Macy's Promo, Case study YES, VIRGINIA: BUILDING AN ENTERTAINMENT BRAND by J. Walter Thompson New York

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Industry Department Stores & Shopping Malls
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United States
Agency J. Walter Thompson New York
Creative Director Lea Ladera
Art Director Joseph Merkley
Released September 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Best Use of Live Events, Stunts and or Celebrity Endorsement
Advertiser: MACY'S
Chief Creative Officer: Peter Nicholson (JWT New York)
Executive Creative Directors: Matt MacDonald/Wayne Best (JWT New York)
Creative Director: Lea Ladera (JWT New York)
Art Director: Joseph Merkley (JWT New York)
Copywriters: Chris Plehal/Emily Sander (JWT New York)
Head of Art: Aaron Padin (JWT New York)
Planners: Lauren Turner/Mylene Ong (JWT New York)
Director of Integrated Production: Clair Grupp (JWT New York)
Director of Brand Production: Joe Calabrese (JWT New York)
Director of Brand Entertainment: Mike Wiese (JWT New York)
Producers: Robin Feldman/Kate Schwerin/Holly Otto/Kiri Carch (JWT New York)
Account Executives: Claire Capeci/Helena Touseull/Abby Leber/Kate Reaves/Stephanie Reedy (JWT New York)
Director (Yes, Virginia): Pete Circuitt (Bitstate)
Production Company (Yes, Virginia): (The Ebeling Group/Starz)
Production Company (CBS Early Show animated interview): (Quiet Man)
Production Company (Window displays): (The Spark Group)
Director (Window displays): Paul Olszewski (Macy's)
Publishing Company (Yes, Virginia book): (Harper Collins)
Yes, Virginia Balloon: (Macy's Parade & Entertainment Group)
Media Agency: (MEC)
Media placement: TV Spot - "Tower" - National Network And Cable - 1 November 2010
Media placement: Microsite - Through - 1 November 2010
Media placement: Merchandise Available - Macy's Stores, - 1 November 2010
Media placement: Outdoor/Ambient - Window Displays - Macy's stores In 7 major US cities - 18 November 2010
Media placement: Outdoor Stunt - Thanksgiving Day Parade - Broadcast On NBC - 25 November 2010
Media placement: Animated Interview - Broadcast On CBS - 17 December 2010

Summary of the Campaign
During the 2009 holidays, retailers across America scrambled to drive sales through discounts. However, Macy’s, America’s largest retail chain, did something different. They connected with shoppers emotionally by creating Yes, Virginia, a 30-minute animated network special inspired by a little girl who in 1897 set out to prove that Santa is real. Her name was Virginia O’Hanlon.

So in 2010, the show’s success prompted us to help Virginia live forever as a Macy’s icon by transforming her from a one-time holiday special to a holiday entertainment brand. To do this, we decided to weave Virginia into the fabric of the holiday season. By bypassing other companies competing for attention, we incorporated Virginia in ways that would get attention while seamlessly establishing her as part of traditional holiday culture.

From a larger-than-life debut in one of America’s favorite holiday events, to the windows of Manhattan to a television appearance using new technology, Virginia became a recognizable holiday brand in short time. As ratings and sales followed, Yes, Virginia became a brand in of itself and a holiday franchise for Macy’s that will continue for years.

The Situation
During the 2009 holidays, retailers across America scrambled to drive sales through discounts. But Macy’s, America’s largest retail chain, instead connected emotionally by creating Yes, Virginia, a 30-minute animated network special inspired by a little girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, who in 1897 asked if Santa is real. And the show was a success. This left Macy’s with a television special; but now what? So in 2010, we set out to create a campaign transforming Yes,Virginia from a holiday show to a holiday entertainment brand that would become as tied to the holidays as Macy’s.

The Goal
The goals were clear. We wanted to establish Yes, Virginia as an entertainment brand that would year-after-year reinforce Macy’s position at the center of holiday culture. Ultimately, we could preserve the emotional connection with shoppers and drive future sales. To do this, we had appeal not only to children, but to the child inside each and every adult who remembers what it was like to believe in Santa - and still wishes, perhaps, that they did.

The Strategy
Coming off of the successful premiere of Yes, Virginia in 2009, it was clear that Macy’s should continue to leverage Virginia’s story into the future as a new “spokesperson” for the brand. After all, they shared the same values of hope and love for the holiday spirit. So we set about to create a plan that would seamlessly weave Virginia into the holidays in such a way that it was as if she had always been there. With the heritage of Macy’s and the heart behind her story, we were a step ahead. So, from there, we found communication channels that would insert Virginia into established seasonal and pop cultural avenues; thereby establishing her as a holiday brand to embrace, and not just a character in a one-time story.

The Yes, Virginia campaign was implemented throughout the holidays to maintain the buzz. To begin, we launched the campaign in perhaps the most iconic holiday event of year: the Thanksgiving Day Parade. There, she appeared as a larger-than-life balloon, accompanied by a float featuring an acclaimed Broadway actress. Though that was a major appearance for a day, we next told Virginia’s complete story during the three weeks before Christmas in the much-anticipated holiday window displays in seven major Macy’s markets across the country. And nearing the return of her show, we dove into augmented reality technology to bring Virginia from the animated into the real world for a nearly 4-minute interview on the talk show CBS Early Morning, which just so happened to be on America’s biggest broadcast network.

Documented Results
Yes, Virginia reached an enormous number of Americans, generating profitable returns for Macy’s and, most of all, getting families’ attention. Her balloon and float were seen by over 44 million viewers, and Entertainment Weekly took note that it was one of the eight highlights of the parade. Her window displays drew hundreds of thousands of onlookers, and her nearly 4-minute interview on CBS engaged 2.9 million more. With this and the attention of blogs and news outlets, the second year of her show was first in its time slot on America’s biggest broadcast network. Her DVD sold out in Macy’s across the country. In the end, Yes, Virginia became a brand and a franchise for Macy’s with total sales of related merchandise exceeding $1 million. And Virginia’s presence helped Macy’s social media power grow, posting a 58% increase in Facebook fans and a 176% increase in Twitter followers.