Social Media Goes Back to School

NEW YORK Retailers this year are not taking an old-school approach to their back-to-school campaigns.

JC Penney, OfficeMax and Staples are all growing their social-media outreach this year, reasoning that’s where their target customers are.

Such campaigns augment traditional media like TV and print. For instance, JC Penney rolled out a TV campaign via Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, that’s complemented by a Facebook page called “JCP Teen.” There, visitors can talk about the clothes and connect with Penney’s skateboarding spokesman Ryan Sheckler.

OfficeMax, meanwhile, is bringing back its “Penny Pranks” videos (for products that cost a penny) via YouTube, which feature comedian Matt McCarthy paying for services like car repairs with pennies.

And Staples has teamed with New York agency Mr. Youth for a social-media program revolving around a virtual backpack that teens can distribute on Facebook and “fill” with school supplies. The effort also includes a tie-in with the charitable organization Do Something.

Though each retailer said it was stepping up its social-media presence this year, spending was not disclosed. Penney last year spent $2 million on Internet ads during the back-to-school season, per TNS Media Intelligence. OfficeMax spent $100,000 and Staples spent $1 million during the period, per TNS.

Marketers say the stepped-up social-media efforts  reflect the fact that the medium is now key to reaching teens, who influence their parents’ purchases.

Social media is “not just a rising force in the teen market, it’s a force in the teen market,” said Ruby Anik, svp, brand marketing at Penney.