Penney Looks to Blur Line Between Ads and Show

Discussion
Aug 29, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Where does the commercial begin and the show leave off? If viewers of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards have a difficult time distinguishing, then JCPenney will have achieved
its goal for live ads it is running on the show.


“We are looking to blur the edges between advertising and show content,” said Michael Cape, JCPenney’s vice president of brand marketing, in a company press release. “By making the viewers feel more integrated into our advertisements, we are able to achieve a deeper emotional connection with our key audience. These live ads are one way that JCPenney continues to break through to consumers in a meaningful way and is a concept everyone will want to watch.”


To blur the line, Penney is making use of a technology that allows the awards show hosted from Radio City Music Hall in New York to be inserted into a video screen within the retailer’s ad and display properly even with camera pans and zooms.


The Penney ads will come on when its time for the show to break for commercials. Other companies’ ads will also be broadcast during breaks, but Penney’s ads will be the first and last to air. The spots themselves will be broadcast live from the bedrooms of different kids and teenagers. They will focus on the company’s current back-to-school campaign.


Separately, Penney will also be running traditional commercials during the show with spots to premier its fall fashions and promote its junior’s and young men’s departments.


Discussion Questions: Will JCPenney live ads during the MTV Video Music Awards program (assuming technical difficulties do not somehow interfere) be
a hit or miss with consumers in the targeted demographic of persons between the ages of 12 and 34? How do you think consumers, on the whole, will view JCPenney’s live ads and
the attempt to blur the line between where the show falls off and the commercials begin?


The MTV awards show is the most watched cable program of the year for persons between 12 and 34.

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10 Comments on "Penney Looks to Blur Line Between Ads and Show"


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Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
14 years 6 months ago

This will be interesting. Consumers are tired of traditional TV advertising. They seem to be welcoming fresh approaches. We see that in the surge of interactive advertising on the web, with the growth of in-store digital signage, and with digital billboards. The new set-top tracking tools will show advertisers for the first time how their audiences channel-hop during commercials or TiVo them out.

What remains to be seen is how tastefully JCPenney integrates the MTV music awards with its message. If it’s heavy handed, I’ll be switching away from the content as well as the ads. But will the typical MTV channel viewer? I hope JCPenney has the feedback systems in place to determine whether their innovation hits the mark.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
14 years 6 months ago
This isn’t about specific season sales. It’s about lifestyle branding. The challenge for JCP around teens isn’t getting the “right” merchandise. That is and has been possible. It’s convincing teens that shopping at JCP is image-compatible. Simply advertising and sponsoring the VMA would not, in my opinion, do it. Yes, the VMA’s are hip. No doubt. But the brand equity would not rub off on the the advertiser unless it also was hip. The use of cutting edge technology, particularly in the streaming video space, is perfect for the target market. The live nature of the ads may or may not hit the target, we’ll have to see. However, the campaign is aggressive, and in my opinion, has a high chance of success. Partly, this is because of the entire spectrum of things JCP is doing to reposition itself in the emotion-space of the teen shopper. Taken independently, these ads would probably be expensive window dressing. Taken in overall marketing context, they may well be sufficient to change brand connections.
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 6 months ago

This is not only “back to school” it’s “back to the future.” Live ads used to be a staple of TV, in ancient times – the 50’s and 60’s. And, perhaps the best thing that could happen is the right type of glitch (not a la Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl malfunction) that makes one of the live ads memorable.

I can think of three from my childhood that were terrific: 1. John Cameron Swayze strapping a Timex watch to a boat propeller to test its durability. Upon testing, he pulled the watch from the water – smashed. 2. The old live dog food commercials on the Tonight Show – the dog wouldn’t eat the food, so Johnny Carson did – I think that one was Alpo. 3. And, the lawnmower that “started first time, every time” but didn’t.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Smart marketers test their ads before rollout. I have to assume that JCPenney tested the technology with pilot audiences already, so the results can be projected. Would you buy a new technology and run it at the MTV Awards without audience testing beforehand? And I assume JCPenney got category exclusivity for the MTV Awards show, so that audiences will not see competing retailers’ ads during the show. If the technology enhances the audience’s attention, and the impact isn’t diluted via competing retailers’ ads, JCPenney will have accomplished its goal.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 6 months ago

Obviously JCPenney already has achieved part of its goal. The buzz surrounding what it will do has generated interested without any cost. The second part, assuming no technical hiccups, should go smoothly as well. This is a novelty and so it will generate an unusual amount of attention as everyone watches to see how it works.

Long-term, the distinction between real and ad already has blurred. This trend is likely to continue and technology developments will hasten the change.

The real question, of course, is what effect these changes have on sales.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

This is a dubious approach to advertising, since it is really PR. Unfortunately, it is very expensive PR. I don’t think that it will be the success that Penney wants it to be, because it won’t carry the distinctive messages that segmented ads deliver. Part of the effectiveness of an advertisement is that its message is unique and separates it from the rest of the programming. By blending in with the rest of the programming, Penney will lose that unique, segmentation which a good ad delivers. Furthermore, they will not demand the attention that a segmented, well-delivered message will provide as well as deliver the sales results.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

It isn’t whether it is a good idea or a bad idea. It’s all about judgment on the part of the marketer (JCP) and response by the market. The fact is that we are inundated with commercial messages, and for the most part, this seems just fine. Penney’s innovation here is just a further blurring of non-commercial and commercial content. But is there any reason for maintaining a distinction? Was Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can non-commercial art, or strictly commercial?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is, it is subjective, not objective. So in the end, judgment of Penney’s blurring will depend on the response. I expect to see more of it than less.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 6 months ago

It’s a MySpace moment. The ads are loose and seemingly extemporaneous, and so will work. The best endorsement is the “old-guy” statement by a previous commentator that he would “be switching away” if the JCP ads aren’t tastefully integrated. If Dad hates the ads, the kids will love them. That’s the objective.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

JCPenney and MTV! Who would ever have thought this blending would ever happen? I know plenty of people out there think that Penney’s is getting in sync with their customers, but this seems to push the envelope. I know that we are to focus on the advertising media that is being pursued, but I can’t get over Penney’s having anything to do with MTV. The Gap and Target maybe, but Penney’s…? Do they sell products MTVers would be interested in?

I know Michael Cape. He is a smart guy, so maybe I just missed something.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
Penney’s absolutely sells products that resonate with MTVers and this is a well-timed advertising foray for JCP, one that agrees with their new-found fashion cred. I encourage anyone who hasn’t visited Penney’s in a while to check it out, particularly in junior apparel. At times, the Miss Bisou line is so hot, it leaves me wondering if they could have gotten away with “less” – every single trend fully embellished, translated beautifully and never dumbed down (look for well-executed, less-embellished versions at Wal-Mart – equally right-on but at-a-price). Japonica-influenced F.A.N.G. is genius, and no longer the “mom jean” brand-of-choice, Arizona’s affordable classification presentations of the hottest trends are off the hook. Retails are creeping up but still kicking specialty and the value couldn’t be clearer. Kids have been meeting, greeting and crawling over JCP’s BTS offerings during every store visit I’ve made…. Now, let’s talk about parlaying that cool into women’s, men’s, and shoes. Spotty efforts here and there; however, stroll out of juniors in any direction and you’ll pretty much find yourself in the… Read more »
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