By and  on September 6, 2006

NEW YORK — The nationwide branding of Macy's is under way.

On Thursday, the store's parent Federated Department Stores will unleash its biggest and splashiest ad campaign ever. The marketing represents a key plank in Federated's $17 billion acquisition of May Department Stores last year and its strategy to convert the May formats to Macy's. That process culminates Saturday when 400 former May doors are renamed Macy's, bringing the chain to over 800 locations.

Sources close to the effort said Federated is spending $90 million to $100 million on the campaign. Federated, which does $27 billion in annual sales including Macy's and Bloomingdale's, would not disclose the budget, but it's significant considering money previously poured into advertising regional nameplates on their way to becoming Macy's, such as Filene's, Hecht's, Foley's, Kaufman's, Famous Barr, Strawbridge's, Marshall Field's and L.S. Ayres, now goes just to Macy's.

Terry Lundgren, Federated's president, chief executive and chairman, said that by taking Macy's national, the company saves on production and personnel costs that would otherwise be spread over a slew of regional operations and can bring in higher quality talent, advertise on better TV programs, getting more bang for its advertising buck. "Last year at this time, we were putting in all this money in different markets, plus all this expense going to just Macy's," Lundgren said. "Now, it's going to look like a huge increase in advertising, but in reality, it's a combination of all those splinter messages into Macy's. It's about the same for the entire fall season, but with more [being spent] for the launch."

"We will be one of the more significant media spenders in the retail space," added Anne MacDonald, president of Macy's Corporate Marketing and the company's chief marketing officer.

For a retailer that has long relied heavily on coupons, clearances and point-of-sale markdowns to draw traffic, the relaunch is an opportunity to elevate the approach to telling the Macy's story; sharpen the brand's focus on two primary target audiences, working women and Hispanics, and beef up special events and charitable activities.

The centerpiece of the advertising portion of the campaign is a 30-second "brand launch" ad and a 30-second private label ad that bow Thursday on national broadcast and cable television. Both ads are bouncy, with a mix of animation, real models and a reworked version of the Motown hit song "Dancing in the Streets." The original was sung by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; Reeves sings the Macy's version.The launch ad, which will appear more often than the private label one, shows models dancing in Macy's fashions set against depictions of urban icons like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Sears Tower and the St. Louis Arch to suggest the retailer's new national scope. The ad concludes: "Good news America. Now, wherever you are, there is a Macy's near you."

The private label spot features models on top of the world dancing in I.N.C., Charter Club, Style & Co., Alfani and Greendog outfits.

"The ads allow us to convey both our fashion authority and the fact that we are now in many, many more markets," said MacDonald. "They also pick up on the theme of a new sensation across the nation," she added, invoking some lyrics from the song. The ads will appear during "the top-rated programs on all of the networks," MacDonald said, without specifying.

She also cited "tons of print" advertising, including magazine spreads, multipage inserts, newspapers, billboards and direct mailings. "Everything was mailed to start arriving this week," MacDonald said. The print ads appear like a mural based on the TV ads, with a lineup of models in Macy's fashions and, of course, dancing in the streets. Macy's is also doing radio and online advertising, and throughout the campaign the store's two-year-old tag line — "Way To Shop!" — appears.

"The campaign will continue with a strong presence right up until the holiday, and then go into the holiday season with a different set of ads ... to maintain the excitement and key messages," said MacDonald.

JWT Chicago and Latinvox, a New York-based agency specializing in reaching Hispanic consumers, created the ads in partnership with Macy's Corporate Marketing and Macy's division marketing teams. A Spanish-language adaptation of the TV ads was produced by Andres Levin.

The relaunch also involves:

  • Macy's first magalogue. The 54-page book is being distributed to 3.8 million households in new Macy's territories and includes stories on the history of Macy's and its Thanksgiving Day Parade and flower show.

  • Block parties and shopping parties on Friday and Saturday in major cities.
  • A three-truck caravan from Detroit to New York providing a taste of the parade and interactive entertainment. The caravan will stop at 23 new Macy's locations and conclude on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Nov. 22, when the parade balloons get inflated.

  • Free $10 electronic gift cards distributed Saturday at all Macy's to the first 500 to 1,000 customers, depending on the store's size. Some $1,000 gift cards will be interspersed among the $10 cards.
A "Shop for a Cause" day in all Macy's on Sept. 16. Macy's is selling $5 tickets to benefit local charities, with a portion of proceeds going to the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" movement.

Ads will run in the October issues of Glamour, Elle, Lucky, In Style, Vogue, Details, Esquire and GQ, and appear during "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "60 Minutes," according to Ros King, president of JWT Chicago.

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