Venables Breaks First Work for Mervyn’s

SAN FRANCISCO A teenage boy’s enormous and still-growing feet are the subject of the latest television commercial breaking later this month as part of a national branding effort for Mervyn’s.

As the boy’s weary mother buys shoes from a clerk in three different sizes, the retailer hits on its message, “Keep up with growth spurts. Stay within budget,” in this humorous spot from San Francisco’s Venables, Bell & Partners.

The ad is one of seven television spots that are rolling out on a region-by-region basis and will run throughout the year. Two spots that broke last week in Southern California feature scenarios such as female shoppers who look aghast at their misshapen hands after carrying bundles of merchandise and shopping bag-laden cars dragging their rear ends as they exit the parking lot.

Ads play off the department store’s core message: “Big brands, small prices.”

In addition, a half-dozen outdoor executions promote some of the national brands sold at Mervyn’s like KitchenAid and Levi’s. A billboard message for the latter: “Do these jeans make my wallet look fat?”

This is the first work from Venables, Bell for Mervyn’s, which has 264 stores in 14 states. The shop picked up the project late last year after a creative shootout involving several undisclosed agencies.

The basis of the campaign came from qualitative research conducted by Mervyn’s and Venables, Bell. “Shopping isn’t really about saving; it’s about getting more for your hard-earned dollars and stretching that budget. This campaign taps into that,” said Paul Venables, founder and co-creative director of the agency. “While other stores hawk discounts and savings, we’re out there with the message that savvy shoppers really want to hear: you get more for your money at Mervyn’s.”

The national branding effort is a departure for Mervyn’s and a bold move for the retailer in this era of discounts and cost cutting, Venables said.

“We wanted to build on the long-term loyalty of our [customers] and let them know they can get great deals at Mervyn’s any day of the year,” said client vp of marketing Lee Walker de Sarvide. She noted that this is the first time in at least six years that Mervyn’s commercials have not been pegged to a specific event or sale.

The campaign involves a significant media spend, said Venables, who declined to give specifics. Mervyn’s spent about $100 million on ads for the first 11 months of 2002, according to CMR.

The ads will intersperse with Mervyn’s seasonal spots that are created by other agencies. The Hayward, Calif.-based department store, a division of Target Corp., handles its projects on a case-by-case basis, working with shops such as Colby & Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., and Ron Foth Advertising in Columbus, Ohio.

The media buy for this campaign was handled by Haworth Marketing & Media Co. in Minneapolis.