Commentary

Kmart Gets Down And Viral

A young woman told me the other day that she was meeting up with some friends who were “making a viral video.” I thought I detected some irony in her voice so I didn’t make a wisecrack along the lines of “Oh yeah, what’s next? A Boffo Box Office Indie?” How is it then, that Kmart, of all people, has crafted the viral video du jour?

Well, ship happens. Or, as my colleague Aaron Baar emailed about “Ship My Pants,” a couple of days ago, “I had to check to see if it was actually a Kmart ad (and not a fake). They may have some life in them yet.”

“Ship my pants?” an incredulous suburban-looking dad asks a store clerk at the beginning of the 0:35 spot. “Right here? Ship my pants? You’re kidding…”

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“You can ship your pants right here,” a store clerk responds with a definitive finger slam.

The balding, flannel-shirted Everyshopper turns to his partner and says, “You hear that? I can ship my pants for free!”

“Wow,” she replies, “I may just ship my pants,” setting off a concatenation of generational bonding over the service. The message?

“Can't find what you're looking for in store, a sales associate can find it on Kmart.com and ship it to you for free!”

The program is not just limited to pants. It extends to “nighties,” “beds,” whatever, as the spot goes on to dramatize with other characters. “Other features of the membership program include e-receipts and price advantages,” writes ABCnews.com blogger Susanna Kim.

“It may not be the height of sophistication, but holy crap -- Kmart's ‘Ship My Pants’ ad is having a great run, to say the least,” Adweek’s Tim Nudd reported back when it had only 7.8 million views on YouTube and was “being passed around by viewers at an astounding rate of one share for every nine views, according to the viral experts at Unruly Media.”

This morning, its views were upwards of 11.1 million.

“Sophomoric, perhaps, but clever enough to catch the attention of 'The Today Show,' which devoted a segment to the ad on Friday, April 12,” Laura Heller posted to Forbes.com Monday. “Today” also put up a “Is Kmart's "Ship My Pants" commercial funny or offensive?” poll on Facebook. Chuckles rule.

“Most brands are hopeful their videos go viral,” Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, a spokeswoman for Kmart and Sears Holdings told Heller. “The humor was irreverent and we’re pleasantly surprised. Real humor is as funny as you can be, without being offensive.”

The spot has deep Chicago roots, Mike Thomas points out in the Chicago Sun-Times. Not only was it created by the hometown Draftfcb, the  Kmart store manager is played by former Chicago comedy star Ithamar Enriquez.”

"When we were shooting it, we all thought it was a really funny spot," Enriquez tells Thomas. "But among the actors, we were like, 'Is this going to run? Are they going to let this on the air?' But we're not technically saying anything bad.”

Armstrong-Fowler told ABC’s Kim that said the video will air as a television commercial on cable later this week or early next week.

Actually, “Ship My Pants” is No. 2 on Unruly’s Viral Video Chart this morning, with Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” at No. 1 (386,619 shares in last 24 hours vs.132,384 for “Ship”). Ad Agedissected the Dove campaign by Ogilvy Brazil yesterday in its “Creativity Pick of the Day” feature.

“Dove conducted a social experiment to prove that women are more beautiful than they think, as part of its continuing focus on "real" beauty in its advertising,” it reports, using “FBI-trained forensic sketch artist Gil Zamora, who usually sketches people described by crime eyewitnesses.”

Ad Age also announces the winners of its fourth annual Viral Video Awards, which were were handed out in New York last night. Among the winners: Samsung is Viral Brand of the Year; Wieden & Kennedy Portland is Creative Agency of the Year; McDonald's "Our Food. Your Questions" takes the honors in the Best Brand Transparency category.

“The most-watched single campaign was easily Red Bull's 'Stratos,'" according to an introduction to all of the winners, “which redefined branded entertainment and event marketing.”

We have a feeling that Albert Lasker, founder of what is now Draftfcb -- agency for the Kmart video -- and of “modern advertising” itself, would agree that the world of advertising has been redefined.

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