For retailers, holiday advertising is like a game of reverse chicken: to see who can jump in first rather than pull away last.
We’ve written at length about promotional creep, as the starting gate for seasonal campaigns moves inexorably forward. Case in point: this past June, when the first back-to-school ads aired even before some kids received their year-end report cards.
When it comes to Q4, Halloween has become the unofficial launch date for Black Friday ads, as marketers bypass Thanksgiving and go directly to Christmas.
Now, as school resumes and we cling to the season’s last remaining beach days, Sears Holdings has robbed us of our Indian summer by airing this, the first Christmas commercial of the year.
The spot, which touts Kmart’s layaway plan, features a creepy gingerbread man who stalks an office worker under the tag line “Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you.”
Ad Age declared the commercial the “earliest ever kickoff to holiday marketing,” and National Retail Federation (NRF) spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told the magazine: “This might give new meaning to the phrase ‘Christmas Creep.’”
The consensus was similar among YouTube commentators. “Reelbusy” delivered Kmart the F-bomb, while “Mayssm” wrote: “Don’t let the holidays sneak up on me? I’ve still got one-third of a year, I think I’m safe.”
But beyond toying with our internal calendars, Kmart’s false start has more serious implications for retailers. “It’s anybody’s game right now,” observed NRF’s Grannis. “Wheels are definitely in motion for a very promotional holiday season.”