Teen Angst Fuels Penney’s Back-to-School Push

NEW YORK JC Penney emphasizes its clothing lines — many of them just hitting stores — in a back-to-school campaign from lead creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi that breaks next week.

The effort, which includes a cinema ad, TV spots, print ads, mobile marketing and a microsite, uses contrasting archetypes from the 1985 teen angst movie The Breakfast Club to illustrate the broad range of selections that Penney sells via brand names such as Arizona, Decree, Le Tigre and Fabulosity.

The cinema ad, which runs 60 seconds and breaks July 18, features a montage of recreated scenes from the movie, with updated characters wearing colorful Penney outfits. The action is propelled by a remake of “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the Simple Minds anthem closely associated with the film, which Entertainment Weekly named the best high school movie of all time in 2006.

“We’re launching five or six major new brands that appeal to teens during this back-to-school season and the challenge was, how do we get credit for all that newness?” said Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer at the Plano, Texas-based client. “How do we communicate all these different lifestyles and how do we do it in a relevant way?”

Penney and Saatchi gravitated toward The Breakfast Club because the story revolves around teens from different cliques coming together despite their differences, said Boylson. The soundtrack also was memorable and by remaking the anthem, Penney seeks to connect with the recent trend of teens posting updated versions of classic songs on YouTube, according to Boylson.

Shorter 30-second versions of the cinema spot will run on TV in July and August.

The microsite, www.jcp.com\getthatlook, also launches on July 18. It will feature interactive storyline games involving the archetype characters and virtual “lockers” in which visitors can place the clothes that they buy.

A parallel campaign, for Penney’s new Dorm Life brand of housewares and furnishings, centers around a Facebook page linked to www.jcp.com. At the page, visitors can use applications to decorate a dorm room with furniture. Users can also buy items and have them shipped to a Penney near their college campuses.

The Dorm Life effort, which also includes banner ads, direct mail and specialty catalogues, began last month. Independent digital agency T3 in Austin, Texas, is leading that online-based effort.

The broader back-to-school campaign comes in the wake of a Penney-related mishap at the Cannes International Advertising Festival involving production company Epoch Films. It’s also Gerry Graf’s first big effort for Penney since he succeeded Tony Granger as New York chief creative officer of Saatchi in February.

Penney did not disclose its budget for the new campaign — which will run through August — but said it was comparable to last year. In July and August 2007, Penney spent more than $55 million in major measured media for all advertising, including back-to-school efforts, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.