Old Navy’s Back-to-School Campaign Celebrates Inclusivity

CMO Jamie Gersch on how the retailer's latest ads promote its commitment to equality

Old Navy's latest back-to-school television spot celebrates age, body and gender inclusivity. Old Navy
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Key Insight:

To kick off back-to-school shopping season, Old Navy has begun airing a new Lizzo-inspired television campaign touting age, body and gender inclusivity.

“We love to play in pop culture with what we refer to as the ‘Old Navy wink,'” said CMO Jamie Gersch. “For fall, we leaned into music, adapting the popular Lizzo song ‘Boys’ with lyrical twists.”

“Our brand tenets of belonging and inclusivity are at the core of all we do, and have been our guiding force during these surreal times,” she explained.

Because Old Navy is, in Gersch’s words, a colorful and optimistic brand, that aesthetic carries over into its latest advertising through a vibrant animation style and pop-art graphics, as well as user-generated content, which Gersch said serves as “Easter eggs” in the ads.

The most recent TV ads provide the kind of high-energy feel you expect from Old Navy marketing. Explaining the choice of Grammy-winning artist Lizzo in an email, the company said: “She’s bold, she’s fun—and she’s a body positive, confident woman.”

The media buy includes digital spots running on ABC, CBS Interactive, NBCUniversal, YouTube and Hulu, among others. The TV commercials are airing on a number of national networks, which again include ABC and CBS as well as Fox, through the beginning of October.

To create the campaign, Old Navy worked with The Martin Agency, which was brought on board by the retailer in February following a review.

Earlier this year, the creative agency rolled out the first non-promotion-driven ad in the retailer’s history by partnering with artist Noah Scalin, who created a portrait of the American family using the company’s clothing. The video, which was tied to the company’s donation of $30 million of clothing to families in need, resulted in the brand’s second-highest ACE Metrix score, according to a spokesperson.

In addition to The Martin Agency, Strange Beast handled production, while Coffee & TV led post-production, and Walker was responsible for instrumentation, vocal production and sound design.

Old Navy also recently unveiled its “We” campaign, including a video called “We Are We” that acknowledges a more divided world, celebrates a diversity of voices from Black Lives Matter to Gay Pride, while inviting viewers to imagine a world of possibility beyond its differences.

It’s an example cited by Gersch on how the apparel retailer has evolved its messaging since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The campaign reinforces our pledge for equality, celebrating our differences and advocating for every voice,” Gersch said. “The spot is meant to inspire our customers, followers and viewers by highlighting some of the current galvanizing movements and inspiring voices behind them.”

Old Navy’s goal for the broader campaign is to show how the power of community can bring change when people learn from, listen to and collaborate with each other, Gersch explained.

Meanwhile, as school routines continue to be upended by Covid-19, the apparel retailer is extending back-to-school season into October “so shoppers get extra time to find just the right looks.”

As Gersch put it: “We’re leaning into a broader definition of back-to-school.” With that, Old Navy is highlighting its comfort categories such as fleece and activewear, as well as face masks for children.

She added: “With extending back-to-school season, stretching until October, that allows us to capture the seasonal change into fall apparel.”

@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.