Winter Holiday 2018: First Half Highlights

The biggest shopping weekend of the year has come and gone, and according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 164 million Americans were planning to shop in stores and online over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. While Black Friday was forecasted to be the busiest day for retail according to the NRF, the rest of the holiday weekend saw its fair share of success as well. Indeed, the NRF found that of those that planned to shop over the long holiday weekend 21 percent (34 million) planned their shopping on Thanksgiving Day, with 71 percent (116 million) on Black Friday, 41 percent (67 million) on Small Business Saturday, 20 percent (32 million) on Sunday and the shopping weekend wrapped up with an expected 46 percent (75 million) expected to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals.

Advertising of course plays a critical role in driving consumers to buy, and it’s not surprising that the period around Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday is highly active for retail advertising. Accordingly, Kantar Media has analyzed this year’s trends in TV, Facebook and paid search retail advertising, finding that while the holiday period remains highly competitive, strategies are shifting as big shopping days become less of a focus, online shopping becomes even more prevalent and advertisers use channels like Facebook to reach consumers wherever they are.  

Retailers reaching out

Trying to reach the mass of shoppers, retail advertisers took to national TV in the lead up to the season, however spend was off to a slower start this year than in 2017. Indeed, from October 29-November 25, 2018 retail advertisers spent $629 million on national TV ads – a decrease of four percent compared to the similar period last year. Lower spend in the beginning weeks of the season may be attributed to the midterm election in early November, when retailers were getting crowded out by an overflow of political advertisers.

Amazon doubles down on TV, Walmart, Target cut back

Looking at the top 10 retail advertisers through November 26, which includes Cyber Monday, year-over-year fluctuations were seen across the board. Walmart and Target consistently rank as the leading advertisers during the season, and though they are currently holding steady at the top, they have both made significant cuts to their national TV budgets so far this season. Conversely, e-tail giant Amazon has been increasing its TV advertising in recent years and is clearly placing more of an emphasis on this channel in 2018, with expenditures almost quadrupling during the measured period. Overall, the top 10 retailers accounted for 58 percent of total national TV spending during this time.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday less of a focus

Although the NRF found that most consumers were planning to shop on Black Friday, advertising messages containing the term “Black Friday” have become less of a priority for many retailers in recent years and in 2018 the trend is ongoing. Indeed, retailers spent $116 million on TV ads mentioning the sale event by name from October 29-Novermber 26, a decrease of seven percent YoY.

However there still are some retailers placing a large emphasis on the Black Friday date. Looking at the biggest spenders using Black Friday messages, five of the top 10 saw significant increases in their spending promoting the event: Lowe’s, JC Penney, Home Depot, Kay Jewelers and Zales.

Black Friday isn’t the only victim of a decline in messaging. Despite more sales moving online, Cyber Monday messaging hasn’t made much traction in recent years either. In 2018, retailers only spent $9 million on Cyber Monday ad messages on TV – and the money has come from just 11 advertisers. This is compared to $19 million from 12 advertisers in 2017.

There are a number of possible reasons behind growing the lack of emphasis on specific shopping days. Retailers are now often offering discounts both before and after Black Friday, creating less urgency around Black Friday on all sides. Meanwhile, high levels of fast internet access mean that consumers no longer need to wait for Cyber Monday to catch online deals. Increasingly, retailers need to maintain wallet share not just during Black Friday but throughout the entire holiday season, a particular challenge during a year like this one where Thanksgiving has fallen much earlier than usual.  

Facebook Advertising

According to Facebook, users are spending an estimated 950 million hours on the platform each day, making it another critical platform for driving holiday shopping.  Through a partnership with Pathmatics we have examined how the top holiday retail advertisers are also using Facebook this holiday season to complement their broader campaigns. Overall, the top 10 retail advertisers spent an additional $44 million on Facebook from October 29-November 26.

Looking at the dates leading into the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, the timing pattern for spend from the top advertisers in 2018 showed divergences compared to the year prior. In 2017, the top retailers gradually increased spend leading into Thanksgiving weekend, only pulling back when Cyber Monday hit. However, 2018 told a different story, with spend peaking the day before Black Friday and gradually decreasing throughout the weekend.

Drilling down to individual advertisers, we found that Facebook spend for Walmart, Macy’s and Kohl’s all peaked on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s and Kohl’s pulled back drastically in the days that followed, however Walmart only declined slightly and infused another surge of ad dollars to reach the Cyber Monday shoppers. Target took a similar strategy to that of Macy’s and Kohl’s, reaching peak spend the day before Thanksgiving and then declining its investment for the remainder of the weekend. These shifts make sense given the high level of consumer interest in shopping on Black Friday, whether in stores or online.

However, other advertisers took different approaches. Home Depot, Amazon, JC Penney and Old Navy seemed less concerned with using Facebook to promote sales events tailored to a specific day. They all had their highest spend rates 5-10 days before Black Friday occurred. Meanwhile, Lowe’s and Kay Jewelers were more focused on Cyber Monday than the rest of the group. The home improvement store and jewelry retailer both had peak spending on Cyber Monday promoting online deals and savings.

TV vs. Facebook

We found some interesting contrasts when looking at the strategies different retailers took on TV and Facebook. TV spend normally peaks on Thanksgiving Day as families settle down in front of football games and movies after the big feast. Typically, TV ad spend would fall back on Friday and Saturday when many people are out getting started on their holiday shopping, and then rebound on Sunday to promote Cyber Monday sales. This remained the case for three of the largest advertisers who fit the usual pattern – to an extent, with Walmart breaking from the pack by spending less in the lead up to Cyber Monday. 

Instead, Walmart ramped up more spend on Facebook during the leadup to Cyber Monday – just as rivals Target and Amazon were pulling back. This marks a stark departure from the previous year, when Target heavily outspent Walmart throughout the season and Walmart spent very little on Facebook during the Thanksgiving period aside from a spike on the day before Cyber Monday. Meanwhile, spending from all three major retailers was far more consistent throughout the holiday period, consistent with consumer media consumption patterns. While consumers may not be watching TV while they are out shopping and visiting friends, they can easily check Facebook from their phones anywhere they are.

Creative analysis: Walmart and Target take on Amazon

An analysis of the creatives being used this holiday season by these retailers shows some differences as well. In television ads, Walmart and Target have both been trying their luck at winning back shoppers from Amazon by offering free two-day shipping, a tactic Walmart took last year as well.



However, shipping time is not a focus on Facebook for these advertisers. Walmart’s top Facebook ads having been focusing on Black Friday sales using influencer @PrincessPinkyGirl, while another ad tries to engage shoppers by turning Black Friday shipping into a game.

Walmart Winter Holiday Facebook Ad

Target has also been focusing on Black Friday deals, promoting sales starting on the evening of Thanksgiving and early online deals the day before Thanksgiving when using a Target credit card.

Target Winter Holiday Facebook Ad

Amazon doesn’t seem too threatened by the thought of Walmart and Target offering free two-day shipping. The online retailer has focused most of its TV spend on commercials showing the joy of the holiday season, and the sheer volume of packages being sent from its warehouses.


At the same time, Amazon has used similar ads on Facebook, while of course also using the platform to push its own products like Amazon Echo, though none of its Echo ads have been holiday themed.

Amazon Winter Holiday Facebook Ad

Search roundup: Walmart leads in PLAs, Amazon on Text Search

Kantar Media also examined trends in paid search advertising over the 2018 Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, looking at both product listing ads (PLAs) – the graphic-laden ads on Google that feature the product name, image and price – and traditional text ads, which include only ad copy and links. Specifically, we determined which advertisers gained the highest share of clicks on U.S. Google text ads and PLAs for 2500 popular retail product keywords across desktop and mobile search from November 23 through November 26. Keyword examples include ‘fitbit’, ‘canada goose’, ‘ugg boots’ and ‘mattress’.

Winter Holiday Paid Search Leaders

According to our findings, Walmart led all advertisers in product listing ad clicks, generating a 10.8 percent desktop click share and a 5.7 percent mobile click share over the extended weekend. In recent years Walmart has moved away from text ads in its paid search strategy in recent years to focus its efforts on PLAs. Walmart thus was not present among the top 10 text ad sponsors for desktop or mobile search.

Meanwhile, Amazon was the top text ad advertiser during from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, gaining 6.9 percent of all desktop text ad clicks on the 2500 retail keywords and 12.6 percent of all mobile text ad clicks. This is the only second holiday season that Amazon has sponsored product listing ads on U.S. Google and it had a strong showing in desktop PLAs during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, ranking second with a 5 percent click share. However, the online giant did not crack the top 10 in mobile PLA clicks over the weekend.

For more insights on winter holiday paid search trends, please visit:

Black Friday-Cyber Monday 2018 – Top Retailers in Paid Search Advertising

The Most Clicked Advertisers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday Keywords, 2018

Walmart Tops in Paid Search Toy Clicks, Black Friday-Cyber Monday 2018

Rely on Kantar Media for winter holiday insights

As the industry leader in ad intelligence, Kantar Media will continue tracking advertising throughout the 2018 winter holiday period and beyond. For more information about our competitive insights, please contact us at or 800.497.8450.

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