Kmart’s juvenile ads strike a nerve

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First it was customers “shipping [their] pants.” Now it’s “big gas savings” or #biggassavings.”

They sound like jokes you might hear in the hallway of an elementary
school, but these somewhat crude, albeit funny jokes are the
cornerstones of Kmart’s two newest ads, which have, respectively, earned
18 million and 4.2 million views on YouTube.

Advertising Benchmark Index’s analysis of both ads found that the second one, “big gas savings,” seems to be hitting a real chord.

“The messaging was clear and easily understood, and the humor was not
quite as lewd as the ‘Ship My Pants’ ad and did not generate the level
of dislikes that ‘Ship My Pants’ did,” ABX President Gary Getto told Advertising Age.

A Kmart spokeswoman told Ad Age that “humor is a natural part of the strategy” for the company. Branding experts say it can’t be the only strategy, though.


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Al Getler, president and CEO of Ellie on Wheels Media,says YouTube
success can certainly do a lot to help a brand—just look at
ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. However, Kmart has to seize the moment.

“I like the spots,” says Getler, who is also a blogger.
“They are clever, and they make me laugh, fifth-grade humor and all. If
Kmart doesn’t swing this to positive change, then they just used
low-brow humor for flash-in-the-pan attention. Kmart can be funny all
day long, but if I have to go into their aging stores, feel like
merchandise is falling off the shelves on me, and stand on line for a
price check while I celebrate my birthday a couple of times, I will not
be back.”

Branding expert Rob Frankel is
even less charitable. He says the ads are “another hail Mary from a
desperate ad agency trying to cover over Kmart’s lack of brand
strategy.”

“Advertising has many cases of funny spots that didn’t work, going all
the way back to Alka-Seltzer spots in the 1960s,” he says.

That said, funny ads can have an impact. When Old Spice’s “smell like a man” ads went viral in 2010, sales spiked.

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