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Judging the Big Chains' Holiday Commercials

By Rob Bates, Senior Editor

Posted on November 17, 2011

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I am once again going through the big chains' holiday TV ads, but this year I thought I would add a twist. In order to determine what people far hipper than I am thought of these ads, I solicited opinions from a focus group of sorts, comprised of three JCK employees (two men, one woman), all unmarried and under 30—meaning they are the ring buyers of tomorrow. So here are the commercials, their comments, and of course, mine:

- Our friends at Zale are airing at least three new holiday commercials. Here is the first:

My focus group-ers all loved the music here, though some were distracted by the woman’s appearance (she “looks like a 12-year-old boy,” one complained). But overall, this got a good response: “Pretty sure all the ladies of the world will love it,” said one (female) panelist.

The second Zale ad is surprisingly racy, depicting what seems to be a quite, um, successful holiday:

Hey now! This ad evoked strong reactions, both pro and con: One person said, “Totally effective and sexy without being over the top. Very well done.” But the female member of the group said, “Honestly, it seems really awkward.”

Finally, here is the third:

One panelist said that “seems a very unsafe way to propose.” Another dubbed it “cheesy.” Well, whatever they say, this one really struck a chord with me; it was easily my favorite of the three. 

In general, I liked the sophisticated camera work, music, and general youthful feeling of these ads (and it’s great Zale adds a “colored diamonds may have been treated or enhanced by heating” disclaimer). But overall they lack the energy of last year’s commercials; the company seems to have deliberately taken a more romantic, lower-key approach this year.  

- Reeds Jewelers’ commercial this year is an attempt to “break through the clutter”—and it’s certainly striking:

One (male) panelist said, ”Overall I enjoyed it, if only for the beautiful girl.” Another commented: “A little too artsy for my taste, but it is beautifully shot. I would imagine someone on the older side might appreciate it more than I would.” Well, this person on the older side thinks it’s pretty good.

- Sterling doesn’t post its commercials on YouTube, but you can see one commercial for the Leo Diamond here, which shows people saying "I love you" in different languages. 

This ad scored well with the panel: “Great commercial,” one person said. “Excellent premise and well executed. If I was looking for a ring and saw that commercial, I would definitely do more research on the store.” The female panelist proclaimed it her “favorite.” I like it, too.

And finally, there were mixed feelings about a Kay's “Love’s Embrace” ad, which shows a man giving a woman a "Love's Embrace" piece as they move into a new house, and is probably aimed at an older audience than the others.

“It’s not going to make me run out and buy a gift,” one panelist said. “Especially not when it makes me think about buying a house at the same time.” And another called it “way cheesy, but I liked the idea around it. Could have easily been upgraded with some different music in the background.”

As for me, I have always considered Signet a great company, but I wish I could get more excited about its advertising. This is basically the same commercial Kay always runs, except the couple is moving into a house, instead of experiencing a storm or doing sign language. Still you can’t argue with success—or with the Kay ad budget: This is the only ad I’ve actually seen on television (several times!). And one of the panelists caught it as well.

The lack of consensus makes it difficult to draw conclusions here, but it is safe to say the following: 1) Jewelry ads have always aimed for emotion, and that can be a tough road to walk. One person’s “cheesy” is another person’s effective. 2) That said, while this was perhaps a slightly more adventurous crop of jewelry ads than years past, our industry’s marketers still need to evolve past familiar tropes if they want to attract younger consumers. 3) I work with some very cynical people. 4) According to my very limited sample, the Zale “skiing” and the "I Love You" Leo ads come out on top. What do you all think?

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