Kmart doubles down on pre-adolescent potty humor as creative strategy


Hoping to lift its sales figures out of the toilet, Kmart is doubling down on its viral and television campaign based on preteen potty puns, Advertising Age reported May 23.

Specifically, they’re following their “Ship My Pants” video with a new one about “Big Gas Savings.” (If you don’t get the intended humor, either click the links or try saying the titles aloud. Fast.)

Too little, too late?

In all fairness, the teenage toilet jokes aren’t there in a vacuum; they’re based on actual shopping features Kmart wanted to promote – “Ship My Pants” on free shipping of some “65 million products on line” – but only items they can’t find in the store – and “Big Gas Savings” on a deal that lets members of the store’s Shop Your Way rewards program save 30 cents a gallon of gas at Kmart pumps whenever they buy $50 worth of merchandise.

Execution aside, they’re kinda late to the party.

For years, Walmart, for example, has been offering free shipping of any and all items bought online, whether in the store or not, from their warehouses to your neighborhood store.

And, also for years, BJ’s has been giving members deeply discounted big gas savings at their pumps, even if those members never set foot inside the store or spend so much as a penny there.

An uphill battle

Flush with success from the pants spot drawing some 11.6 million views on YouTube its first week, Kmart started running it on cable channels. If the gas spot’s as popular online, it will follow suit.

This reflects a growing trend among advertisers. “To use their ad budgets wisely, brands are increasingly launching ad campaigns via the web first to dip their toes into the water and see if they’ve got a viral hit on their hands before investing media dollars,” Ad Age writes. “Chipotle’s ‘Back to the Start’ first debuted on the web before a media buy was undertaken to get further reach.”

Kmart’s same-store sales fell 3.7 percent for both the fourth quarter and all of last year, and it may take more than lotsa likes to reverse that.

Tracking firm Advertising Benchmark Index scored the first ad as “average.” Overall awareness was low, according to president Gary Getto, and likeability scores showed the spot could be polarizing to some consumers.

Two important decisions

“Importantly,” Ad Age asks, “can the heft of media dollars on cable TV help Kmart go from making consumers chuckle to making them go to stores and open their wallets?”

It’s also an important question for agency Draft FCB, which has been defending the account in an almost half-year-long review against corporate sibling McCann and McGaryBowen.

“Either DraftFCB’s funny little poopy video just saved them the account,” Ad Age says, “or the shop can say they gave it all their effort before the ‘ship’ hit the fan.”

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