Embracing Back-To-School Weirdness, American Eagle Launches TikTok-Inspired Campaign

American teens have spent the last few months dancing at home on TikTok, and American Eagle Outfitters is tapping into that athletic self-expression for its new back-to-school campaign.

Shot entirely over Zoom, the new campaign celebrates the latest social-media crazes, featuring TikTok star Addison Rae. But ads also highlight the flexibility of its latest denim collections, with the debut of the Dream and AirFlex+ Athletic fits.

Rae is TikTok’s second-biggest star, with close to 52 million followers. But the effort, which is part of its ongoing #AExME platform, draws on a dance-diverse cast showing off moves drawn from ballet, jazz, hip hop and contemporary.

And while marketers everywhere are crafting new ads  remotely, this one takes the effort even further. As in the past, the Pittsburgh-based retailer says it gave the kids “complete creative control.”



But this time, the young crew had to do it all virtually, using Zoom, cell phone photography, Polaroid and camera film capture. (They got styling hints via virtual tutorials.)

The ad, set to the song “Boa Noite” by Tropkillaz, uses components that mirror TikTok content, helping it connect to the brand’s socially connected community.

The new effort comes as retailers anticipate the worst for back-to-school sales. Rising rates of COVID-19 are further confusing back-to-school timelines, and it's still unclear to millions of kids (and their parents) what the new school year will look like.

A new poll of parents from WalletHub, the personal finance site, finds that 71% of parents say COVID-19 has changed their back-to-school spending plans. About 38% say they’ll spend less, and 6% say they won’t spend anything at all.

The news is likely to be worse in specific categories. “Every day we hear about another school district going virtual this fall,” writes Matt Powell, senior industry advisor for sports at the NPD Group, a market research company based in Port Washington, New York. “Those students probably don’t need new shoes to take classes virtually -- do they need shoes at all? Parents may shift their spending to better meet the needs prompted by this new schooling environment, and invest in technologies to help their kids learn remotely.”

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