Debenhams TV ad starts countdown to a multimedia Christmas

Retailers spent £390m on Christmas ads last year, Nielsen says, but after a less than sparkling sales performance in 2013, Debenhams has plans to beat John Lewis out of the blocks with a campaign aimed at cross-channel shoppers.

Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night may be just behind us but the race is already on for retailers looking to entice increasingly smart and discerning Christmas shoppers who are active across multiple channels.

“The days of being able to create an advert, slap it on the commercial break of Coronation Street and ‘job done’ are over,” says Richard Cristofoli, marketing director at Debenhams, which is launching its multi-million pound Christmas campaign this week.

In a shift away from fashion, the campaign aims to bring gifting to the forefront with the strapline ‘Find your fabulous Christmas at Debenhams’.

“Last year we saw a dramatic shift in multichannel Christmas shopping,” says Cristofoli. “Because a multichannel world is a multimedia world, we set out to create a much broader campaign idea and an idea that could live in lots of different media. It isn’t just about a TV ad.”

The ‘Found It’ campaign, developed by JWT London, will run across social, in-store, outdoor and TV simultaneously with each iteration designed specifically for the channel.

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Found It! Six-year-old Meadow spies her perfect gift in the Debenhams Christmas TV ad

In-store, for example, the campaign will involve the distribution of gift guides featuring over 750 gifts, toy brochures, beauty and lingerie brochures, and an online gift finder. The Found It creative will also be promoted in window displays, at ‘hot spots’ in-store, on gift cards and on product tags.

For TV, anticipation will be built up through five-second teaser ads, with the full 60-second execution airing during The X Factor next weekend (8 November). It will also be posted to YouTube and Facebook throughout the Christmas period.

The ad features a group of children experiencing an overnight stay in Debenhams and searching for the perfect gift, driven by the insight that “it’s the child in all of us that buys into the Christmas tradition”, says Cristofoli. It is set to an orchestral version of Paul McCartney’s song ‘We all stand together’ and closes with the tagline ‘Found It’ as the six-year-old lead in the ad, Meadow, finds her gift of a reindeer toy.

Social media will play a major part in the campaign. The retailer is asking consumers to share their ‘Found It moment’ via a dedicated website and using the hashtag #foundit, offering the chance to win £1,000 worth of shopping in the four weeks leading up to Christmas and the opportunity for consumers to appear in cover-wrap advertising in the Metro newspaper.

“People don’t want to compromise on choice but they do want someone to curate and cut the number of shops to find the right gift”

The push is just one way Debenhams is looking to improve on last year’s sales after annual profits fell 23.9% to £105.8m for the year ending 30 August. The retailer blames a mild winter and poor trading during Christmas 2013 for the drop. It introduced initiatives during the second half of the year to improve performance.

“We had a challenging Christmas last year but when you go through that experience it forces you to think more boldly,” says Cristofoli.

A revised promotional strategy saw Debenhams focus on selling more at full price and put new online delivery options in place, including next-day click-and-collect and a 10pm cut-off time for next-day delivery.

In its latest results statement, chief executive Michael Sharp says the company’s improved second-half performance gives it confidence it is ready for this year’s vital Christmas period.

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What challenges did you face when building the ‘Found It’ campaign?

The challenge has been in effectively going back, listening to customers, understanding what they want from us and building a campaign that we believe responds to those needs.

Last year customers in-store were saying, “we don’t think you’re Christmassy enough”, “we don’t think it’s celebratory” and “I want you to get me in the mood for Christmas”. We are investing in our in-store environment and have over 120 ‘Found It moments’.

This campaign is about much more than the TV ad, what is the reason for this?

This isn’t about winning an Oscar. What we have set out to do is launch a really good retail campaign that works across different channels and media.

I’m not expecting people to buy every single gift from us but people don’t want to compromise on choice; what they want to do is edit down the number of destinations they use. Customers want you to curate, so this campaign is about establishing ourselves as one of the brands with which you can have a deeper relationship because we have more solutions.

How are you using social media differently for this campaign?

The risk with social media is that it becomes a channel through which you pump the same stuff. This iteration has been deliberately created as a stream that works within a social space and couldn’t work in any other space as part of the campaign mix.

How much of the task of building a Christmas campaign is keeping an eye on the competition?

You have to be aware of what others are doing but there are two important things: always be true to your brand and don’t get distracted and waste a lot of time and energy focusing on the competition.

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