JCK’s 2018 Holiday Jewelry Commercial Roundup

Welcome to JCK’s ninth annual holiday jewelry commercial roundup!

Each year, I like to do this feature a little differently. In the past, I have supplemented my own thoughts with those of an online survey, industry marketing executives, and random people on the internet,

This year, Emmy Kondo, a consumer research specialist who has done work for the Diamond Producers Association, World Gold Council, Forevermark, and is now a consultant for Lightbox Jewelry, conducted an in-person focus group featuring nine Chicago-area millennials. The group consisted of three males and six females, ages 24–37, and included a lawyer, personal trainer, art consultant, and a nanny. They watched each ad twice, and then rated each from one to 10, with 10 being highest.

Once again showing that there is no true science to this, every ad received some negative and some positive comments.


Pandora: Holiday 2018 

Panel quotes:

“Very much about jewelry, but more than just that. It’s about what jewelry means.”

“Each time I watched, I almost cried.”

“Hard to figure out what’s going on.”

“This one felt most Christmas-y.”

“I’m more warm to [Pandora] than previously. I might Google what’s happening with Pandora.”

“This more sells me on the concept of giving jewelry than their actual jewelry.”

Panel average score: 7.1. Two people chose this as their favorite. This ad scored third highest.

My thoughts: This is one of a number of ads with vintage—or vintage-sounding—music this year. Which is fine with me. But is that the way to attract millennials, with their parents’ MP3s?

Still, this is a classy, elegant, affecting ad. If I had one criticism, it’s that everything goes by a little fast. It doesn’t leave you much to hold on to.


Jewelry Exchange: Lab-Grown Diamonds

This isn’t much different from the standard Jewelry Exchange ad, but it’s included since it is, as a press release notes, probably the first TV campaign built around lab-grown diamonds.

Panel quotes:

”It’s loud, very loud. The guy who made this was 87.”

“It’s chasing trends because everyone is talking about lab-grown diamonds. They are trying to sell it as more eco-friendly.”

“If you’re making a diamond in a laboratory, why is it not perfect? How is it still SI?”

“They showed the diamonds in so many settings. I couldn’t tell if they were trying to show me variety or just blind me.”

“I don’t care about the green aspect. They’re cheap? Cool. Give me that $600 diamond. No one will know it’s lab-grown.”

“This reminds me of the ads from when my grandma would watch The Price Is Right. It didn’t feel like it was aimed at me.”

“To me it felt dated in a bunch of different ways. The rings that they were showing to me seemed like late ’90s, early ’00s.”

Panel average score: 3.1. This was the lowest-scoring ad, though one person chose this as her favorite—the person who liked that lab-grown diamonds were cheap. I hope Emmy told her about Lightbox.

My thoughts: Most members of the group seemed to have at least a basic understanding of lab-grown diamonds. Yet, considering that not everyone does, this may not be the most auspicious introduction to the product. Lab-grown diamonds have gone from hipster boutiques to cheesy informercial-type ads in less than a year.

Perhaps this ad means that lab-growns are on the verge of widespread acceptance. But it could also threaten their carefully cultivated image of cool. This isn’t how they advertise an iPhone.

Also, while this isn’t the place to discuss the larger issue of lab diamond eco-friendliness, I’ll point out that the Federal Trade Commission—the same agency that growers now regularly cite—frowns upon “unqualified general environmental benefit claims.”

Something to ponder: This ad seems to show lab-grown diamonds sprouting from the ground like flowers. Isn’t the whole point that they are not from the Earth?


Jared: Dare to Be Devoted

Panel quotes:

“I really like this commercial. This is what America looks like right now.”

“I thought it was a little boring, but it does the work.”

“I got chills. I thought, ‘We are getting somewhere. This is a totally different kind of marketing.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, the ring.’ ”

“Thank God there’s no ‘He went to Jared!’ ”

“I like supporting brands that align with my values. I liked how progressive it was, with the gay couple.”

“It felt sweet, it felt classic, but it felt current.”

Panel average score: 7.2. This ad scored second highest. Two people chose this as their favorite.

My thoughts: As mentioned, with this ad, Signet is retiring its highly memorable, if highly annoying “He Went to Jared” tagline. Just for that, this ad does a public service.

For all the “current” feel of this commercial, it’s not really that different from this 2014 Zales ad. Reviewing that spot, I said it “follows the classic ‘man presents woman with gift’ jewelry ad formula, but puts a modern spin on it.” This new ad gives that formula an even more modern twist, taking it beyond just a man and woman. The proposing woman has even stirred up a little controversy.

Overall, this feels fresh—until the tag with the generic jewelry announcer. That breaks the spell.

In past years, Jared’s ads always got mixed reviews, so this spot was a huge leap forward. It even made a JCK editor cry.

Something to ponder: The emphasis on “daring”—indeed the whole Jared campaign—seems to echo insights found in research done by the Diamond Producers Association.


Zales: Take Her Breath Away

Panel quotes:

“This could come on 10 times, and I wouldn’t remember it. The message was ‘She takes your breath away.’ But he obviously doesn’t take her breath away, so he gives her jewelry. He was out of her league.”

“Once they said it was Zales, I [sighed]. Zales is for your mom. It’s like your dad got lazy and went to the mall.”

“This is a jewelry version of a perfume commercial, and that bothers me. Why can’t we come up with a new archetype?”

“It feels like the same thing has been done 30 years ago.”

“It felt polished. We are selling you heteronormative relationships and intimacy and sexy red dresses.”

“For something to be that traditional, the aesthetic needed to be better, the glamour needed to be upped.”

Panel average score: 5.5

My thoughts: We’re back in vintage land, with another classy, well-done, if predictable, ad. It would help if there were a twist.

In fact, this ad is so classy, it may be off-brand: This is Zales we’re talking about—the store down the mall from Cinnabon. This feels like Zales is trying to be Tiffany. Which is ironic, considering what Tiffany is trying to be.


Tiffany & Co.: Believe in Dreams

This ad has a high-powered cast: It stars Zoë Kravitz, with cameos by models Xiao Wen Ju, Karen Elson, Maye Musk, and Naomi Campbell.

Panel quotes:

“I loved it.”

“I think the jewelry looked the best in this ad. To me, jewelry has to adorn the body to look good. Here, on the wrist, and the necklace, it all just looked really good.”

“It does bring me back to high school when everybody had [Tiffany hearts]. I want to be part of this celebrity crew. I want to be in the influencer club.”

“It’s fun, it’s different. I don’t really love it, but I don’t hate it. It’s different and weird for Tiffany. I’m more used to the stodgy heteronormative Tiffany commercial.”

“I was distracted by how expensive this commercial was: animation, celebrities, the expensive music rights. I wasn’t thinking about jewelry.”

“I thought, ‘OMG, It’s Zoë.’ It had celebrities you equate with [being cool]. Why wouldn’t you want to be at the table with Naomi?”

“I want to love Tiffany so badly, but I just can’t [like their jewelry]. This commercial’s awesome, but that ring, is just no, no, no.”

Panel average score: 7.6. This was the highest-scoring ad this year. Two people chose this as their favorite, one tied with Ben Bridge.

My thoughts: Dude, this Tiffany ad. It’s freaking me out, man.

So this isn’t predictable. I’ve never seen Tiffany robin’s egg–blue robots before.

Like last year’s Tiffany ad, this spot is aggressively weird. It’s also striking. But I’d enjoy it more if it used more humor. Zoë’s dream seems more odd than fun.

This ad is stuffed with celebrity cameos, and most of the panelists recognized the people in it.

Something to ponder: This “modern” ad uses as its soundtrack a 45-year-old song.


Ben Bridge Jeweler: Holiday 2018

Panel quotes:

“I loved seeing the interracial couple. That was progressive. But this was not memorable. It didn’t draw me into the product.”

“It felt good. I wish they showed more of the jewelry. And why does [the woman’s] mom not know she is pregnant? She is just about to give birth.”

“Something about it was very cozy to me. I’d be curious to look at what they [Ben Bridge] have. I liked that they were selling this cozy inclusive family.”

“It’s cozy, but that narrator voice is so polished and so sales-y, trying to lay that over something that’s supposed to be heartwarming is a little bit jarring.”

“I like the fact it was an interracial couple, but everything felt so heavy-handed.”

Panel average score: 5.1. Two people chose this as their favorite, one tied with Tiffany.

My thoughts: To me, this spot shows the importance of music. After a series of ads with excellent soundtracks, this feels like Ben Bridge has inherited Signet’s library of bland music cues. That makes the ad seem bland as well.

I also found it a bit confusing. And if the point is how Ben Bridge “travel[s] the world” to get its products, it should illustrate that. Otherwise, it’s selling a feature, not a benefit.

This Ben Bridge ad—which tells the story in words, not just pictures—works better for me.

Something to ponder: The woman in TV’s first interracial couple was Zoë Kravitz’s grandmother.


Helzberg Diamonds: Together

Panel quotes:

“I liked the concept they were throwing out there, but it got a little confusing at the end when there is suddenly a ring with writing on it.”

“It was a little progressive, the idea of changing it from one person selecting the ring, to [a couple] selecting it together.”

“I liked the commercial a lot. I liked the concept behind it. It represented a placeholder ring, and I understood that.”

“I was distracted by the ugly ring.”

“It was cute, and [had] all these perfect relationships. Then it said, ‘If you have a perfect relationship, why don’t you have a ring?’ It made me feel obligated. Men never want to be obligated.”

“I have never heard of the store before, but it felt like an online business, because of the whole vibe of the commercial.”

“If you go into a Helzberg, this is not the feeling you get. Helzberg feels old.”

Panel average score: 5.4.

My thoughts: The first half of this ad is great. It’s different. It’s fun. It’s visually interesting. After several ads with vintage music, it’s refreshing to hear a soundtrack that seems like it was recorded in this century.

But then, halfway through, the ad starts talking about the “Will You” ring. The “Will You” ring is a cool concept. But as someone who had to boil it down to a headline, I can attest, it’s not such a simple idea. It’s not easy to convey in a 30-second spot, never mind half that. So after a strong start, the ad ends a little muddled.

If not for that, this would be my favorite ad this year. Instead, it was…


Alex and Ani: Be a Better Gifter

Panel quotes:

“It felt fake to me. It just felt like these very contrived relationships and this contrived sense of gifting.”

“I wouldn’t buy anyone these little trinket things.”

“I called this ‘being white and privileged and in the suburbs.’ ”

“It was a cute, pleasant holiday commercial. [But] it is hard to layer text on the top of the moving images.”

“I liked the holiday jazzy music. I liked the end where she jumps on him. I thought that was cute. And I didn’t want to like it, because I didn’t like the jewelry.”

“Alex and Ani is like the hipster Pandora.”

Panel average score: 5.1.

My thoughts: Another vintage-sounding soundtrack. Another well-done ad. But one thing sets this apart: The cute closing gag, reminiscent of the Baxter’s Fine Jewelry ad from two years ago. This spot has a sense of humor—which you didn’t see that much in the other spots. Despite the aforementioned lack of diversity—which I’m a little surprised by—this was my favorite this year.

Final thoughts: Tiffany & Co. and the cool-kid’s table won the day with our focus group, with Jared and Pandora close behind. All the other ads struck a chord with at least one person.

Focus group
The focus group focusing on something.

Kondo noticed two things from the group. First, this was an ethnically diverse crowd, and they were quite aware of how the ads treated gender and race and if they were heteronormative, a term used by two group members.

“They were extremely sensitive to small nuances they saw,” she says.

Second, they also paid attention to the jewelry and weren’t too impressed with it.

“They liked the ads better than they liked the jewelry,” she says. “They are craving something that they like in the category and are not seeing it. They would say that a piece is a trinket or looks like something my dad would give my mom.”

On the positive side, in past years, we’ve had many complaints (including from me) about how boring and similar jewelry ads were. That is still an issue, but the industry has come a long way. Except for the Jewelry Exchange, which does a very specific type of advertising, this was a high-quality collection of ads, even better than last year’s crop. They were mostly aimed at a younger audience, but none felt like they were pandering. I didn’t love any of them, but I liked them all.

Thanks to Emmy Kondo and her nine thoughtful, funny focus group participants. If anyone wants more information, you can reach out to Emmy on LinkedIn. And now we open the floor. What are your thoughts?

(Top: Image courtesy of Tiffany & Co.)

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