Back-to-School Season Heats Up Summer As Advertising Creeps Earlier

by Steven Perlberg, The Wall Street Journal

Back-to-school shopping is almost upon us, as retail advertisers try to lure in consumers during a crucial spending season.

The National Retail Federation predicts that consumers across the K-12 and college categories will spend about $68 billion this year on back-to-school items, with families’ average spending climbing 42% over the past decade.

Back-to-school season hasn’t been immune to a growing trend in retail advertising: the creeping of ads earlier and earlier. According to Kantar Media, back-to-school ads began inching forward in the calendar in 2013, and that continued last year as well.

The ad blitz now begins right after the July 4th holiday. Last year, the week of July 15-21 had an ad spending leap of more than 50% compared with the year prior, according to Kantar Media.

“It reflects this overall retail environment of ‘sale, sale, sale,’” said Kantar Media Chief Research Officer Jon Swallen. “That would suggest advertisers are trying to get a jump by accelerating early.”

Mr. Swallen said that money has moved toward the beginning and end of back-to-school season, as advertisers push to break through the clutter among both early and last-minute shoppers.

Total back-to-school advertising spending across media like television, magazines and Internet display reached $241 million last year, down 9% from 2013, Kantar Media said. The figures do not include newer forms of advertising that marketers are increasingly gravitating toward, like online video.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest spenders are large retailers.

Target headed up the pack with about $35 million in back-to-school ad spending last year, followed by JC Penney ($18.9 million), Wal-Mart ($17.9 million) and Kohl’s ($15.7 million), according to Kantar Media.

While retailers accounted for most of the spending last year, other advertisers wanted in on the action. The financial services category spent $10.7 million in back-to-school ads, largely thanks to an American Express campaign regarding a back-to-school rewards program. Food and beverage companies also piled $8.8 million in spending on ads regarding things like what to pack in lunch bags, according to Kantar Media.

View the original article from The Wall Street Journal