Hallmark is trying something different in this year’s holiday ad campaign for its Keepsake Christmas tree ornaments. The ads are all online videos, as opposed to old-fashioned TV spots. This very old brand is taking a very big step away from old media in the hopes of being able to reach a specific audience of millennial mothers.
It’s also trying a very different tone to its ads. Typical Hallmark ads are nobody’s idea of cutting edge. They range from weepy sentimentality to sweetness on the level of a bucket of corn syrup. The new digital campaign is a bit edgy, at least by Hallmark standards, gently poking fun at helicopter parents, pretentious foodies and selfie culture.
Hallmark believes these mothers it is targeting will be found on their smartphones and tablets.
“She’s watching ‘Scandal’ in bed after the kids fall asleep. She’s playing ‘Words with Friends.’ It’s these kind of intimate moments that we see as really ripe opportunities in terms of media engagement,” explained Katherine Cartwright of Criterion Global, the company that did the media planning for Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornaments campaign.
Making sweeping generational generalizations is always dangerous territory, but a bet on growing digital video viewership is a pretty safe one.
“She’s not going to be sitting around looking at television ads,” said Americus Reed, a Wharton School marketing professor.
It’s not that TV ads are dying. The market is still tens of billions of dollars bigger than digital video. And there is plenty of skepticism of lofty claims about laser-focus targeting.
“Everyone says they can do targeting,” said Dan Rayburn, principal analyst in the digital media group at Frost & Sullivan. “But any consumer who has gone online and seen the same ad five, six, seven, 10 times in a row sometimes will tell you, that’s obviously not targeting.”
Even in the digital era, finding that elusive customer remains a moving target.