On the MSN lifestyle website Glo, a banner ad runs across the page advertising: “Check out what The Great RITZ Holiday Parade is bringing today.” This new digital campaign from Ritz rewards people for watching the parade with holiday tips, chances to win deals, recipes, a sweepstakes and other content.
The campaign, from Havas Worldwide, takes a U-turn for Ritz, which during past holidays has relied largely on broadcast TV spots to sell its butter crackers. It centers on “the parade” a string of floats, each designed in some way with a Ritz cracker—a train or bike with crackers for wheels—that marches across dozens of popular consumer websites.
The timing to display each of the banners came from researching historical social and Google search data throughout the holiday season. The research found what many women already know, that the holidays and its must-do seasonal tasks such as decorating the house, preparing meals, wrapping gifts and making travel arrangements can be stressful. It used this data to inform where the parade marches each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the specific offers tied to it.
For example, during the first week of December, research showed a spike around the topic of holiday cards so The Great RITZ Holiday Parade marched across MSN, offering an exclusive offer on Felix Doolittle stationary.
“We did some social listening to see what consumers wanted for the holidays and we saw a lot of stuff that is worrying her that gets in the way of fun,” Katrina Cohen, senior brand manager for Ritz, said. “We thought we would help her do all that stuff so she could focus on the fun. There is no more iconic symbol of fun than a parade.”
Another example is the offer on MSN for Koolaburra Boots during the week leading up to Christmas as people are searching for last minute gift ideas. Other deals and partners include free specialty cards from Sincerely, discounts at the Walmart photo studio, $10 off at Living Social, and The Food Network Thanksgiving Getaway Sweepstakes.
On The Great RITZ Holiday Parade website a calendar links to the sites offering daily deals. The sweepstakes offers a trip to the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Visitors can build their own float (over 2,500 so far) that joins the parade of consumer-generated floats already marching across the site and share that float with their social communities. The parade can be followed all season long on Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s showing that a creative idea today is at it’s best when it takes advantage of technology and social networks,” said Israel Garber, executive creative director at Havas, Ritz’s agency of record.
Garber said the creative seed for the parade came from The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and looking at the creativity of the animated-style icon that Havas created for the Ritz brand about six years ago. The icon has appeared on the back of every box and in every marketing communication since.
“The animated style of graphic icon is a means to change the perception of what Ritz is, not just a box of crackers that sits in a cupboard at home, but to an icon of fun,” Garber said. “We wanted to change the perception of the Ritz butter cracker brand from an entertaining cracker to a symbol of entertainment. That was the game changer.”
The parade and messaging appeared in a 30-second TV spot that kicked off the campaign during the coverage of The Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by 15-second spots now airing.
The campaign targets females, ages 35 to 54. Within that group the focus is on a woman who is carefree in nature, she owns the go-to house in the neighborhood, loves spending time with family and has an element of spontaneity,” Heather Howells, account director for the Ritz business at Havas said.
“We think it’s great because it helps break through the holiday clutter,” Cohen said. “Instead of saying buy Ritz, buy Ritz, buy Ritz, we’re trying to connect with her and focus on the fun and drive key purchases for Ritz for this key holiday season.”
To measure its return on investment, Ritz monitors the number of floats being created, page views, social sharing and chatter, engagement with the various media partners and banner ads.
“Everything is outperforming benchmarks to date, but it’s a little early to talk actually numbers,” Cohen said. “We’ll also get typical consumption data as we always do. We’ll do some tracking on parts of the campaign looking at purchase intent, but at the end of the day are we seeing more sales this holiday season than we did last? That’s what we’ll look at.”
Cohen said Havas brought three ideas to the table for the holiday campaign and that there was “no question” the parade was the choice.
“We’ve never done anything like this,” Cohen said. “Prior Ritz holiday campaigns had good branding, breakthrough and performed well. But with the heart of this campaign being tightly integrated with our media partners and that whole idea of bringing the value and utility and fun is very future looking in terms of digital and mobile and how we want to be operating.”