Holiday fashion ads underperformed compared to ABX norms.

Art versus folly is the guiding notion of fashion ads, and it’s no different for holiday ad spend. Fashion ads analyzed by ABX revealed dreamy and more abstract marketing was lost on a general audience, as measured in the Advertising Benchmark Index, which looks to a brand’s ability to convey its message with clarity.

Within ABX’s testing, ads are viewed by Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, and graded on a point system, marking up points for factors such as gender or size representation, as well as the call-to-action. The ABX Index measures overall ad effectiveness and creativity across different mediums. Each ad is rated by a consumer panel and is based on 15 variables with a score of 100 equaling “average effectiveness.”

Advertisements are aimed at making profit for a brand, bottom line, yet the fashion world is ruled by creative ingenuity and often rejects caution for intangible whimsy or cleverness. It’s hard to imagine how the general population missed out on pop-cultural cues, but that may be the case with four holiday fashion ads from Asos, Gucci, Fashion Nova and H&M that were tested by ABX.

Your Signature of Approval for Asos’ Delivery Ad

Asos’ ad and a still from “Love Actually” (right).  Kaley Roshitsh/WWD

In Asos’ good neighbor holiday ad, parodying the movie “Love Actually,” a cheeky, stylish young man flips through cards, voicing his heroic deed to his neighbor who missed her package delivery window. Graciously, he “signed for [her] Asos order.” Scoring an overall 81 points out of a possible 100 points, the reasoning for lower success is written, or rather unwritten, as it wasn’t until the 55th second that the ad shows a package with the Asos brand, not displayed prominently.

In the final two seconds, “Love, Asos” appears to round out the homage to the film, but not enough to justify the purchase. “Intent to Purchase” ranked at 47 points, with a gender index at a strong 110, indicating the actor was received positively.

Fashion Nova, Is Less More for Holiday Wardrobes?

In the case of Fashion Nova, the Instagram-favored fast-fashion e-tailer and party wardrobe supplier, the ad doesn’t follow a storyline, abandoning any holiday underpinnings. Instead, it shows a runway, with pumping club music — the perfect stage for inexpensive, scanty partywear in sequined excess. It features a diverse selection of models, but in the ABX testing, the ad retained a high dislike index.

“With the emphasis today on all advertisers showing characters with respect and dignity, these scores would also have impacted Reputation and Call-to-Action scores for this ad,” according to Angela Jeffrey, vice president brand management at ABX.

Gucci’s Maximalist Countdown Begins

In anticipation of New Year’s Eve festivities, Gucci resurrects the maximalist Eighties prom narrative, cladding thin and androgynous teenage models in rainbow sequins, tracksuits, oversized glasses or head feathers as confetti rains.

But its ad might have been over-the-top for the general population tested. As ABX indicated, Gucci’s holiday ad scored better in branding efforts, with the logo appearing throughout, but the message was still unclear and “even Millennials weren’t impressed,” according to the ABX testing team, as “In every demographic, the overall ABX Index was 30 to 40 percent below norm.”

Although the confetti shower, balloon dusting and softened camera effects captured an aesthetic quality typical of fashion ads, the message may have been too muddled for the viewers.

Customers Checking In or Out of H&M’s Holiday Ad

Light-hearted dancing in red and green pajamas, guests checking into Hotel Mauritz, a pun on H&M, are brimming with cheer.

Despite the high energy and uptempo witnessed in Hotel Mauritz, the H&M message scores are low by ABX standards at 76 points, perhaps leaving viewers guessing as “nothing is said about the merchandise or why people are dancing in their pajamas.”

Yet viewers were still lured into the feel-good spirit, accompanying age representation and family dynamics, showing positive scores in actions such as contacting the store, visiting the web site or talking about the ad. Gender scores were slightly negative, but nothing serious. Also of note, Gen X, representing an age range of 39 to 53, scored the highest against the norm for this ad, echoing a possible preference for holiday kinship depicted.

While fashion heralds the abstract, ABX advises tightening up KPIs in advertising spending, maybe even borrowing inspiration from top-performing Internet ads, where Kohl’s Corp., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Target Corp. collected successes.

With one last advice for fashion retailers and e-tailers, ABX noted that “Ads perform best when the brand is the star of the show” and effort channeled into “early brand identification and some kind of messaging that tied the pajamas, dancing and lifestyle to the H&M brand.”