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Best Buy Pulls at Heartstrings in Holiday Push

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Best Buy is preparing to unveil a holiday campaign this weekend which seeks to get consumers into the holiday shopping spirit. The campaign tells true stories of regular people and carries a tagline that reflects the underlying message: "You, Happier."

The effort, via BBDO, New York, follows a wave of recent ads—from retailers like Sears to J.C. Penney—that reflect marketers' anxiety to deliver the "right" holiday message this season.

For Best Buy, the campaign marks a shift in its traditional holiday advertising. "Historically, we talked about . . . being a gifting destination. But now, it's about how we're going to move into people's lives and traditions and realizing that there is so much more we can do to contribute to the holidays," said Best Buy's senior vp of marketing, Greg Johnson.

As such, Johnson said Best Buy has extended its focus on value to include not just price, but service as well. An ad debuting this weekend, for instance, describes how one employee helped a young woman upgrade her husband's cell phone without him knowing by slipping his existing SIM card into a new phone the night before Christmas.

In another ad, called "True Stories," a Best Buy employee shares his experience of working in a store situated on a military base in Killeen, Texas. The employee recounts the hardships of military families, many of which are only briefly reunited for the holidays. A split screen shows a soldier and his beloved hugging, and another of a child playing Guitar Hero. The voiceover says: "The difference of being on a military base: People aren't just buying gifts for their husbands or wives. They're buying gifts for their husband or wife that they haven't seen in a year . . . This is the only time they get to spend with them. This is their shot right here. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!"

Best Buy did not disclose spending for the campaign. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, the retailer spent $136 million on U.S. ads from Oct. to Dec. 2006, and $119 million for the same period last year. It spent $153 million ads through Sept. of this year (excluding online).

In what is predicted to be a grim shopping season, some retailers are already feeling the heat. Earlier this week, Best Buy rival Circuit City filed for bankruptcy, while Best Buy posted a 7.6% decrease in October same-store sales.

For the first time in several years, Best Buy will bring back its holiday gift guide to drive more consumers to its stores. The guide was mailed out to female patrons this week.

The recession is causing many retailers to go after their existing customers, said Zain Raj, who heads EuroRSCG Worldwide's retail brands division. In recent weeks, retailers like Macy's and Target have all put together glossy shopping catalogs for loyal shoppers.

"Most retailers have been focused on mass media around the holiday period," Raj said. "[But] this year, we're starting to see a bigger move among retailers targeting core customers, driven by limited resources, and because they don't have enough traction to attract consumers."