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An Inside Look at Back-to-School Advertising Campaigns

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Advertising efforts

Retailers spend millions of dollars to attract parents and children to their stores for the back-to-school season. Target’s (TGT) 2015 back-to-school marketing campaign included a denim commercial with young dance stars such as Maddie Ziegler, Mace Maya, and Kida the Great. Target’s marketing campaign also involved EvanTube, a YouTube channel, on which child star Evan provides reviews on toys and video games.

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Back-to-school advertising spend

According to Kantar Retail, total advertising spend on back-to-school themes reached $241 million in 2014, down 9% from 2013. The above graph reflects the top ten advertisers in last year’s back-to-school season. These companies accounted for almost $150 million, or 62%, of the total advertising spend.

Target topped the list with a $34.9 million marketing spend last year. Walmart (WMT) was the third largest advertiser with an expenditure of $17.9 million. Department stores JCPenney (JCP) and Kohl’s (KSS) spent $18.9 million and $15.7 million, respectively, on back-to-school advertising last year. Pure-play consumer electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY) spent $12.5 million on back-to-school ads.

Highlights of the 2015 campaign

JCPenney started its back-to-school commercials in late July. The department store chain’s back-to-school campaign was supported by advertisements in Seventeen magazine, direct mail, preprints, broadcast, and streaming video.

The company also had a back-to-school hub on its website that included a mix-and-match game that allowed children to create their own styles with different pieces. Its other back-to-school campaign strategies included sponsorship of an online video series on AwesomenessTV, which is a huge hit with teens and one of the key performing destinations for YouTube.

In July, Macy’s (M) announced it planned to conduct events in select stores in August and September. The campaign included special appearances for kids by Daniel Skye, popular teen singer and songwriter. Macy’s also organized back-to-school shopping parties with celebrity video blogger or vlogger Lindsey Hughes to share her favorite styles and trends.

As part of its back-to-school season, Kohl’s announced it planned to make children’s books from author Laura Numeroff available in its stores from early July through September. The company will contribute the entire net profit on the sales of these books to support children’s health and education.

JCPenney, Macy’s, and Kohl’s together account for 0.6% of the portfolio holdings of the iShares Russell Mid-Cap Value ETF (IWS) and 3.1% of the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT).

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