Target bets big on TV spectacle for 2016 holiday campaign

Chrissy Teigen, John Legend and 72andSunny join forces for 8-minute musical, "The Toycracker," to air on ABC.

A televised musical drama may sound like an old-fashioned take on holiday advertising, but Target is giving the concept a fresh update for its 2016 seasonal campaign.

The brand teamed up with 72andSunny and WPP's Team Arrow to create an eight-minute production of "The Nutcracker," playfully dubbed "The Toycracker." Starring John Legend as the Rat King, his wife Chrissy Teigen as the Nutcracker and Isabella Russo of "School of Rock" fame as Clara, the production will air in two four-minute segments during the Dec. 11 network premiere of "Frozen" on ABC. The brand will also show behind-the-scenes footage that night presented by Bullseye the dog and "Marisol," the young girl who appears in the trailer.

Sticking with holiday tradition, Target is keeping the focus on the toys rather than its own brand. "When we're thinking about Tchaikovsky, we're actually changing that for a bit of hip hop," said Todd Waterbury, chief creative officer at Target. "When we're thinking about the 'Sugar Plum Fairy' and toy soldiers, we're actually changing them to 'Trolls' and 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.' And in the battle scene, we're trading the swords for mics, so we're actually having a rap battle take place."

All of the music is original, so on Dec. 12, Target will initiate a YouTube takeover in which consumers can dive into every video and listen to each song.

But that's not the only celebrity gift Target will unwrap this Christmas. The retailer has teamed up with Garth Brooks to sell a 10-CD box set that includes an exclusive track of "Friends in Low Places," sung by Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and other country stars. Pre-sale opened Oct. 24, and sales have already surpassed last year's first-day, pre-sale numbers for Target's collaboration with Adele, brand representatives said.

Target "spokesman" Ginger Breadington will also be back this season, largely to promote the brands cost-oriented messaging. The animated gingerbread man will appear in TV spots by himself to unveil the "Spectacu-later," a phone app that reminds shoppers of upcoming sales. He will also announce the brand's "10 Days of Deals" promotion on KISS FM with Ryan Seacrest, and even will show up on Snapchat as a filter. (Ginger Snaps. Get it?) Overall, the brand will allot 60% of its messaging this season to bargain reveals (up 20% from 2015), as it believes value to be the No. 1 driver in retailer choice.

The entire holiday campaign will launch before the presidential election on Nov. 8, a cultural moment the brand has taken into consideration. "It's worth noting that we will be launching this campaign at the beginning of November, and that's during the election," said Rick Gomez, svp of marketing at Target. "We don't want to be tone-deaf to those conversations that are going on, yet we do know that our guests will be open to this type of holiday messaging, so we're going to be leaning into warm and engaging media options."

This means viewers will spot Target ads in places like Pinterest, The Food Network and HGTV, and in movie theaters nationwide.

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