JCPenney Sounds the Back to School Battle Cry in New Ads
Remember the first day back at school? Does that gauntlet of high-stakes social gymnastics send existential shivers down your spine? Well, JCPenney’s new Back to School ad campaign certainly hopes so. The department store chain has had their fair share of troubles lately – investor Bill Ackman’s departure chief among them – so it seems the JCPenney leadership have concluded that the best defense is a rambunctious offense.
Their flashy new campaign features kids, tweens, and teens giving a no-nonsense strategic breakdown on the necessities for survival on the first day back at school. In “Playground,” a tough-talking elementary school girl breaks down her social-survival game plan with all the articulate seriousness of a fashion columnist or PR guru (“No place is more critical to a successful unveiling of the new you than right here – the playground.”)
In “Cafeteria,” a teenage boy describes how he won’t be sitting with best friends Josh and Ryan this year – “that would be too obvious” – and will instead aim for “the table of truth” where Judy Robinson sits (Judy Robinson is one of Young & Rubicam’s creative directors for this spot – coincidence?). Each ad promotes JCPenney not just as an ideal place to shop for clothes, but as a one-stop survival shop helping your children avoid total social annihilation in the Hunger Games of contemporary school life.
Whether this is simply a riff on the absurd seriousness of image in modern tween culture, or a subtle scare campaign aimed at parents who remember the horrors of eating alone in the cafeteria on that first day back, JCPenney should definitely be able to count on some longer lines this season.