Warm and Fuzzy Ads Top Holiday Poll

But Coupons and Promotions May Work Better

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- What's the way to holiday shoppers' wallets? During a recession, a little tug at the heart strings will go farther than extravagance and jokes.

This year, retailers with a mix of emotional branding spots and promotional ads topped the list in a survey of consumers' favorite holiday commercials. The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey finds Best Buy, Kohl's, Old Navy and Toys R' Us climbing the ranks this year, with Old Navy and Toys R' Us cracking the top ten.

Top Ten Holiday Ads: Consumers rank the retailer they think had the best holiday commercial.
2008 Rank 2007 Rank
Target Target
Wal-Mart Wal-Mart
Best Buy Macy's
Macy's Best Buy
Kohl's Sears
Sears Kohl's
Kmart Kmart
JC Penney JC Penney
Old Navy Publix
Toys R Us Meijer

"Consumers are in an uncertain place this year, so they're looking for warm and fuzzy," said Mike Gatti, executive director at RAMA. "And even though consumers are not really out there spending a lot, you can see that they're spending where they know they're getting the deals."

Feel-good ads favored
Best Buy rolled out a campaign featuring employees telling heartwarming stories of helping customers find the perfect gift. That effort, created by BBDO, was meant to instill a sense of trust among consumers, said Greg Johnson, senior VP-marketing, in an interview last month. "That message of being more caring and interested in our customers' lives is a big focus of the holiday season," he said.

Kohl's placed an intense focus on promotion. It also offered a feel-good spot in which Cirque du Soleil characters help a young boy find the perfect gift for his mom. Those spots were created by McCann Erickson, New York.

Old Navy and Toy R Us, meanwhile, both offered departures from previous advertising campaigns. Old Navy has been running colorful spots with the upbeat theme song, "I Want Candy." The campaign was produced by Chandelier, New York. Toys R Us introduced a new tagline, "Where kids are a big deal," in its advertising, and is playing up its familiar jingle. Ads were created in-house, in partnership with PRPC Partners, a boutique creative firm.

Who's influenced more
Of the consumers surveyed, 17.5% said the commercials motivated them to shop at a retailer, while 43.5% said they did not. Thirty-nine percent said the ads had no impact, because they already shop at the retailer. In general women were more likely to be driven to shop by the commercials than men. Shoppers also appear to become less and less influenced as they get older. Nearly 30% of those ages 18 to 24 were impacted by the commercials, compared with 9% of consumers 65 and over.

Beyond commercials, consumers reported that coupons, advertising inserts, word of mouth and newspapers are most influencing their holiday shopping. Nearly 45% of consumers, up from 35% last year, said they were impacted by coupons, while 30% were impacted by advertising inserts. A quarter of consumers said they were impacted by newspaper advertising, while 32% said word of mouth was influential.

"We know there's a shift into new media, but old media is still pulling its weight," Mr. Gatti said. "There are a lot of new options out there, and [retailers] should be trying all of them, but keep in mind that people are still looking at inserts and direct mail."

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