Lavish superspot paves way for Eatons comeback

Eatons is rising from the ashes - and it's doing so in grand style....

Eatons is rising from the ashes – and it’s doing so in grand style.

While the seven-store chain won’t be opening its doors until November, parent company Sears Canada has already begun reintroducing the brand to Canadian shoppers, with the Oct. 23 launch of a massive nationwide ad blitz.

The campaign opens with a four-and-a-half minute 1950s-style mini-musical, which, at press time, was scheduled to air in two parts during the CTV Sunday Night Movie broadcast of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

The idea behind the unusual launch spot is to let consumers know something big is happening, and to present the venerable retail brand in a ‘new, exciting way,’ says Rick Sorby, executive vice-president of marketing for Eatons and Sears.

‘[The campaign] is going to be competing at this time of year with a lot of other people on the airwaves – not to mention a federal election,’ he says. All of which has only heightened the need to come up with something spectacular.

The spot also has to set a suitably stylish tone for the rest of the campaign. Hence the ’50s look, which Sorby says is a reflection of current trends in fashion.

‘We played big-time on the retro aspect,’ he says. ‘There’s a huge resurgence of vintage now, reflected in a lot of the merchandise that the fashion designers are creating.’

The launch spot will be followed by radio advertising, airing in heavy rotation in major centres. Additional television, outdoor, transit, newspaper and magazine components will roll out over the next several weeks, although Sorby is keeping many of the details close to his chest.

The campaign will run through the November launch period, and then will be replaced by a Christmas blitz designed to drive sales during the peak holiday season.

The launch advertising, created by Toronto agency Ammirati Puris, won’t focus specifically on merchandise, but rather will attempt to convey a sense of the new Eatons style, and the experience that customers will have when they walk through the door.

‘The campaign will be multifaceted and will target many people,’ Sorby says. ‘The Eatons shopper could be a single female in her 20s living in Calgary on a moderate income, or a businessman in Winnipeg in his mid-30s who is looking for really good business-casual clothing. Or a grandmother in Victoria in her sixties, or a tourist.’

Sears acquired Eatons following its bankruptcy last year, and set about recreating the 130-year-old chain as an upscale, full-line department store positioned somewhere between The Bay and Holt Renfrew.

Eatons stores are set to be reopened in prime downtown locations in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver and Montreal.

An outdoor teaser campaign has already been running in several of these markets since Oct. 2. The billboards don’t feature any brand message – just images of items such as a lipstick tube and a martini glass, to symbolize various product categories within the store. (The teaser ads also introduce the new Eatons colour: aubergine, or eggplant.)

Industry watchers say they’re impressed by the approach being adopted for the launch campaign, but are reserving judgment on the new Eatons until the stores actually reopen.

‘It sounds very creative, which is what you’d expect from an agency like Ammirati,’ says John Torella, a retail analyst with the J.C. Williams Group in Toronto. ‘I think the mini-musical is very innovative. [But] my concern is that great brands today are both about style and substance.’

As Torella points out, the chain also had great advertising before its bankruptcy (courtesy of Toronto-based Roche Macaulay & Partners Advertising). The trouble was, it didn’t back up that promise in-store, which led to customer disappointment.

Richard Talbot, a retail analyst with Talbot Consultants International in Unionville, Ont., voices similar sentiments.

‘The proof of the eggplant is in the eating,’ he says.

The store is also opening a little late to hit the all-important Christmas rush, adds Talbot, since this year’s holiday shopping has already started.