JCK and Industry Marketing Experts Judge This Year’s Holiday Jewelry Commercials



Welcome to JCK’s sixth annual holiday advertising roundup.

Each year, I like to do the roundup differently. In the past, I have supplemented my own thoughts with those of advertising experts, millennials, jewelry people on Twitter, and random people on the Internet.

This year I thought I would pick the brains of some of our industry’s sharpest marketing minds, who agreed to participate if I would not match their names with their comments. (They also don’t review their own ads.)

The esteemed panel (in alphabetical order): Mitch Cahn, director of marketing and business development, Reeds Jewelers; Caryl Capeci, president, Hearts On Fire; Elizabeth Chatelain, CEO, MVI Marketing; Kirsten Darrow, group vice president, marketing, loyalty, and strategy, Fred Meyer Jewelers;  Robin Ettinger, chief marketing officer, Frederick Goldman/ArtCarved Bridal; Ellen Fruchtman, president, Fruchtman Marketing; Mark Hanna, chief marketing officer, Richline Group; Andrea Hansen, founder, LUXE Intelligence; Stephen Lussier, CEO, Forevermark; Dan Scott, brand architect, Luxe Licensing; Charles Stanley, president, Forevermark USA; and one person who wished to remain anonymous.

Just to show that this is not a science, every one of these ads received split verdicts.

1. Kay Jewelers, “Ever Us”

Panelist comments (positive):

“Kay finally looks like it is talking to today’s consumer.… Very clear, and the photography is very well done.”

“Nice change from the monotony of ‘Every kiss begins with Kay.’ ”

“The first shot of the woman dancing in the car was a little contrived, and quite frankly the eating-popcorn shot has been done numerous times. But overall it’s great to see a mix of age groups for this commercial and ‘real’-looking people. Love the copy. It just works!”

Panelist comments (negative):

“This commercial seems a bit corny with a concept that may be too contrived for the average man. ‘My wife is my best friend, so I will buy her a ring with two diamonds.’ Is this something male viewers would immediately agree with?”

Panelist comments (mixed):

“The people are relatable, which is good, but not aspirational. It feels very basic.”

Oft-mentioned:

The different demographics on display—especially the older couple.

My comments:

This ad received the best overall reviews of the seven here, if not unanimous raves. It doesn’t use that novel an approach, but it’s well done.

Signet gets bonus points for replacing its standard generic tinkling piano with, well, generic acoustic guitar. (There is some tinkling piano at the end; its marketers can’t help themselves!) A nice—but, yes, basic—spot.

Something to ponder:

One panelist, far more social-media savvy than I, pointed out that the first duo is a real-life couple that stars in the Web series Emma Approved and asks, “Shouldn’t Signet leverage that?”

 

2. Forevermark, “The One”

Panelist comments (positive):

“It’s bold and, without a doubt, memorable. The messaging is clear and comes full circle. We tested this commercial on several millennials in our office, and every one fully understood the messaging and simply loved the ad.”

“Love it. Different way to get to the millennials.? You have to pay attention the first time you see it to figure out the message. I bet a lot of diamond people don’t like it. Good, they are not the audience anyway.”

“The epic production is very engaging. The 60-second spot works well. The :30 will be difficult for the consumer to understand without seeing the longer version first.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“A bit obscure and not very clear for a while into the spot. And because it is not really visually appealing, it might lose viewers before the surprise at the end. Have to give them credit for trying to be different and get attention—just not sure it really does. “

“Has very high production values and a very lofty message…. I just doubt consumers will stay with it long enough to know it is from Forevermark. This is definitely a departure from the emotional ads Forevermark has run in the past and leaves you feeling a bit cold in the end. Even the couple at the end lacks warmth and genuine happiness to see each other. It is all very stilted.”

Oft-mentioned:

Aside from the unusual nature of the ad, a few pointed out that the man at the end bears a diamond, not a piece of diamond jewelry. “This guides the viewer to truly focus on the branded diamond itself,” one panelist said.

My comments:

Forevermark clearly sunk a lot of money into this ad (which is also being shown overseas), hoping for a home run. It’s certainly different and more arresting than the standard TV ad.

On the downside, it was a little tough to watch repeatedly. It might have been helped by a lighter touch, possibly poking fun at the fantasy epics it’s aping. And, yes, the message is a bit esoteric.

Something to ponder:

One person pointed out that the ad’s imagery resembles that of Blood Diamond. Deliberate?

blooddiamondimages.jpeg

 

3. Hearts On Fire, “A Diamond’s Power to Ignite”

Panelist comments (positive):

“By far HOF’s best campaign in years. The copy and visuals work very well for the brand.”

“Great brand building messages. So much fun to look at.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“I like the ‘ignite something’ message, but I felt the ad left the story hanging. It was the least male driven [of the ads], and yet the final message is still about the cut, which is a brand value that always scored better with men.”

“The ad could be for any brand or any diamond. It is trying too hard to be cool without doing a very good job at branding and explaining why HOF is the diamond that ignites the fire.”

Panelist comments (mixed):

“More contemporary and modern feel than the many of this year’s .… However, only a tenuous connection to the Hearts On Fire brand and as a result could work harder for the category than for the brand. Could also be a challenge for it to stand out among the clutter of Christmas advertising given a lifestyle approach, which tends to be used across multiple product categories.”

Oft-mentioned:

Many panelists noticed—and commended—the (brief) shots of a same-sex couple.

My comments:

This is meant for millennials, who have notoriously short attention spans. I have a short attention span too, but this all went by a little too fast for me. There are some fantastic images here with the potential to be powerful, but they speed by so quickly you can’t get a grip on them. The most affecting: the baby feet.

Something to ponder:

Why is that woman dancing while wearing a big bird’s head?

 

4. Pandora, “Wherever Life Takes You, Take It With You”

Panelist comments (positive):

“How can you go wrong with imagery of puppies and kids loving Christmas?”

“ ‘Take it with you’ clearly portrays the personal, collectible essence of Pandora.”

“Likely to be very effective, focusing on the need to mark multiple occasions in life with a Pandora  purchase. Aspirational for the brand, which is inherently low value. Emotive and right on message.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“Hallmark card-esque. Nothing fresh or new about it.”

“T?oo ?staged, on the brink of being boring. The charms on the bracelet looked like they were glued in place.”

Oft-mentioned:

The ad shows the logo both at the beginning and the end. “I usually like a payoff, but in this situation it works!”

My comments:

This ad did the second best with the panel. While it doesn’t beat Pandora’s truly creative and touching ad from earlier this year, it is sweet, and, as a bonus, uses an actual song.

Something to ponder:

The slogan: “Wherever life takes you, take it with you” is a bit confusing. What’s the it? Life itself?

 

5. Tiffany & Co., “A Tiffany Holiday”

Panelist comments (positive):

“Love the concept of gifts you can’t wait to give. Classic Tiffany, great production value.”

“Could not be done by anyone else but Tiffany. Nice commercial but not as emotionally powerful and brand expanding as some of the other current Tiffany ads, for example ‘Will You Marry Me,’ which does a better job of expanding the Tiffany demographic and creating a deep emotional connection to the brand.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“The least ‘exciting’ as it goes back to Tiffany’s tried-and-true message. Nothing socially relevant or groundbreaking here. My least favorite simply because I have seen it a million times.”

Panelist comments (mixed):

“Classic Tiffany. A romantic New York City scene, ending on the iconic Tiffany box, allowing the viewers to imagine the possibilities within. Though it is beautifully done, it doesn’t really deliver on the anticipation that it builds. After all that rushing because he was late, navigating the streets of New York City, I expected more of a payoff at the end.”

“Beautiful commercial but the 60-second version feels slow.”

Oft-mentioned:

It only shows the trademark blue box. “It speaks to the power of the Tiffany brand to film this entire spot and not need to show the actual jewelry gift,” said one panelist.

My comments:

This is the second ad in a row with a breathy female singer over acoustic background; in fact, they sound like the exact same singer. (They aren’t.) At least this song was kind of jaunty.

For a 60-second commercial—an eternity by today’s standards—this tells a pretty uneventful story. Some guy with stubble gets stuck in traffic and has to walk around a Christmas tree? Big deal.

It works fine but could have been more interesting or fun.

Something to ponder:

Why is he in such a rush anyway? Doesn’t he have a mobile phone?

 

6. Jared, “The Rest of Your Life”

 

Panelist comments (positive):

“It’s a very cute, millennial-style message: short, effective, modern, and clean.”

“Something fresh about it. Very to the point and communicates Jared’s benefits clearly.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“This is a step in the right direction from past Jared advertising. A nice link to finding one piece of jewelry that she will love forever, but the context is a bit confusing. What is she doing? Where is she?”

“Nice idea but didn’t quite work in execution. Feels a little like a department store/fashion commercial at the start and the tear effect doesn’t really work. As a result lacks the real emotive connection the agency was striving for.”

“Not a very memorable spot.… The quality of the spot seems low-budget and the images of the giant rings superimposed on the screen feels low-end.

Oft-mentioned:

The teardrop got a lot of comments. All negative.

My comments:

Oy, the tinkly piano is back. This ad, in particular, might work better with a real song.

It’s hard to convey much in 15 seconds and this doesn’t. The woman looks nice, but the ad might come together better if she were admiring her ring instead of hugging the wall. It’s also odd that the object of her affection—the person talking—is not just a phantom, but sounds like every other TV announcer. It’s like she’s dreaming of the guy who pitches you Taster’s Choice.

Kudos for including the three selling points for Jared at the end. That seemed new and smart.

Something to ponder:

Perhaps there’s a more insidious interpretation of this ad: This woman is in a padded room, writing weird things on the wall and thinking the TV announcer is in love with her. No wonder she’s crying.

 

7.  Blue Nile, “Ring Shopping Shouldn’t Be Scary”

Panelist comments (positive):

“Speaks to the troubles retailers in our industry find themselves in. It’s only 15 seconds but highly effective.… If I were a millennial consumer or a man looking to buy a ring, I’d check Blue Nile first. Great use of resources and great message delivery. My favorite.”

“A memorable spot that’s sure to spike their site traffic, but the only thing scary and ridiculous about this spot is the fact it hits a little too close to home.”

Panelist comments (negative):

“By far one of the most awful jewelry ads I’ve ever seen. The vast majority of people still prefer to come to a brick-and-mortar store. Blue Nile itself is opening brick-and-mortar locations! Why on earth would you not communicate the benefits of shopping with you versus attacking what the majority of individuals still feel is the way they prefer to shop for jewelry? You don’t attack unless you are the real underdog and not sure why they would want to position themselves that way.”

“Blue Nile provides online shopping convenience and a low price.… The millennial bridal customer does not fear jewelers, he just wants a great price and to feel very comfortable buying online. Blue Nile messaging should play into their strengths.”

“They could have done better on two points: 1) used a mall jeweler location since they are the locations consumers trust the least, and 2) changed the parting word from ‘ridiculous’ to any one of hundreds of words that would have worked better.”

Oft-mentioned:

More effective at slamming jewelers than selling the site. “I know they want to differentiate themselves, but they need to do it by pointing out what makes them great, not what makes everyone else bad,” wrote one panelist.

My comments:

This ad drew the most negative comments of any ad—as well as, you can see, two raves. I may be a little too close to the subject matter to properly judge this—perhaps some of the panelists were, too—but while this is clearly memorable, it also struck as me as little mean-spirited and even obnoxious.

Take the slogan. It’s one thing to say you are “the intelligent choice” for shoppers. But the current slogan translates to: “Shop with us or you’re an idiot.” That kind of pitch might work for Donald Trump but probably not for consumer brands.

The ad also makes little sense. Blue Nile sees its lack of sales pressure as a main selling point. But there wasn’t much pressure here, just a clerk asking, “May I help you,” which we’ve all experienced countless times. Even if the salesman does look weird, that wouldn’t cause most people to run away. Is Blue Nile positioning itself as the site for social phobics? Or just people who don’t like weird-looking old guys? Is the ad really a metaphor for the fear of marriage itself? (Maybe his fiancée should be running away.)

On a serious note, Blue Nile lately has seen a dip in high-value purchases, and it’s been launching designer lines. Hard to see how this ad helps with either.

The site has created more image-based advertising along the lines of some of the above ads; this one is actually very good, and would have ranked as one of my favorites this time around. That might be a better place to focus its energy.

Something to ponder:

It’s a nice day in a modern American mall. Why is there a vulture?

Final thoughts:

– As I said, all the ads had their fans and critics. Ironically, the two best-reviewed ads—Kay’s and Pandora’s—were not that innovative; one panelist dismissed them both as “typically cheesy jewelry commercials.” Still, they were well-done cheesy jewelry commercials.

– Only two ads, Tiffany’s and Forevermark’s, act out the standard “male-presents-gift, woman-reacts-happily” formula. And they both make it clear it’s a mighty long road to “Jewelry Face.”

– Some were impressed at this year’s crop: “There are more great TV spots this year than I have seen in a long time from our industry,” wrote one panelist. Another said: “I was surprised by the high production quality of all ads. They each brought a very film-like cinematography approach to their messages.” Also worth noting: just about all targeted millennials.

Thank you so much to all the panelists for their smart and insightful feedback.

Now I open the floor. What are your thoughts?

JCK News Director