Winter Holiday 2019: The early birds

With a little more than two weeks until Black Friday and six weeks until Christmas day, retail advertisers are in full on holiday mode. Kantar’s Media division analyzed which retailers are spending early in the season, and how much is being invested. For this analysis we looked Winter Holiday and Black Friday ad spend on National TV during the two-week period of October 28, 2019-November 10, 2019.

The time of year for cheer

Once November hits, you usually don’t have to look far to spot a retail commercial on TV with a joyful Winter Holiday theme. Many advertisers like to get consumers attention early in the season before the flurry of holiday ads roll in. However, not as many retailers have started as early in 2019 as they have previously. We found only 18 retailers running national TV spots from October 28-November 10, compared to 28 during the similar time last year – losing approximately one third of advertisers from the pool.

The smaller group of advertisers could be due to a late Thanksgiving date this year, which occurs one week later than typical on November 28. While some retailers like to start early, there are also those that prefer to strike when most consumers are ready to spend, placing their budgets closer to Thanksgiving and the Black Friday shopping weekend.

Overall, Winter Holiday spend on national TV during the measured period reached $73.4 million, a decline of 14% YoY, with the top 10 advertisers accounting for 93% of all holiday spend. (Advertisers also continued spending on ads with non-holiday themes, so overall ad spend for the group did not experience a significant decline.) While established players like Walmart, Kohl’s and Old Navy made cuts, six companies did grow their budgets from 2018.

Most notably, Amazon increased spend from almost nothing during this period in 2018, to become the number four advertiser this year, with an advertising blitz early in the season. The creative is set to the tune of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and draws parallels with the film Love Actually, while portraying how important it is to spend the holidays with loved ones sharing special moments.


The ecommerce giant did spend big during the 2018 holiday season, as well, but did not start quite as early as this year, showing a shift in strategy as it faces competition with more and more retailers like Target and Best Buy offering free same-day or next-day shipping from their online shops.



Early competition for Black Friday

During the two weeks ending November 10, eight retailers used the term Black Friday in their advertising, compared to only six during this time in 2018. This increase is especially noteworthy with Thanksgiving, and subsequently Black Friday, falling one week later than usual as previously mentioned.

Two retailers who ran early Black Friday promotions in 2018, JC Penney and Lumber Liquidators, have yet to return for the 2019 season. Instead, JC Penney is taking a more sentimental approach this year with ads featuring the tagline “Remember the little things.”



The struggling retailer may be putting the focus more on relationships than big price drops after announcing the closure of 18 department stores and nine home and furniture shops this year.

Conversely, Kohl’s is off to a strong start with its Black Friday advertising trying to reach early shoppers before the competition, promoting Black Friday deals starting as early as November 1st.


Spend may be off to a slow start this year, but with a late Thanksgiving date and many retailers targeting late shoppers with free, fast shipping, there is still time for things to turn around. Indeed, according to our Winter Holiday report released earlier this year, we do expect an uptick in spend during the 2019 holiday season and we will continue monitoring all the ads that come in to see how things shape up.

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