Monday, June 3, 2013

KMart is Desperate

I had a fabulous Creative Director/Mentor in my early days of the ad game tell me more than once:

"the pun is the lowest form of advertising."

And so it is with the two newest spots from KMart. The first one is: "Ship My Pants". With over 18 million views apparently on YouTube. The second is: "Big Gas Savings" with a mere 63,000 views.

I personally find these both so distasteful I am hesitant to post them but here goes. What does this
really do for KMart? Really... They are perceived as a low end almost the lowest end of retailers.
The merchandise is cheap. The stores are bleak. And they must be desperate to grab any kind of
retail dollars and attention at this point. And I think honestly, in my opinion, these ads reflect that.

In the short term the "Ship My Pants" ad was taken off mainstream TV going straight to YouTube.
Probably KMart knew that would happen but decided what the heck, this exposure and the media
flurry it will generate is worth it. Again, relying on "bad press is better than no press." A very old
PR chestnut that I would never recommend to any brand that's on life-support like this.

However, it's always always about the bottom line. Did it translate into sales? Do these kinds of
cheap tricks generate dollars?

Yes, these ads are a headturner the first couple of times. Yes, it's going to be remembered, but probably not for the reasons KMart would like. And for sure, the people who created this stuff will go back to KMart armed with facts and figures about how many times it was viewed, the short spikes in sales or awareness etc etc.

But over the long haul, is this really what KMart wants to be? Puns are short-lived. I am betting each round of "creative" will just get murkier and murkier if they stay on this "Puns R Us" slide.

I know they are currently in review and looking for a new agency. Let's hope KMart finds one that
stands up to this crap and says: It's time you guys regain some legitimacy in the marketplace. It's time
to start again, carving out a place for themselves in the market that isn't reliant on cheap tricks.
KMart cannot play it safe now. KMart is at a place where being a long third, if that, in the Walmart/Target lineup is tough. Honestly, perhaps they shouldn't even try to compete with them.
Perhaps this is the biggest opportunity KMart has to re-invent themselves in a whole new way; not just
in their advertising but in how they are with consumers and the experience of shopping there.

One thing I find  lacking in today's creative generally, is any knowledge of Ad history. If I were handling the assignment for KMart, the first thing I would have the group do, is dig to see what brands in the past were struggling in a similar situation.

Off the top of my head the first name that comes to mind for me is:  Avis.

Avis brilliantly and bravely "came out" to the public by admitting they were behind Hertz in the rental car market. DDB created the now iconic:  "We try harder" campaign. It was smart, humanly funny. It created an interesting self-effacing position for themselves which people respected. It kept the Avis brand alive with integrity and class. And over time, built a strong viable brand on par with Hertz.

Integrity and class. Two attributes more and more advertisers seem to be losing sight of or are willing to sacrifice, for a few teenage hits on YouTube.

So my advice to KMart's advertising creative would be:  Try Harder.