No doubt Eatons is behind ‘Aubergine’

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the...

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the message and whether, after seeing the spot, they’d be more likely to buy the brand advertised. The survey is carried out by Impact Research on a spot of Strategy’s choice. Kathleen Deslauriers, Impact’s general manager in Toronto, provides the analysis.

Advertiser: Eatons

Commercial: ‘Aubergine’

Description: The commercial opens in an executive’s office and, from the style of dress, the manner of speech and the office set up, it’s apparent the story is set in the 1950s. A young man, a young woman and their client, an older gentleman, are busy discussing how little time remains on their current project. Clearly frustrated, the client seems ready to give up, but the woman reassures both of them that she has an idea.

The client says he’s ‘all ears’, at which point the woman sits on his desk and begins to sing a song. She says that if various colours are beginning to become a bore, then you haven’t seen ‘aubergine.’

‘Auber-what?’ they ask.

The commercial cuts to a circular stairway, with several beautifully dressed women descending. The stairway and the women’s clothes all contain shades of purple, or ‘aubergine.’ We see women wearing fashionable clothes, trying on make-up, and striking fashionable poses, with shades of purple strongly present in each of these scenes.

Later, the commercial turns into an old-fashioned Hollywood-style musical. We see male dancers and their female partners on a stairway, and a woman rising out of a pool of water. Shades of purple still dominate the scene.

The three characters from the office then dance into the scene. They walk in front of the camera with big smiles, and the tribute to ‘aubergine’ ends. A purple curtain falls, and the sponsor of the commercial is revealed.

How the test commercial fared:

By taking a rather unconventional route to herald the return of Eatons to the Canadian department store scene, Aubergine scored well in some areas, poorly in others.

Likely as a result of the brand’s heritage, the multi-media campaign and the media reports leading up to the re-opening, Eatons achieved 14% top-of-mind brand awareness, equaling the score of U.S. giant Wal-Mart, but falling well behind Kmart (20%) and The Bay (39%).

At the time of the survey, the category was quite active, with 70% of the sample claiming to have seen a television commercial for a department store. At the top of the advertising awareness list, Eatons, with 24%, surpassed such retailers as Wal-Mart (19%), Kmart (18%), and The Bay (17%). This is an impressive performance for a department store long absent from the advertising scene, particularly since Eatons does not benefit from U.S. spillover.

Given the amount of free publicity associated with the relaunch, reach is somewhat lower than expected, with 37% of the sample claiming to have seen the commercial as described. If Aubergine was supported by 1,500 GRPs at the time of the survey, it would lag behind the 45% norm at that media weight in Toronto. Could it be that some television viewers mistook Aubergine for an old movie and continued channel surfing?

Maybe. But Aubergine attained an extraordinarily high brand linkage score. Indeed, 81% of those ‘reached’ by Aubergine named Eatons as the commercial’s sponsor. As a point of comparison, this score is dramatically higher than our 40% norm.

Rarely do commercials achieve such elevated levels of correct sponsor identification and Aubergine’s success in this respect is an indication of its distinctiveness and the strong synergy created by the multi-media campaign. Consumers appear to agree: Those reached by the execution strongly rated it as ‘different’ (8.1 points versus an average of 7.2 out of a maximum of 10 points).

Among those who had seen the commercial, 24% agree ‘totally’ that it would encourage them to visit the store. This compares very favourably to our 15-20% rule of thumb.

‘Astute’ comprehension scores add up to 39%, which is somewhat below our 45-50% rule of thumb. These ‘astute’ responses relate to the re-opening of Eatons, its new image and the fashionable garments it carries. It is possible that comprehension scores are somewhat low because of the commercial’s visual busyness or the fact that the entertainment value may have distracted viewers from the advertising message. Indeed, apart from the ‘Re-opening Nov. 25′ super at the very end of the commercial, other messages might have been too subtle to grasp.

Please keep in mind that the advertiser has not shared with us the specific communications objectives. Thus, we could have been rather stringent in assessing what messages are ‘astute.’

Appreciation is definitely low, with only 58% liking Aubergine very much or somewhat, compared to our standard of 74%. A clue to understanding this weak appreciation can be found at the wear-out measurement. At 39%, wear-out is very high in comparison our standard 25% threshold. It obviously shows that, for many of those ‘reached’ by Aubergine, they were either exposed to it too frequently or the commercial’s novelty wore off very quickly.

All in all, Aubergine was an audacious television commercial, which, despite its weaknesses, succeeded brilliantly at brand linkage – probably the biggest challenge faced by advertisers.


From Nov. 16-26, 2000, 302 Toronto CMA residents were interviewed over the telephone about Aubergine. Within the sample, there was an even split according to sex and, within each group, there was equal representation of two age brackets: 18-34 years and 35-64 years. The maximum margin of error is plus or minus 5.6% at a 95% level of confidence.

After measuring unaided brand and advertising awareness, we prompted recall by describing the visuals and playing the music.

If the consumer recalled seeing Aubergine as described, we considered him or her ‘reached’ and we then continued the interview to assess other variables such as sponsor identification, message comprehension, appreciation, and purchase intent.

To accurately gauge brand linkage, we did not include the name of the sponsor in the commercial’s description. As well, we did not reveal any message cues or the tagline. This allowed us to assess message comprehension formed naturally after exposure to the execution in ‘real life.’