Did mediocre advertising help depress holiday retail shopping?

Despite in-store promotions and despite discounts up to 60 percent, holiday foot traffic and sales numbers were down 4.3 percent this year, according to ShopperTalk.

Falling consumer confidence may have been one reason. It “dipped to its lowest point in December since July amid rising economic worries,” an AP report noted. “Shoppers are increasingly worried about the ‘fiscal cliff’ deadline — the possibility that a stalemate between Congress and the White House over the U.S. budget could trigger a series of tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1,” it added.

“There was this absence of joy for the holiday,” said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at market research firm NPD Inc. “There was no Christmas spirit.”

Though nobody’s mentioning it, this year’s advertising may also have been a factor. Good advertising is supposed to boost sales, but bad advertising depresses them.

And if you look at AceMetrix’s just-released picks of 2012’s best holiday commercials and videos, you’ll see that the best is none too good.

Ace scores every commercial or video against other advertising before a panel of 500+ consumers. They measure each one for six characteristics that influence consumer behavior – desire, relevance, information, attention, change and likeability. Then they measure the ad’s persuasiveness and watchability to come up with a score.

Following that model, they came up with the top ten holiday commercials and videos, plus five tied for eleventh, just one point behind.

It’s a very depressing collection, to say the least. Most – with few exceptions – are mediocre, boring, obvious and lacking in emotional and entertainment value at best. And if these were the best, I shudder to think what the worst must look and sound like.

Tied for 11th, score 611

  • Sears “Wise Baby”:30 – A toddler gets away from his father in a Sears store. The ensuing chase showcases different types of merchandise and ends in a jewelry display, where the father finds a pair of diamond earrings his wife later loves.
  • Lowe’s “Remember the Decorations:30 – You don’t have to worry about spending so much as a penny less on decorations at Lowe’s this year because they have records of exactly what you bought last year.
  • Dodge “Brighter Season” :30 – Shows the sheet metal in what’s supposed to be a holiday setting – red Dodges driving around a tackily lit up oval track with “Sleigh Ride” sung in the background – to promote the Big Finish Sales Event “that’s going to make the season even brighter.”
  • Sears “Happy Men Love Tools” :30 – Men have near-orgasmic raptures seeing the Sears tools they got as gifts, then work with the tools as the motors sound out the “Song of the Bells.”
  • Sears “Bolt On Power Tool System” :60 – An excruciating standup in which a talking head demonstrates that Sears bolt-on power tools actually – are you ready for this? – bolt on! to the power module. Never woulda guessed.

10th, score 612, Pizza Hut “Big vs.Huge” :30 – Two lame slackers sitting on the couch compare the specifications of a big dinner box and a huge dinner box of pizza.

9th, score 615, Target “Dream Big Magic” :30 – Stealing not only the music (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”), but also the idea from Tchaikowsky’s Nutcraker Suite, toys leap out of a red Target bag and start decorating the tree and the house.

8th, score 616, Phildelphia Cream Cheese “Holiday Favorite” :30 – Uses a song and plenty of food shots to show how cupcakes and cheesecakes made with Philadephia Cream Cheese spread a little joy, a little love, a little happiness. (Also a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol, but nobody was singing about that.)

7th, score 619, Old Navy “Colorful Christmas” :30 – Reprises Chevy Chase and the old National Lampoon vacation films to show how Old Navy pants’ colors light up Christmas better than the “Griswolds’ light-tacular.”

Tie for 5th, score 621

  • Hallmark “Tell Me” :30 – Hallmark has a card to tell people you care about exactly what they want to hear.
  • Hallmark “Christmas Memories” 1:30 – In one of the better spots in this collection (kind of like being the healthiest leper), as parents unpack and put up their Hallmark tree ornaments, they tell their daughter differing versions of what each one means to them.

4th, score 627, JCPenney, “Spirit of Giving” :30 – Ellen DeGeneris tells reluctant elves about a promotion in which customers who pick up a button at the store can win extra gifts. Obvious size jokes starting 17 seconds in.

3rd, score 628, Duracell, “Toys for Tots” :30 – Toys for children whose parents can’t afford them is wonderful because Duracell batteries power them. A Jimmy Durante sound-alike sings “Make Someone Happy” in the background.

2nd, score 645, US Postal Service, “Extra Pair of Hands” :30 – Free package pickup makes life easier for you – and for the USPS, because you print out a bar-coded label and prepay before pickup. No advice on how to weigh your package so it doesn’t get returned for insufficient postage, though.

1st, score 658, Sears “Maximum Versatility” :60 – It’s that Sears standup dude again, this time going on and on and on about how the Craftsman Max Access wrench can grip anything. Gripping in content, maybe, but not in execution.

See all the spots here.

Then read more about advertising at www.BrightOrangeAdv.com