Advertisers Gear up for an Unconventional, but Busy, Holiday Season

By John Springer  | 

In a year where few things remain unchanged, many common Thanksgiving messages and tactics will still work for brands as we head into the biggest shopping season of the year:  offering discounts, celebrating togetherness, and giving thanks to customers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday comprise two of retail and shopping’s biggest days and advertisers are offering a mix of traditional campaigns and those crafted to suit these very different times. Expect content and broadcasting to also shift focus for one of America’s favorite holidays, as we all adjust our pastimes and traditions to close out 2020.

eMarketer projects a huge Black Friday, possibly because of depressed spending otherwise and a population yearning for a return to normalcy. Less travel means more people will be staying home, so we can expect tablet and desktop advertising to be more successful than usual as many take a break from their phones. Marketing Dive reports that customer desires are mixed, so you can expect campaigns as varied and heartfelt as Wal-Mart helping thousands get free dinner, to Arby’s Thanksgiving-food-coma turkey pillow.

The content offered this year will also be familiar but different. Macy’s scaled back its fireworks this past 4th of July, and their famous Thanksgiving Day Parade will still be presented live, but without fans lining New York City streets, it will take the format of a TV special on NBC. The standard slate of NFL games will also air, but restrictions have dictated that some of the games will air without fans present.

Black Friday, with its traditional in-store doorbusters-style specials and discounts, will also take on new forms in 2020. Half of customers, per CNN, feel uncomfortable shopping in-store, and so Black Friday is becoming Black November. Wal-Mart and Target have offered deals across the month, and are making some discounts online-only as a way to discourage crowds in-store. As “shopping holidays” turn into “shopping seasons,” new modes of promotion — from gift card deals to free shipping — are gaining importance. In the United States’ recent election, early voting presented a wider window of voting options, and led to historic turnout. Retailers are optimistic that the same phenomenon will take hold this holiday season, and that traditions like gift-giving and shopping will gain importance in the absence of physical closeness.

With predictions of strong holidays sales, brands and retailers are optimistic about this holiday season. Keep an eye on this blog for highlights of ad creative that resonates and content that keeps viewers coming back for more. As the days get shorter and the temps in many areas dip lower, there will likely be even more of us relaxing in front of a screen and connecting with brand stories of all kinds.

John Springer
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