What Jeweler Had the Best Commercials for Holiday 2014?

Every year I like to do the JCK holiday ad roundup in a different way. I’ve gotten input from my youngish coworkers, jewelry people on Twitter, and marketing gurus.

This year, I sought guidance from those well-known experts on everything: anonymous people on the Internet. For commentary on this year’s ads, I culled comments from YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and elsewhere. Most were, um, lively and occasionally unprintable.

Of course, there will always be people on the Internet who love and hate just about everything. (And both sides are quite vociferous about it.) That said, as I scanned comments, some clear patterns did emerge.

Kay Jewelers: Penguins

This is perhaps the most notable ad this year, in that it represents a clear advertising shift from Kay Jewelers.  

The Internet says: 

Positive comments: “The cutest thing ever”; “hilarious”; “too beautiful.” “Has my two favorite things—penguins and diamonds.” “Not a big fan of diamonds (ethics and all that), but Kay has a commercial with penguins. I’m conflicted.” 

Negative comments: “Perpetuates the ‘women want diamonds’ stereotype, but I feel less angry when there are penguins.” “Sends a dumb message. Dude gives me a thoughtful pebble (which is what they do) I’m all about it.” “Way to shame all us poor penguins who can only afford a pebble.”

Amusing comments:  “[Kay is] setting standards way too high for penguins everywhere.”

My thoughts:

By Kay Jewelers’ standards—and even by regular commercial standards—this is a lot of fun, and figuring out how the animation works gives it a certain rewatchability. (Which is important, given how often they repeat these things.) And how much do people love penguins? At least one Tweeter will drop her ethical objections to diamonds because of them. That is love.

Then again, the message did make some commenters uncomfortable. It’s one thing to declare Kay products are great presents; that is what ads do. But this also implies a simple gift won’t work.

Jared’s commercials have lately been airing variations of the same message. The difference is they spotlight inappropriate and thoughtless presents, which deserve to be rejected. There doesn’t appear to be any reason why the lady penguin rejects the rock. 

Now, I do feel silly discussing the emotions of an animated penguin, but perhaps that’s the point. The cute animals make the dicey message go down easier.

It’s great that Kay is venturing into more creative territory (which would basically be anything but what they have been doing). I can see these penguins becoming a Kay mascot, which could give personality to a company the ads of which have been mostly characterized by gooey sentimentality. But the message needs honing.

Jared: “New Boss

This spot actually premiered last year, but I picked it out because it received the most comments on social media of all the Jared ads.

The Internet says:

Positive comments: Couldn’t find any. (Seriously.) 

Negative comments: “Just so bad.” “Revolutionary in its horribadness.”  “Gag inducing.”

Amusing comments: “ Her -“It was Lisa, in the living room, with the crowbar”, Me- “How do you know that?!”, Her – “I speak Pandora.”

My thoughts:

First off, congrats to the Signet marketing team. “I speak Pandora” is a silly-catchy stick-in-your-mind phrase along the lines of “He went to Jared” and “Every kiss begins with Kay.”

I didn’t find this ad quite as bad as some of the commenters here, or, to be honest, some past Jared ads. It is quick and painless, and it lingers with you as you try to figure out just what she was looking at. It also targets a different demo—the female self-purchaser—than the standard male-oriented Jared spot. The message seems to be twofold: Pandora is available at Jared, and its charms let you express yourself, like a wearable Facebook page. (Hasn’t this couple heard of social media?)

That said, there is nothing particularly interesting or entertaining about it. It is just like most advertising—and definitely most jewelry advertising—flat.

Zales: Anticipation

Post acquisition, Zales ads haven’t changed all that much.

The Internet says:

Positive comments: “Yes. Just yes.” “This is a beautiful commercial.” “Makes me really happy.” “A zales commercial just came on of a man proposing on the cliffs of Moher. Life goals right there.”

Negative comments: “Cringeworthy.”

Much commented-upon: The music. “The second I heard Love & Feeling on the @Zales commercial, I knew they had hit a home run. The right song means EVERYTHING.” “Buy your jewelry at Zales everyone, they’re playing Chet Faker in their commercial.” “#brilliant marketing strategy.” “I didn’t know who Chet Faker was until your commercial. Thank you. Zales is now bae.”

My thoughts:

First off, look at that last comment. Know what bae means? Until recently, I didn’t either. I still don’t know how it’s pronounced. I also didn’t know who Chet Faker is, though apparently he has rabid fans. (Not as rabid as fans of penguins, but still.) The point is, this commercial appeals to people who know those things. And those consumers go to malls and buy jewelry.

Zale, as we know, has been swallowed up by Signet, which has indicated it will change its advertising. (The old marketing chief resigned post-acquisition.) This ad definitely seems put together by the old guard. It has all its hallmarks—the cool music, young beautifuls with just a hint of stubble, and the changing “diamond store” logo.

It’s also very well-done; it gets the message across and is rather touching. It follows the classic “man presents woman with gift” jewelry ad formula—three times—but puts a modern spin on it. The second actress does especially well with that moment of disbelief.

Sometimes when I roll my eyes at traditional jewelry ads, I think: I am not the target audience. Someone must like them. And yet, Zale’s advertising is good enough to elicit these comments: “Got me crying.” “ “Gives me chills.” “I always wanted to be in a Zales commercial.” “Perfect.” You rarely see that with Kay and Jared ads.

So these commercials not only have the cool factor, but they affect viewers on an emotional level, enough that people wish to express it publicly. Which is better than discussing how materialistic penguins are. (And I liked that ad.) 

Helzberg/Geico: Destination Wedding

Love commercials? How about two in one?

The Internet says:

Positive comments: “Makes me smile.”

Negative comments: “Just bad.” “I just saw a Helzberg Diamond commercial inside a Geico Insurance commercial and my brain dripped out of my ear.”

Amusing comment: “You got diamonds and sentimentality in my car insurance commercial! And you got car insurance in my diamond commercial!”

My thoughts:

Auto insurer Geico has a massive marketing budget—it’s the fifth biggest advertiser in America, according to Business Insider. (No, Signet didn’t make the list, as much as it seems that way at holiday time.) Some of its commercials are composed of just random comedy bits and its “save 15 percent on auto insurance” slogan. 

So perhaps the thinking at Berkshire Hathaway, which owns both Geico and Helzberg, was: If we spend so much on commercials, why not use some of that time to advertise another Berkshire company? 

Geico and Helzberg have done past hookups. But while this make sense from a business standpoint, that doesn’t make for a great ad. It’s hard to imagine two more dissimilar products than auto insurance and engagement rings. One is practical, the other, emotional; they target different areas of the brain. 

The Geico gecko is a popular mascot—he has been in about 100 commercials—so he gets attention. But he doesn’t have a personality, other than being vaguely British working class. So seeing him cry isn’t so notable. I did like the crab; they should have done more with it. 

The ad doesn’t make a case for Helzberg. With two products to advertise in 30 seconds, there isn’t enough time.  Aside from the novelty factor of two ads in one—which drew the most comments—there isn’t much memorable about this. But it gets both names out there, and perhaps that’s enough.

Forevermark: The Promise

With its classical music and black-and-white photography, the Forevermark “Promise” commercial evokes (deliberately?) the De Beers Shadows ads.

The Internet says: 

Positive comments: “Too cute.” “Brilliantly produced.” “I loved it!!!!” “This is one of the BEST commercials EVER!  And it is definitely much more EFFECTIVE in black and white than it is in color. 

Negative comments: “Pretty lame.”

My thoughts:

This works fine, and the moment where he lets go of her is certainly compelling. That is also the most romantic footage I’ve ever seen taken at Penn Station. On the negative side, the swelling soundtrack gets a bit much at times, and the two lead figures could be better defined. In the Zale’s ad, the clothes, look, soundtrack, and setting give you a pretty clear idea of who you are watching. Here, the lead figures come across as dancing mannequins. That is one reason the longer versions— here and here—work better, though they will probably be aired less. 

Bonus points to the Forevermark social media team for thanking those who like the ad. Classy and well done.

Macy’s: Cat Person 

This one also premiered last year. When I scanned for comments on jewelry commercials, this came up the most. (Macy’s is also a major advertiser.) It is easily the weirdest commercial here.

The Internet says:

Positive comments:Funny.” “Love this commercial.” “Gets me every time.” 

Negative comments: “Makes me feel uncomfortable.” “Terrifying.” 

My thoughts:

This is an offbeat ad meant to break through the clutter and provoke strong reactions. And it does.  

And it’s funny—the first time at least. There is nothing all that clever about it, but the saleswoman plays her role without overdoing it, which makes it more amusing (and yes, a little off-putting). I am not sure that it will make men feel comfortable at Macy’s jewelry counters, but it at least it lets them know they are there.

Final thoughts: Top tier: Zale (probably the best), Macy’s, Kay, Forevermark. Needs work: Jared, Helzberg. But that is just my opinion, plus the thoughts of random folks on the Internet.

We haven’t heard from the best commenters online, those that read JCK. What do you think?

JCK News Director