DTC Shakes Things Up This Christmas

De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company is altering its strategy for this holiday selling season, unveiling an offbeat multipart campaign built around the theme, “What will you do for love this Christmas?”

The theme “taps into the emotion of buying diamonds,” says Anne Valentzas, core program director for JWT, DTC’s ad agency. “It also lays out a challenge to the man. One of the biggest barriers a man has to buying diamonds is that he is not sure what the woman will like. What we wanted is to make this a challenge for him.”

The campaign has an unusual structure, including a two-part cliffhanger TV commercial that’s supplemented by Web and radio advertising. “We took a good hard look at what’s happening in communications,” says Valentzas. “We are working so much harder to compete for the consumer’s attention. We really wanted to be clever in engaging the consumer and encourage them to get involved.”

The first commercial, “Airport,” begins airing this month. It opens with a man, snowed in at an airport the day before Christmas, talking on his cell phone to his wife, complaining that he can’t get home in time for the holiday.

We then see him take a box with a three-stone necklace out of his pocket. It inspires him, and he starts running through the airport. The commercial ends with: “To be continued at ADiamondIsForever.com.” “Webisodes” and audio files on the Web site track the man’s journey home.

The second commercial, “Snowplow,” picks up the story. A sleeping woman is awakened by light pouring in through the windows. She sees a massive snowplow parked at the curb in front of the house. The man from “Airport” gets out, presents his wife with the necklace, wraps his arms around her, and whispers in her ear: “Merry Christmas.” A voiceover asks, “What will you do for love this Christmas?”

“Airport” will begin airing early this month, while “Snowplow” will premiere around Thanksgiving. For a time, the two will overlap and sometimes air in the same commercial “pod.”

Radio Spots

In another unusual move, the new campaign will include radio advertising, which will air in seven markets (Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.). The radio commercials include portions of the man’s cell phone conversations with his wife as he travels homeward.

After the commercial, “The local deejay will talk about it for about 15 seconds, and bring up ADiamondIsForever.com, and say things like ‘Wouldn’t your wife love for you to do this?’” Valentzas says. “It will feel to the consumer that people are talking about this.”

The “What will you do for love this Christmas?” theme will also appear in the company’s Seize the Day outdoor and newspaper ads (see box on p. 40).

The ‘Right’ Stuff

The DTC also plans a big holiday push for right-hand rings, which now feature a “broader range” of designs. The new campaign will account for 22 percent of the DTC’s overall advertising budget, says Matt Dowshen, core program director for JWT. “You are going to be hearing a lot about diamond ring-hand rings,” he promises.

Although the market buzz on right-hand rings has been decidedly mixed, the people at JWT are touting it as a huge success, noting that the number of fashion rings sold in 2004 grew 15 percent compared with figures from the year before.

The company is backing away from its unpopular early design specifications, including negative space and a north-south orientation. Now, JWT is defining the right-hand ring as “any nonbridal ring typically worn on the right hand that features at least one significant diamond.”

“The design shackles have been taken off,” Dowshen says. “When we started the campaign, we made a very clear and specific decision to put some stringent design guidelines to drive innovation and design. If you looked at the fashion and cocktail-ring category three years ago, it wasn’t very exciting. We wanted to force the trade to do something different. The guidelines were designed specifically to get manufacturers out of the traditional territory and to show that the definition of rings can be broader than the cocktail rings currently sitting on the shelf.”

The right-hand ring also was designed to take advantage of the female self-purchase market, but, so far, most rings are still given as gifts.

“There is self-purchasing going on,” Dowshen says. “Self- purchasing is much higher for right-hand rings than other diamond jewelry categories. But the vast majority of purchases are still gifted, which is what we expected to see.”

As part of the overall campaign to raise the profile of the right-hand ring, ADiamondIsForever.com now includes a “ring true test” that helps women determine their ring style based on their personality type. The suggestions are based on previous consumer picks.

Dowshen notes that the right-hand-ring campaign is concentrating on public relations initiatives and won’t release any television commercials.

“We want to make this feel like it’s a consumer movement, rather than something that feels like a marketing initiative,” he says.