Toys R Us Aims for the Heart and Parents’ Wallets With Its New Holiday Campaign

First work by BBDO Atlanta also a kind of brand refresh

The holiday advertising season is officially upon us, and there's no clearer sign of the coming Christmas bonanza than a new campaign from America's largest toy retailer.

Last year, Toys R Us signed ad veteran Rich Lennox, who spent almost two decades in accounts at J. Walter Thompson, as its new chief marketing officer before assigning creative duties for future campaigns to BBDO.

The Omnicom agency's Atlanta office produced the big-box leader's first 2015 holiday ads, and the work amounts to a brand refresh, as Toys R Us positions itself as central to the holiday experience for millions of Americans.

The anthem ad "Tree," which debuts next month on broadcast TV, includes no toys, games or other consumer goods. Instead, it sends a more emotionally resonant message about inclusiveness and generosity with a young girl and an older neighbor who seems at first to be a classic "bah, humbug" curmudgeon.

The spot serves as the centerpiece of a campaign called "Awwwesome." CMO Rich Lennox told Adweek, "The ads are designed to position us on the emotional high ground. Toys R Us is an incredibly important brand, and for a long time, it hasn't spoken about the spirit of Christmas."

Toys R Us turned to BBDO to deliver that emotion while also reminding Americans that it remains the leader in an increasingly competitive retail market. Lennox said, "The brand has become slightly faded. We wanted the type of work that could revitalize the brand in the eyes of consumers."

But it's not all sentimental. Lennox called the resulting work "a two-layered campaign," and two 30-second spots, which debuted this week, appeal to parents with a combination of wit and classic product placement by illustrating what might happen after a local Toys R Us store closes. In "Lost," Ken plays a typical driver who refuses to ask for directions, as he and Barbie take a tour through this season's offerings.

The next spot is even more direct in promoting the retailer's "price match guarantee," as a Baby Alive doll explains the deal to a somewhat skeptical Optimus Prime, who can't quite deal with the realization that he's not as unique as he once thought.

Lennox explained the progression: "[Deals] are important, but you want to build a relationship with your customers. If we can get consumers to engage with the brand, the activity will become much more effective."

He continued, "If you stand at the front of our store and watch little children come in, there is one thing you will see in their eyes." And that one thing is embodied by the campaign's title. "At that point," Lennox said, "all our great value and operational expertise comes to life in a tangible consumer benefit." 

Lennox told Adweek that BBDO Atlanta "played an incredibly important role in helping us define the strategy." He said the brand is currently working with BBDO and other agency partners on "the process of re-engineering the entire marketing model of Toys R Us."

Two additional ads will follow the anthem's theme of focusing on the spirit of the season, while new product-focused spots will air on TV and in theaters across the country leading up to Christmas.

Credits

Agency: BBDO Atlanta

Client: Toys 'R' Us

Titles: "Lost," "Clone"

Chief Creative Officer, Atlanta: Wil Boudreau

Creative Director: Rhea Hanges

Creative Director: Brett Baker

Creative Director/Art Director: Taylor Crawford

Creative Director/Copywriter: Patrick Lindsay

Executive Producer: Alberto Enriquez

Producer: Alison Terry

VP, Account Director: Danielle Willett

Account Executive: Hannah Aaronson

SVP, Group Planning Director: Emily Viola

Senior Planner: Nina Hensarling