Retail advertisers’ creative messaging has shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic as they continued to meet consumers changing needs. Top creatives in 2020 and 2021 were meaningful promotions highlighting new job opportunities, being present for the community, and even convenient pick-up options.
Today, we’re taking a look at the retail category’s top three advertisers during the summer (June-September) of 2020 and 2021. We’ll analyze Amazon, Best Buy, and Target’s creative strategies to understand how retailers have shifted their messaging during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the United States’ reopening a year later.
Breaking down Amazon’s $183 million creative packages
During the pandemic, Amazon was uniquely positioned to provide communities with essential items to get through quarantine. With stay-at-home orders still in place in many parts of the US, Amazon’s Top Creatives from June to September 2020 promoted a mix of Corporate messaging and ads for Audible, Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, and Amazon Prime Video.
These campaigns kept Amazon top-of-mind for consumers and served as an essential resource for accessing eBooks, saving money with Prime, and receiving groceries within 2 hours with just a few clicks.
Accounting for 50% of Amazon’s 32,000+ total creatives, Prime Video (21%), Shop Amazon (15%), and Corporate (14%) were the top three Amazon brands during the summer of 2020. Funneling roughly $183 million on creatives, Amazon’s video campaigns consistently ranked at the top as they took a human-centered approach featuring their very own employees on the field supporting environmentally sustainable practices.
Zooming into the brand’s creative strategy this past June to September 2021, Amazon spent an estimated $406 million on digital advertising, a 121% increase from the previous year. Their top creatives have shifted from inspirational videos to static photo posts on Facebook and banner ads on YouTube. As the U.S. rolled out multiple COVID vaccines to the public in mid-June, more jobs needed to be filled. The eCommerce company wasted no time in the summer of 2021 highlighting sign-on bonuses for Amazon Fulfillment Jobs and flexible working hours in their top creatives. Amazon’s timely messaging provided consumers the opportunity to take on new roles and join the workforce.
Best Buy leans into the power of connection
While we couldn’t gather in person in 2020, Best Buy found a way for consumers to connect with each other through the products that they offer. During the summer of 2020, the top creative featured LA-based artist and influencer, Loren Gray, promoting a way for fans to create a lyric video with the Lenovo Yoga laptop. The number two creative from Best Buy leans into the moment by highlighting the ways consumers’ homes have turned into an office, classroom, or date night.
The consumer electronics retailer kept the rest of their 30-second video campaigns on the lighter side while also acknowledging the pandemic with images of friendly gaming competition to promote their new gaming laptops. In one example, garnering around 31.6 million impressions, Best Buy uses Al Green 70’s-inspired music in their HP Spectre YouTube video campaign. In terms of spend share, Best Buy allocated 41% of its monthly budget to Desktop Video ($19.2 million) and 24% to Instagram ($11.2 million).
In the midst of U.S. reopening, Best Buy altered its advertising strategy to lean into the back-to-school sales where students could save around $300 to $400 on select devices from June to September 2021. Best Buy invested 36% of their monthly budget into Facebook with Desktop Video coming in second at 19%.
Target’s monthly spend on Instagram skyrockets
Target, the seventh-largest retailer worldwide, focused on a diverse set of campaigns from static images and feel-good videos to banners and sponsored tweets. Unlike Amazon and Best Buy, Target continued to push their annual school supply campaigns in 2020 alongside the messaging around supporting Black businesses and environmental sustainability.
In the summer of 2020, the red bullseye retailer made its mark on Instagram with an estimated monthly spend of $7.8 million to match their Desktop Display spend, while Desktop Video trailed with $7.3 million. In August of 2020, Target’s estimated monthly spend on Instagram was $1.6 million and jumped to over $5 million in September of 2020.
If there’s one thing we wished we could have more of it would be time and more Target runs. To make Target runs even quicker, the brand changed its creative strategy during the summer of 2021 to focus on “Order with Drive-Up” urging consumers to save time while running errands. Five out of their ten top creatives focused on Target’s “Order with Drive-Up” while the other 50% highlighted products for school, same-day delivery, and the Target Circle Rewards program.
What’s next for Amazon, Best Buy, and Target?
After nearly two years of uncertainty, the top three digital advertisers in retail understood their assignment: Keep a pulse on consumer needs and tailor messaging. Overall, video campaigns have shown to be the most widely used among retailers and have garnered the most impressions by consumers. Retail advertisers may continue to allocate their budgets to Instagram and Desktop Video to push meaningful stories and campaigns as the holiday season arrives.
For the purposes of this post, Pathmatics is classifying “Summer” as June-September 2020, and 2021, respectively.
After she earned her BS in Business Administration and Marketing, Pam spent time in the non-profit industry developing skills in digital marketing and creating digital content for two years. She then made the transition to content marketing for San Francisco start ups.