This strategy didn’t simply serve Target. It tied together three of ABC’s Wednesday shows -- “The Middle,” “Back in the Game” and “Modern Family” -- adding cohesion and an overall atmosphere of holiday fun to half of ABC’s schedule on the night.
The first in a series of Target’s holiday ads, the theme of which is My Kind of Holiday, was telecast at the start of the first commercial break in “The Middle.” The commercial began with what looked like a close-up of a festive Thanksgiving table, which touched nicely on the content of “The Middle’s” Thanksgiving story line. But the spot didn’t fully go there, instead getting right into the general holiday theme, complete with a catchy song and scenes of nice-looking folks getting into the spirit of the season, gathering for holiday parties, baking cookies for Santa and playing around a Christmas tree. The cumulative effect was more music video than television commercial, and it will likely become the catchiest campaign of the holiday season, as Target’s often are.
Later in “The Middle” came another spot from the My Kind of Holiday campaign -- this one very short and filled with music and images focusing intently on a Thanksgiving turkey. It was a good fit for the episode, however brief.
Immediately following “The Middle” there was a spot featuring the delightful Eden Sher as perpetually clueless and hopelessly big-hearted Sue Heck, the teenage character she plays on the show, making an apple pie for the holidays and making a mess in the process. She filled out a gift label that read: “My kind of holiday is freshly baked. Pass it on!” and attached it to the pie. Then she delivered it to three of the kids from “Back in the Game,” leaving it on the Gannon family’s front porch and dashing away. Young Danny Gannon (Griffin Gluck) checked out the odd-looking pie. Then he said to his friends Michael (JJ Totah) and Dudley (Brandon Salgado): “Well, it’s the thought that counts.”
All three kids were dressed in the Little League uniforms they often wear on their show, which made for another connection, because in first sequence of “Game,” which began immediately after the commercial, the kids were playing baseball.
The first commercial in “Game” was a repeat of the first full-length Target spot seen at the start of “The Middle.” Later in the episode there was a full-blown Thanksgiving-themed Target ad, which began with the festive table seen at the start of the first spot and expanded from there. I wondered why this particular commercial wasn’t included in “The Middle,” since that show was all about Thanksgiving and all.
(By the way, it seems a shame that ABC has cancelled “Back in the Game.” Last night’s episode was funny, charming and at times very touching -- three qualities sadly lacking in the other sitcoms that comprise the network’s freshman comedy class.)
Once “Back in the Game” ended, Target returned us to the Gannon’s front porch, where Danny and his friends were still staring at Sue Heck’s awful pie. Then they dashed inside, where Danny announced: “All rights, guys. It’s gift time.” Dudley offered wrapped meat. JJ held up dog collar decorations. Danny rejected both.
He then filled out a gift label of his own, as Sue Heck had done earlier in the evening. “My kind of holiday is a real treat. Pass it on!” the note read, in keeping with the Target theme.
The action then moved to “Modern Family” territory -- specifically the Pritchett family’s front porch, where the kids from “Game” dropped their package. As they watched from the bushes, Stella, the Pritchett family dog, made her way out the door, climbed into the package and emerged with a chew bone in her mouth with the words “Puppy Love” on it. (Apparently none of the child actors in “Modern Family” were available to participate in Target’s holiday fun.)
During the episode of “Modern Family” that followed, Target offered yet another commercial -- this one combining Thanksgiving and Christmas with a focus on the Target Red Card.
After “Modern Family,” Target’s extended holiday tale wrapped up as Stella snatched a gift from under the family tree and delivered it to Sue Heck, completing the circle. The Target ads continued into the comedy that followed, “Super Fun Night,” without any specific tie-ins.