In Depth

JC Penney Ads Win Big at Oscars -- Spots Starring Ellen DeGeneres Score High on Effectiveness

By Shareen Pathak
Advertising Age

Is JC Penney's big refresh already starting to see a payoff?

The retailer's ads starring Ellen DeGeneres were among the most effective commercials to debut during the Oscars, according to ad-effectiveness firm Ace Metrix.

Four spots, which saw Ms. DeGeneres going back in time to a variety of eras to see whether befuddling return policies and pricing strategies have always been the norm, each scored between 630 and 552, above the average department store Ace score of 510.

Ace Metrix results are presented on a scale between 0 and 950.

The spots, created by San Francisco-based creative firm Brand Advisors, also marked a series of personal bests for the retailer, whose average Ace Score is 516.

The most effective was "Roman Returns," which saw Ms. DeGeneres attempting to return a toga in Ancient Rome, only to be thwarted by lack of a receipt.

It especially struck a chord among women aged 21 to 35 and was the fourth most-effective Oscar ad, and the second-best new Oscar ad, with an Ace Score of 630. The most effective ad of the Academy Awards was for Samsung Galaxy Note, with an Ace score of 686.

"The returns ad especially had all the markings of a great spot," said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. "It was funny, everyone likes Ellen, and it was well-produced, with some of the comments saying that it was like watching a great movie."

Mr. Daboll added that the spots scored exceptionally high on relevance, because they were communicating relatable frustrations felt by shoppers, as well as change, marking the company's move in a new direction.

Previous ads that teased the overhaul, created out of Mother New York, didn't do so well, said Mr. Daboll, especially a series of short spots that featured customers screaming when they encountered coupons and sale signs. "The Ellen ads told a story and had a clear message that resonated," he said.

The work marks one of the biggest campaigns for the retailer since it announced a major marketing overhaul in late January. The company rolled out a series of sweeping changes, including announcing Ms. DeGeneres as its spokesperson, a logo redesign and a "fair and square" pricing strategy that eliminates door busters and 99-cent add-ons in favor of flat pricing.

The retailer also ended its five-year relationship with agency Saatchi & Saatchi in December, choosing instead to divide its creative needs between multiple shops, including Brand Advisors, Peterson Milla Hooks and Mother.

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