August 20th, 2018

Who Earned an A+ in Back-To-School Advertising?


Ace Metrix

For many, the long, laidback days of summer have given way to mundane Back-to-School routines. Realizing the chaos of the BTS season, many brands sought to alleviate the stress with tactics like offering supply lists by school and grade for online ordering and pickup in stores. And if that wasn’t enough, Staples boasted its “School Supply Serenity” for those in a panic.

Deals remain the Back-To-School norm, but there were some emotionally charged ads this year — most of which made the top ten most liked list. Almost 80% of the ads were around 15 seconds long, a testament to how many brands featured deals, and only deals, in their spots. The focus of this year’s Back-To-School was on grades K-12, but the usual college advertisers (Best Buy, Apple) had their fair share of ads as well.

Retailers and apparel brands stick out as the obvious contenders for those Back-To-School bucks, but some wise CPG brands like Ziploc, Laughing Cow, and Jif, also released campaigns. After all, a lot of lunches need to be packed for those 180+ days of school.

Most Likeable Back-To-School Advertising, according to viewers with children at home

Rank Brand Ad Title Length Likeability Score
1 Athleta Stay In The Game 0:45 777
2 Target Flawless :15 0:15 771
3 Staples Everything On Your List 0:30 753
4 Walmart Let’s Get It Started :30 0:30 750
5 Kohl’s Kohl’s Cash Earn 0:15 743
6 Amazon Ambition 0:15 738
7 Kohl’s School Saving 0:15 731
8 Jif Homework 0:30 727
9 Pearle Vision Olivia 1:00 722
10 Amazon The Future 0:15 719

“Stay In The Game” from Athleta topped the list as the most Likeable ad as a result of its empowering message that transcends Back-To-School season. The ad has strong sharing potential with 54% of parents reporting they would very likely share “Stay In The Game” with their social circles. Another female empowerment ad among the most Likable list is Pearle Vision’s “Olivia.” It connected with 35% of parents on an emotional level.

Emo Word Cloud: Pearle Vision “Olivia”

Staples employed a tranquil approach to Back-To-School, that really resonated with parents, who carry the weight of BTS shopping hassles. The ad starts out with a low, soothing voice reminding viewers to, “Breathe…let the Back-to-School shopping wash over you like a warm summer wind.” From there, a brilliant display of school supplies captivated viewers. A few parents mentioned that Staples wasn’t their “go-to” for school supplies, but “Everything On Your List” might have changed that:

I loved the visual effects, especially all of the colors and movement. That was what first caught my attention and then the voice used in the commercial was soothing because school shopping is stressful and he talked about taking all that stress away. I have never considered Staples as a place to do my back to school shopping, as I have always viewed it as an expensive store to get specialty items or where our office shops, but the $.50 sale caught my attention.” – Female, 36-49

“Love the visuals in this ad, colors and movement. I can relate to this ad because its almost back to school time and we have a daughter starting kindergarten. Staples wouldn’t normally be my first choice for back to school products, but maybe…” – Female, 36-49

“The visuals were the best and the music corelated well with the visuals and it made me want to go to staples to get my stepdaughter school supplies for sure” – Female, 36-49

Both Target and Staples used similar colorful, kaleidoscope visuals to showcase products and draw in viewers. They also offered items at $.50, perhaps resulting in each ad’s impressively high top 2 box Purchase Intent among parents (at 74% for Target “Flawless :15” & 70% for Staples “Everything On Your List”).

Walmart captured the excitement of the season, instead of the stress. The Music really stood out as the top creative element (as reflected in the Best Thing chart below), while the visuals, brand, and message were seen as equally important.

Walmart “Let’s Get It Started :30” Single Best Thing Chart

Amazon and Kohl’s had two ads each among the top ten. Amazon cleverly revealed the breadth and depth of school products it carries. With everything from Zebra lunch boxes to Laser Cat T-Shirts, the idea that parents and kids can find things that match their individual personalities was well received. Emphasizing the deals at Kohl’s successfully drove Desire in “Kohl’s Cash Earn” and “School Savings.” The hard-to-ignore offers at Kohl’s were named the top Single Best Thing for both ads.

The light-hearted humor in Jif’s “Homework” registered with parents who related with the mom in the ad. The product out shone the laughs, earning the title as the Single Best Thing about the ad and encouraged 76% of parents to report they were “much more likely” or “more likely” to purchase Jif for their kids (the highest among the top ten).

Jif “Homework” Purchase Intent Chart

Congratulations to the brands that made our top ten list! You passed the test according to parents.


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