JCK’s 2019 Holiday Jewelry Commercial Roundup

Welcome to JCK‘s 10th annual holiday commercial roundup.

Each year, I like to do the roundup differently. In past years, I have supplemented my own observations with those of industry marketing executives and random people on the internet.

For 2019, it’s the battle of the generations! So many ads are aimed at millennials. But do their oldest siblings and parents really look at things differently?

MVI Marketing, which conducted an online survey for us two years ago, arranged a sample of 606 people that was one-third baby boomers (born 1944–1964), one-third Generation Xers (born 1965–1979), and one-third millennials (born 1980–1994).

Each group was asked to rank the ads on a scale of one to four, with one being “one of the worst I’ve seen,” two being “pretty bad,” three being “pretty good,” four being “one of the best.” At the end, MVI asked the viewers to rank their two favorite spots.

In addition, Emmy Kondo, a market research consultant who currently works for Lightbox and did last year’s focus group for us, arranged a nine-person panel composed of three boomers, three Generation Xers, and three millennials.

There will also be commentary from me, a cynical Gen Xer.

Here are the ads, in alphabetical order by brand.

Forevermark

 I Take You, Until Forever

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           86% positive, 14% negative

Boomers:                   82% positive, 18% negative

Generation X:            86% positive, 13% negative

Millennials:                89% positive, 11% negative

Note: The positive number represents the percentage that rated the ad three or four; the negative number ranked it one or two. Percentages sometimes don’t equal 100%, due to rounding.

The focus group says:

Boomer/Nancy, 60s, retired interior designer: Really enjoyed the calmness of the ad as well as the message. Loved how they depicted all ages. One word I would use to sum up feelings upon finishing the ad is softness. The ad is comforting and makes me smile.

Generation X/Kari, 39, project manager: This was so cute! The end made me think about my grandmother and her timeless pieces of jewelry my grandpa would give her each anniversary. I want something timeless.

Millennial/Betsy 30, museum coordinator: I liked this ad a lot.… The ring in one of the first shots is really classic and beautiful. I liked how they [mentioned] splitting the bills. It felt very very relatable for where I am in my life…. The last moment where they say the Forevermark promise felt cheaper than the rest of the commercial.… [I]t felt like the end of a Kay or lower-quality diamond store commercial. It was a good blend of relatable, but it still felt like something I could attain/afford, and it wasn’t ugly.

What I say: This was my favorite ad this year, though I agree with the last commenter that the end with the Forevermark sales pitch breaks the spell a bit. The two-minute version is even better.

Something to ponder: Every man in this video has facial hair.

James Allen

When She Looks at That Engagement Ring, She’s Going to See You

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           60% positive, 40% negative

Boomers:                   49% positive, 50% negative

Generation X:            65% positive, 35% negative

Millennials:                66% positive, 34% negative

This ad is clearly polarizing; no other ad came close to its negative ratings. And there was a clear generational difference: Boomers disliked it significantly more than the other demos.

However, it did well with its target demo, as you’ll see in the final rankings.

The focus group says:

Boomer/Daniel, 59, financial executive: Ad was dorky and did not speak to me. Wanted to turn it off or go do something worthwhile with my time.

Generation X/Rebekah, 40s, manager, financial services: More creepy than anything.

Millennial/Adam, 24 account executive, architecture firm: Definitely aimed toward millennials, to the point I felt called out. Makes me want to look at their product though.

What I say: I don’t know, guys. (I’m assuming guys are behind this.) It was disconcerting enough to see a talking disembodied head in a ring, and that wasn’t even close to the most off-putting part. The ad blatantly suggests that a relationship is dependent on the ring you get. Maybe that’s saying the “quiet part out loud,” but ads shouldn’t embrace such outdated archetypes—even if it’s done tongue in cheek (and this wasn’t really tongue in cheek). I’ll admit, I chuckled once or twice. Overall, though, I admire this ad’s gall, but not much else.

Something to ponder: Disembodied head guy seems to be holding a toy computer.

James Avery Jewelry

Capture the Memories With Colorful Gems

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           77% positive, 23% negative

Boomers:                    79% positive, 20% negative

Generation X:             76% positive, 24% negative

Millennials:                 75% positive, 25% negative

The focus group says:

Boomer/Cathy, 64, retired elementary school teacher: It was intriguing for such a short ad. I wanted to see the jewelry! I might have to check out the website.

Generation X/Colleen, 40s, sales team director: Simplistic, but maybe TOO simplistic, especially for a lesser-known brand. I like that they highlighted various generations, and seeing where you are able to purchase is a plus.

Millennial/Karyn, 27, artist: Didn’t do anything for me. Pretty boring, nothing stands out. Pretty generic jewelry commercial.

What I say: Six years ago, comedian Sarah Haskins made a video about “jewelry face,” which she mocked as the look women have in ads when they receive jewelry.

This ad, needless to say, has a whole lot of jewelry face. It’s jewelry face on parade! Still, there’s a reason people keep going back to that trope. It works. So does this. Nice song, too.

Jared

Dare to Find the One

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           86% positive, 13% negative

Boomers:                   85% positive, 15% negative

Generation X:            89% positive, 11% negative

Millennials:                88% positive, 12% negative

The focus group says: 

Boomer/Cathy: I liked the music. The backup singers were a nice touch.

Generation X/Rebekah: I liked this overall and thought it was unique. But nothing about it made me want to look into any products.

Millennial/Karyn: Music really pushed the commercial. Using classic holiday tunes but changing the lyrics, the song (Jared’s version) gets stuck in your head.

What I say: As any regular New York City subway rider can attest, a bunch of guys suddenly appearing, singing a capella, is not always appreciated. Given that the Jeweltones, who are featured in three Jared ads this year, are not interrupting my morning commute, I found them both talented and charming.

Overall, this is a cute but slight ad that doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Something to ponder: Where did they come from? Where did they go?

Kay Jewelers

Every “Your Love Keeps Me Centered” Begins With Kay

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:            88% positive, 12% negative

Boomers:                    88% positive, 11% negative

Generation X:            89% positive, 11% negative

Millennials:                 88% positive, 12% negative

The focus group says:

Boomer/Daniel: Images are things I appreciate and relate to. Seems more real. Has a positive message that resonates more with me than the others.

Generation X/Colleen: I loved everything about it. Good storyline, not too long, most people can relate to it regardless of age or gender. It is clear what they are selling, and it made me want to look into it further.

Millennial/Betsy: Feels so old school, like the woman is doing everything and [h]e puts the necklace on her. She can do that herself. She birthed all these children, has to tell her husband to be thankful, and all she gets is this ugly necklace.

What I say: It’s “Midlife Crisis, the Commercial.”

Kay has a new ad agency, but it’s mostly following the same formula. It’s using the standard sappy music cues, and it’s not only kept “Every Kiss Begins With Kay,” it’s making it longer! Though “Every ‘Your Love Keeps Me Centered’ Begins With Kay” doesn’t really stick in my mind.

It makes sense that Kay, as well as Jared—which also has a new agency—isn’t wandering too far afield. It’s still Kay, the mall store. In last year’s focus group, someone commented about an edgy Helzberg ad: “If you go into a Helzberg, this is not the feeling you get. Helzberg feels old.” That may not be fair—given Helzberg is introducing new store layouts—but it shows that advertising has to match the store environment. You can always pay hipsters to produce edgy, funny ads, but they won’t work if they don’t correspond to the true retail experience.

Like the Forevermark ad, this is built around the ups and downs of life. There must be something in the air—or at least the market research. But the payoff feels flat to me. Those three “magic words”—”look around you”—aren’t all that inspiring.

Something to ponder: What if you live in a dump?

Pandora

Show Her That You Know Her

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           92% positive, 8% negative

Boomers:                    94% positive, 6% negative

Generation X             90% positive, 9% negative

Millennials:                 92% positive, 8% negative

This ad scored best with the panel.

The focus group says:

Boomer/Cathy: It got to me emotionally. It made me a bit teary-eyed!  Only problem was that I had to watch a second time to read what the locket actually said.

Generation X/Kari: I teared up. Really related to this and it reminded me of when my dad gave me my first set of pearls.

Millennial/Betsy: It had a homey feel [and] was cute.… Afterwards, I had to double-check it was a father-daughter relationship because the title to me reads like something you would gear toward a partner relationship. Having my dad “know me” isn’t something I’m looking for in an ad. Having him fly and surprise me on a plane is.

What I say: Virtually no one disliked this, and I didn’t either. It’s rare that a commercial genuinely surprises me.

This also isn’t a particularly glamorous ad. The old guy is wearing a cheesy sweater, he’s rushing through the airport like an average schlub, and is waiting for his daughter to serve him peanuts. Maybe that relatability makes it work.

Something to ponder: The dad did all that prep to surprise his daughter. Then he nearly missed the plane!

Swarovski

Holiday 2019

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           78% positive, 22% negative

Boomers:                    70% positive, 30% negative

Generation X:             84% positive, 16% negative

Millennials:                 80% positive, 20% negative

This got significantly more likes from Gen Xers than millennials and boomers.

The focus group says:

Boomer/Nancy: Really very busy ad. Too much going on for me. Didn’t care for their jewelry selection. Nothing I saw would prompt me to look at their products.

Generation X/Kari: Loved how you could really see all the pieces and thought the colors and backgrounds were so fun. Really made me want to walk into a store.

Millennial/Adam: It made me curious if they’d changed their aesthetic. It’s not the way I think of their product.

What I say: Nice! Energetic! Somewhat clever!

It’s not entirely clear what Swarovski is selling here. But they are having a good time doing it. There’s a fun spirit here that’s contagious.

Something to ponder: What’s with that announcer’s accent? She sounds like Siri’s sister.

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany T True

 

The MVI survey says:

Overall rating:           81% positive, 18% negative

Boomers:                   81% positive, 19% negative

Generation X:           83% positive, 17% negative

Millennials:                80% positive, 20% negative

The focus group says:

Boomer/Nancy: Loved everything about this ad. The music was perfect, short and sweet, the young lady was extremely believable, so excited about the gift. Classic.

Generation X/Colleen: Loved the music and simplicity, but hard to know what they were selling (besides the brand!).

Millennial/Betsy: This ad is fine. It’s pretty boring. The woman is gorgeous, but there’s nothing here for me. It seems classic Tiffany: a beautiful woman in a nondescript place with jewelry. It feels too rich, preppy, and unattainable.… Kind of reminds me of a Gap ad.

What I say: The world definitely needs some love, sweet love, right now, whether gift-wrapped in a Tiffany box or no. This is less weird and perhaps less interesting and distinctive than Tiffany commercials we’ve examined in the past, and it doesn’t make that much of an impression. That said, it is elegant yet accessible, the Tiffany sweet spot.

Final MVI Rankings

Here are the ads ranked by their positive scores in the MVI poll:

  1. Pandora
  2. Kay
  3. Forevermark (tie)
  4. Jared (tie)
  5. Tiffany
  6. Swarovski
  7. James Avery
  8. James Allen

At the end of the survey, MVI showed the respondents screenshots of the commercials and asked them to pick their two favorites. Their preferences broke down like this:

MVI marketing chart
(Chart courtesy of MVI Marketing)

James Allen and Jared do much better in this ranking, while Forevermark does worse.

Notably, the top three (Pandora/Jared/Kay) and bottom four (Tiffany/Swarovski/Forevermark/James Avery) were pretty much the same across all demos. The only difference: the James Allen ad.

The James Allen spot split the generations most: It was the fifth favorite of baby boomers, while the supposedly-easily-offended millennials ranked it third. It was also scored differently by gender. It was the second favorite ad of male millennials and the top choice of male Gen Xers. No female demo ranked it that high. Given that younger males are the site’s target audience, that’s a good result, even if not everyone is amused. But those who liked it, really liked it.

Also of note: The Pandora commercial—seemingly aimed at the-old-guys-with-vague-foreign-accents-who-wear-really-bright-Christmas-sweaters demo—was the number one pick of millennials. With baby boomers, it came in third, behind Jared and Kay. The Pandora spot was also the top choice of female respondents, with 21% citing it as one of their two favorites. Only 15% of men did, and it came in third.

The Swarovski ad saw a split the opposite way: 12% of men cited it as a favorite, while only 8% of women did.

Elizabeth Chatelain, president of MVI Marketing, notes that the top three scorers—Pandora, Jared, and Kay—all told a story, and consumers seemed to respond to that.

Final Ponderings

This was a darker group of ads than usual. They told us that the world needs love, that life can “push you around,” and that if you don’t get the right ring, you’ll be laughed at by a disembodied head on a ring prong.

Except for the polarizing James Allen ad, even the low-scoring ads were overwhelmingly rated “pretty good.” Which is fair. Most were indeed pretty good.

My favorite was Forevermark, followed by Pandora and Swarovski, then Tiffany and Jared, and finally Kay and James Allen. Which did not correlate to their final MVI rankings.

In past years, I’ve felt out of touch with the younger generation. Perhaps I’m out of touch with every generation.

Or perhaps, jewelry people aren’t the best judges here.

“The people in the jewelry industry are the last ones who should be passing judgment on these ads,” says Chatelain. “We look at this all day. It’s all about the consumer. Not us.”

Kondo had two observations from her focus group.

“The older generations seemed to not like the busy-ness of the ads,” she says. “But the millennials were more used to the constant stimuli.”

Like last year, she found that respondents noticed—and had strong opinions about—the jewelry.

“Sometimes even when they liked the ads, they found the jewelry unattractive,” she says. “There’s not the product out there that they’re looking for.”

MVI Marketing collected way more info than I could present here. If you want additional data on how the different demos reacted to the ads, how these ads affected their willingness to buy, gender preference, and more valuable and useful statistics, you can download its report for free here.

If you want more information on the focus group that Emmy Kondo arranged, contact her through LinkedIn.

A huge thank you to MVI and Emmy Kondo for doing a terrific job gathering info.

Now I open the floor. What did you think?

(Top image courtesy of Jared)

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JCK News Director