Ad of the Day: JCPenney

Peterson Milla Hooks brings its poppy visual style to the retailer's big new rebranding effort

JCPenney wants to keep it simple.

The retail giant is out with a string of ads from one of its new agencies, Peterson Milla Hooks, espousing its promise to offer "fair and square" prices (a pun on its new logo) without complicated sales gimmicks. Visually speaking, the spots feel a lot like PMH's work for its last mega-retail client, Target—bright, engaging, playful. But the JCPenney spots clearly home in on the brand's new strategic positioning, illustrating its argument through accessible, mildly humorous scenes.

One new commercial shows a lighthearted, sunny backyard scene. A young girl holds up a hula hoop as a dog in a birthday hat leaps back and forth through it—more or less the only action in the entire 30-second commercial. "No more jumping through hoops," explains the copy. "No coupon clipping. No door busting. Just great prices from the start." Other ads feature a rapid-fire auctioneer soliciting underbids, to make the case for "no more pricing games," and an older sister tricking her younger brother into a bout of dizziness that lays him out flat, for "no more making your head spin."

The spots are sharply detailed and fun to watch, with clear takeaways. They have the added benefit of shedding some light, in retrospect, on Mother's somewhat more abstruse, defiant scream-fest teaser ad (since removed from YouTube) for the brand's big new rollout. Another spot in the new PMH campaign, meanwhile, appears to run a little contrary to the rest of the messaging, complicating things by inviting consumers to come in on the first and third Friday of every month for the "best prices." (Nooooooo!)

The "Fair and Square" spots were all directed by Rocky Morton. The lone ad from a different director, a February-themed piece by Gaysorn Thavat, ends up being the most charming. A montage of amusing winter scenes set to Billie Holiday's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," it's also the least sales-driven.

Client: JCPenney
Agency: Peterson Milla Hooks, Minneapolis

"Fair and Square" spots
Director: Rocky Morton
Production Company: MJZ
Producer: Donald Taylor
Director of Photography: Sal Totino
Production Designer: Julian Laverdiere
Wardrobe Stylist: Marie Sylvie Deveau
Editor ("Pin the Tail"): Brett Astor, Channel Z
Editor ("Auctioneer," "Hoops"): Jim Stanger, Channel Z
Telecine: Pixel Farm
Colorist: Oscar Oboza
Post: Pixel Farm
Lead Artist: Kurt Angell
Original Music: Brahmstedt White Noise, Minneapolis

Director: Gaysorn Thavat
Production Company: Grand Large
Producer: Mark Allen
Director of Photography: Tobias Schliessler
Production Designer: Kristen Vallow
Wardrobe Stylist: Jen Rade
Editor: Brett Astor, Channel Z
Telecine: Pixel Farm
Colorist: Oscar Oboza
Post: Pixel Farm
Lead Artist: Tom Jacobsen
Music: Billie Holiday's 1937 recording of Irving Berlin's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"