Model Teens Propel Penney

NEW YORK Music features prominently in a new back-to-school campaign for JC Penney, with a dance track called “Too Fake” driving cinema and TV ads and the retailer co-sponsoring a series of concerts by Hockey, the band that created the song.

The cinema ad runs 60 seconds and is set in a school cafeteria. As one teen turns down the lights and another pipes the music into an intercom, an impromptu fashion show erupts with students strutting atop lunchroom tables as if they were runways. The show ends abruptly when a teacher enters the room with a look of disapproval.

Penney also has revamped the “teens” link to its Web site to reflect the retailer’s array of private label and broad-market brands of clothing and shoes. “So Fake” serves as the soundtrack online as well.

Penney has used music in its back-to-school marketing in the past, such as last year, when a remake of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” backed a spot depicting modern-day versions of the archetypes in the 1985 teen angst movie The Breakfast Club. This time, however, the retailer is using music to unite several elements of a campaign that also includes digital ads, mobile-phone driven contests and a preexisting Facebook page for teens.

“The energy of the song was great and the lyrics we thought were fantastic,” said Amie Valentine, a creative director at Penney lead agency Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. “It just seemed teen-like.”

Saatchi cut the cinema ad into a 30-second TV spot that includes prices for the featured clothing. Why? Because research showed that teens, like their parents, have become price sensitive amid the recession, according to Valentine. “Teens respond to it. It’s important information to them,” she said.

A second spot, shot outdoors in Los Angeles, depicts skateboarder Ryan Scheckler performing moves choreographed by Saatchi. A 60-second version will appear online as well.

In a statement, Penney chief marketing officer Mike Boylson said the myriad elements of the “Schooled in style” campaign “showcase the diverse and fashion-forward assortment of brands we offer and make it clear to customers that even as we’ve stepped up our style, they can continue to rely on JC Penney for great quality and affordability.”

The campaign, which launched Tuesday via the new Web site link, will run through July and August. Spending for the effort was not disclosed. Penney’s annual major media spending typically ranges between $130 million and $150 million.

Besides Saatchi, other Penney roster shops that contributed to the campaign include T3 and Razorfish.