Jackie, Tanya and Deb on the subway.

Daffy's will today launch its biggest advertising effort in five years, a quirky campaign depicting the lives of three "spokesmannequins" named "Deb," "Tanya" and "Jackie."

NEW YORK — Daffy’s will today launch its biggest advertising effort in five years, a quirky campaign depicting the lives of three “spokesmannequins” named “Deb,” “Tanya” and “Jackie.” Their story will be told through outdoor and radio ads and guerrilla marketing and was inspired by TV shows such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.”

“It’s been a while since we have really put ourselves out there,” said Marcia Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Daffy’s, the 20-unit off-price chain based in Secaucus, N.J. “This is really going to be a branding campaign, a whole marketing effort.”

TV is excluded because, as Wilson said, “We are still little guys. To have impact on TV, you really need some major presence, which means major bucks. You’ve got a more captive audience in a car with a radio.” She said Daffy’s has about a $500,000 media buy budgeted for the next couple of months.

Along with the main characters, subplots will be developed revolving around other character mannequins to be introduced later. “With a name like Daffy’s, you can’t take yourself too seriously,” said Wilson.

More than 60 percent of the chain’s volume is in women’s; men’s represents about 20 percent; kids, 15 percent, and home, 5 percent. The highest-volume Daffy’s store is the 100,000-square-foot unit on Broadway and 34th Street. Last year, Daffy’s exceeded $160 million in sales.

“This is the biggest campaign I have done in certainly more than five years, in terms of money,” Wilson said. The campaign begins with urban panels, phone kiosks, PATH trains displaying the graphics and radio spots; the guerrilla marketing begins Thursday, with “Deb,” “Tanya” and “Jackie” riding on trucks around Manhattan. The campaign was created by the Branding Partnership.

Daffy’s has a history of offbeat marketing. In 1963, one diamond chip was placed in a bowl of glass chips and customers lined up to select a chip and take it to a jeweler to see if it was the “diamond in the cup.” Four years later, the store placed a wheelbarrow of silver dollars and sold each to customers for 88 cents, to demonstrate that a dollar goes farther at Daffy’s.

This story first appeared in the October 3, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Daffy’s mannequins represent different kinds of Daffy’s shoppers with different personalities. “Deb” is trendy, tall and single and always seeking attention. “Tanya” is married, suburban, with a funky chic style, and “Jackie” is divorced, has lots of lovers and a classic, elegant style. Initially, the trio will be depicted hailing a taxi, on the subway, biking, boating in Central Park, in a yoga class and grocery shopping. The mannequins were created by Roostein, updated by Frank Glover Productions and wear wigs by Anne Kong.

“Deb, Tanya and Jackie will not only be seen as fashion icons in and around the tristate area; we hope that they will become characters consumers care about, complete with life histories and amusing stories about them,” Wilson said.

While seeking greater exposure and more customers for Daffy’s, Wilson said she has no interest in selling the family’s company or taking it public. She’s the daughter of the chain’s founder, Irv Shulman. “Quite honestly, we are not interested in selling right now.” Asked if Daffy’s is profitable, she replied, “You bet we are.”

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