, "Believe," developed this year by WPP's JWT, New York. That tagline builds on the "Magic of Macy's" platform the agency launched last year.
Mediaedge and its WPP-sibling JWT did not directly collaborate on "Little Spirit," but Mr. Fenster said that "we're all working on the same underlying brand pillars of what Macy's means and how it should connect to consumers."
Neither the agency nor the retailer would disclose the cost of the project.