For retailers across verticals, the back-to-school (BTS) season is a pivotal time to generate eye-catching campaigns and in turn, drive sales across all channels. From clothing brands to office supply merchants, all retailers have a primary goal of driving excitement and encouraging students and parents to shop. However, because many parents respond negatively to commercials that only serve to remind them of back-to-school shopping, merchants must be strategic about their campaign messaging.
Of all brands analyzed, Best Buy delivered two of the three most effective back-to-school ads in 2013, according to analysis from TV advertising analytics company Ace Metrix. A JCPenney ad also ranked in the top three for most-effective ads.
Ace Metrix quantifies the success of ads using an “Ace Score,” which measures the creative effectiveness and viewer reaction to national TV ads. Results are presented on a scale of 1-950, representing attributes such as: Persuasion, Likeability, Information, Attention, Change, Relevance, Desire and Watchability. Scoring guidelines were established through a review of scientific literature on advertising, in addition to extensive testing of different attribute combinations, according to Jonathan Symonds, EVP of Marketing at Ace Metrix.
The top ad for Best Buy, titled “Dreams,” recorded an Ace Score of 574, which was 17.8% above the 12-month norm for retailers not classified as department stores or discount stores.
“Best Buy’s success is a result of two key elements,” Symonds said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “First, Best Buy sells one of the hottest categories in advertising: technology. Consumers consider technology to be highly relevant and desirable and that drives scoring. Second, the retailer has done a very nice job of ‘humanizing’ the Blue Shirts in their most recent campaigns and in the process depicted employees as engaged consumers in their own right.”
Back-to-school ads this year, overall, were not as successful as they were in 2012, according to Ace. Through an assessment of 55 back-to-school TV advertisements from 24 top retail and non-retail brands, the company found that 11% of overall ad volume was down from 2012, and ad creative effectiveness dropped 5%. The study was conducted from July 7 to Sept. 7, 2013.
Although the 2013 back-to-school season was “lackluster,” this year “we saw more retailers taking risks to reach the younger students directly, such as Office Depot and K-Mart,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “Some risks paid off while others were just awkward.”
For example, Office Depot saw success in tapping boy band One Direction for a series of anti-bullying commercials. All three ads, titled “One Direction,” “Pre-Teens” and “Moving Together,” received an average Ace Score of 540.
Other retailers were not as successful in their back-to-school marketing efforts. K-Mart tried to relate to the younger audiences with commercials such as “Yo Mama” and “My Limo.” But the ads were seen as ineffective, as most consumers were confused by the goal or intention of the commercials, while some were simply offended by them. Other retailers, including JCPenney and Target, also saw significant declines in their Ace Score compared to 2012.
“The most successful retail advertisers today are creating campaigns that are authentic to their brands,” Symonds said. “Looking beyond back-to-school ads, we find that those advertisers that are true to their mission and values are successful in launching campaigns or delivering individual ads. Wal-Mart is successful, as is Kohl’s. Their advertising ‘fits’ their customer base and on occasion stretches that customer base, as well.”