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As the Holidays approach, thoughts turn to retail. It’s a perfect time to see how various department stores, fashion stores and online retailers have done in advertising effectiveness over the last 12 months.  Some retailers, like Kohl’s, have consistently good ads (outside of radio), while others (high-end retailers) always bring up the rear. This post explores the best ads across seven media types, analyzing why they work so well out of almost 1450 ads tested in the past year.

The Effective Retail Advertising Picture for the Last 12 Months

First, an overall look (below) at Retail ads for this time period should give one pause.  While a lot of retailers have done well and their ads score way above the ABX Index average (the yellow line below), many other retailers have consistently scored below.  As a reminder, the ABX Index is a composite score for key KPIs that are predictive of sales success.  The chart below shows the Average ABX Index scores for each retailer by media type.  In general, Radio always scores lowest because the creative is too-often an afterthought, such as quickly-written copy given to a DJ and hoping for the best.  Online Video and Television usually score highest because they are often pre-tested.  However, in this case, most of the Online ads scored below the average.  Print also scores below average for the period, which is surprising considering all the great merchandise that retailers have to work with.  (Out-of-Home and FSIs are not well-represented since not many were tested this year.) The following will explore some of the best individual ads in each media type and explain why each was successful.

Television – Best Buy -“The Lab: WD Solid State Drive 60”

Best Buy’s “The Lab” campaign is adorable with every individual ad winning very high marks.  This particular “Lab” spot works because of simplicity of message coupled with quirky humor that leaves audiences feeling good. In fact, this simple, low-budget ad has an ABX Index of 135 and is among the top 99% of all 200,000 ABX-measured ads.  This ad, like all “Lab” ads, features an employee who explains why a particular product is awesome.  In the telling, he does awkward, funny things (like the one pictured above where he’s demonstrating how a WD Solid State Drive can fit in all these different pockets), or throws the product up, spins around and tries to catch it.  You just have to see it (hint: click here).  The scores below show the Message was well very received at 134; Reputation was extremely high at 218; Likability was 167; and the high Action score indicated lots of CTA intentions such as Going to the Website at 180; Look for at 187; and Purchase at 129.  The high ABX Gender Equality Index (GEI™) for the Male at 113 would have impacted both Reputation and Action.  The low GEI for the Female was simply because she was virtually off-screen. This ad is truly a great example of effective advertising.

Radio – Walmart – “Introducing Free Next Day”

Walmart nails Radio here with a simple :15 with female narrative, no competing heavy metal, and a message guaranteed to cause competitors to quake in their boots.  Free next-day delivery without membership fees is pretty hard to beat.  And that’s the secret: this spot is #1 in Retail for the year with an ABX Index of 127 (which is exceptionally high for radio) because it had a killer Message that was presented with absolute clarity.  This Message drove Reputation and Action with CTAs including Intents to Contact the Store (251), Go to Website (182), Recommend (189) and Purchase (134).


Online Video – Amazon – “Amazon Basics Reusable Silicone Baking Cups”

How can one find enough to say about Reusable Silicone Baking Cups to stretch out to 45 seconds? Well, Amazon did just that with a female narrator that seemed quite comfortable describing how these little cups replace traditional muffin cups and can be used for a variety of things. Not only that, they can be microwaved, frozen, dishwashed and more. But the best moment was when she read off each color. Here’s another super-simple, low-production-value ad with a happy soundtrack that literally wiped out all other online videos with an ABX Index of 139 – in the top 99% of ABX tested ads. Very clear branding (Awareness) and Message drove Reputation to 221 and Action to 159. Other scores included Likability at 169, Relevance at 138. All CTA’s were very high including Intent to Purchase at 148.


Online Display and Animation – Walmart – “Light Up Christmas”

Walmart shows us how effectively online ads with animation can be  used, and how much information can be included.  Once again, we see a simple ad with no spoken audio, but plenty of text and upbeat, happy music.  The Message is the most important, “Best-tastic gifts free same-day pickup.”  And then the slides go through some of Walmart’s best offers for the holidays.  The scores speak for themselves below, and others include high Likability (137), high Relevance (134) and high Purchase intent (160).


Print – Kohl’s – “The Completer Piece”

Kohl’s does a great job with fashion and is consistently among the highest-scoring of all advertisers across media types. This double-truck ad was the highest print ad measured this past year for retail and has great models as evidenced by the ABX Gender Equality Index™ of 111.  Other high scores for this add include Reputation and, to some degree, Action – though most was for an Intent to go to the Website (173).  We are also glad to see the large Kohl’s logo since some similar ads from last year were less well-branded.  But this ad is missing one important piece: what is the Message?  It’s a good image piece, but may not have driven sales very well.

Free-Standing Inserts – Target – “Fun Run”

In all candor, this FSI was fourth from the top scoring FSIs, with Walmart winning the first three.  But the point differential was so small, it seemed only fair to show another retailer in this post.  At an ABX Index of 120, this FSI was way ahead of Category and Media Norms.  Target gives a clear Message at 123 and presents its smiling model respectfully, earning a 105 in Gender Equality for Females.  Both contribute to its high Reputation and Action scores – with the strongest CTA being 193 for “Recommend” and 151 for “Look For.”  The wonderful colors and placement of sale information were also well-liked as evidenced by a strong Likability score of 136.


Out-of-Home – Walmart – “Introducing Free ‘NextDay’ Delivery”

Finally, the strongest OOH offering comes from Walmart with, once again, the “free next-day delivery” message.  What’s not to love?  A Message doesn’t get a lot clearer than this.  White and yellow large text on strong blue background – one has to notice it.  No clutter, no images, nothing to gum up the works.  The 192 score for Reputation, plus 140 in Likability, explains the reason for every CTA to be not only positive, but way above Norm for Category and Media.  Intent to Purchase is 149, Recommend is 165 and Website is 156.  This board, and the ad campaign surrounding it, certainly delivered a punch to Walmart’s competitors.

In summary, many of these ads showed humor, simplicity of presentation as well as message, respectful presentation of on-air talent, and an ability to move the audience toward action.  We can all learn a lot from these leading retailers.

If you have questions about this article or how ABX can help your brand, contact us HERE.