2012 back-to-school ad themes


Ace Metrix, analytics provider for television and video advertisers, announced the top back-to-school advertisers, a list led by ads for Best Buy, Lysol hand soap and wipes and kids’ haircuts at JC Penney. The breadth of themes in this year’s back-to-school ads is a juxtaposition against last year’s heavily technology-themed list led by a Microsoft ad touting a free Xbox with the purchase of a Windows 7 PC.

“It’s very clear that back-to-school is a season unto itself; though, like Christmas, it’s not just about retail. The list of top ads this year is such an interesting variation of retail, personal care, toys and tech companies, and while technology played a role in this year’s ads, other themes such as value and philanthropy were also prominent,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “This shift away from tech-focused ads is likely a function of the completed upgrade phase in smart phones and the steady state of ultra-books ahead of Windows 8.”

Unlike last year’s top advertisers, the traditional big box retailers and office supply stores shifted, in large part, from messages touting tech to those characterized by messages of “value,” or in the case of Wal-Mart, philanthropy– airing five separate back-to-school ads, the best of which promoted its “Box Tops for Education” program with General Mills. Notable exceptions include Office Depot’s ad starring singer Nick Cannon, which appealed most favorably to females 36-49 and Males 21-35. In addition, Best Buy along with HP, played down the overt “back-to-school” message and focused on students’ use of technology, messages that appealed across a number of demographics.

In addition, JC Penney was a big winner this year, with two ads in the “most effective” list, including the aforementioned haircut ad, as well as one promoting back-to-school fashions. Not in the top 10 but scoring well with moms were Old Navy’s back-to-school ads that starred former “Beverly Hills 90210” cast members. In addition, retailers Macy’s and Kmart both had weaker showings this back-to-school season.

Most Effective Back-to-School Ads*

Brand Ad Title Ace Score
Best Buy Anything Can Happen 622
Lysol Skin Back to School List 603
JC Penney Back to School Kids Cuts 600
HP Hardware Students Use Ultrabook 596
Office Max Save Big on Back to School 567
Office Depot Incredible 564
Wal-Mart Eighty Four 560
Best Buy From One Laptop 560
Staples Supplies 559
Crayola Colors of the United States of America 550
Staples 15% Off Select School Supplies :30 550
JC Penney JC Penney: Back To School 550

*Definition: The Ace Score is the measure of ad’s creative effectiveness based on viewer reaction to national TV ads. Respondents are randomly selected and representative of the U.S. TV viewing audience. The results are presented on a scale of 1-950, which represents scoring on creative attributes such as relevance, persuasion, watchability, information, attention, etc. The above list represents the highest scoring back-to-school themed ads for this 2012 season through 8/27/12.