Wednesday, October 26

Anti-Advertising Campaigns: The Christmas Creep

The Consumerist has decided enough is enough. After years of watching companies and businesses roll back holiday shopping, a phenomenon they call "Christmas Creep," they are launching DIY craft project.

Dubbed the "Christmas Creep," the Consumerist has created an ornamental character to bring what it calls the Christmas Creep to life. The consumer advocacy group suggests consumers print the image and then photograph themselves (with the image) next to any prematurely stocked shelves (and presumably sharing it).*

"It seems that every year retailers put out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier, sometimes in the middle of the summer," said Meghann Marco, executive editor of the Consumerist.com "We've created the 'Christmas Creep' as a device for consumers to stand up to retailers and take back summer, fall and all the holidays with seasons."

We love The Consumerist but Christmas Creep is dangerous.

While the idea is clever and has some merit, one has to wonder if the whole thing might backfire. Even with the ugly little ornament front and center in the photograph, people who share it on social sites could inadvertently promote the display, products, and store.

Worse, it could result in tipping off other retailers that the holidays have started. And since so many retailers get their cues from the time-honored marketing strategy of follow the leader, what is meant as a symbol of admonishment could accidentally become a symbol of start your engines.

The same holds true for the campaign release. In it, The Consumerist promotes Pier 1 with a put down for sending out a July email that prompted people to "Get an early start on Christmas" and preview items before they hit the stores. Along with Pier 1, they also list Sam's Club, Costco, and Nordstorm as early Christmas Creep offenders.

Even those people who agree enough is enough are likely to shake their heads in disgust — until they apply Advertising Rule Number 6: People lie. In this case, they might join a protest for about 30 seconds. And then run to wherever they can find festive decorations on sale.

Despite all good intentions, the road to hell is paved with them.

Don't get me wrong. The Consumerist is right. Thanksgiving and even Halloween are slowly becoming former shadows of themselves as pre-holiday space is already being set aside in some stores. Kids don't even have time to carve pumpkins or make pilgrim cutouts before someone is trying to turn their heads and talk about gifts. But I still can't fault retailers exclusively.

Even some of the commenters on The Consumerist's site expressed a sense of sympathy for the stores. One of them said they had been asked to start collecting holiday supplies for their office party on December 10. And if none of the stores carried decorations early, they would have a hard time of it.

Sadly, there are only five ways to stop stores from promoting the gift-giving season early. 1. Ignore or boycott them outright. 2. Do what The Consumerist asks people not to do (something illegal or damaging), which I can't reccommend. 3. Continue to find sympathetic media outlets and wage a public relations war that could easily be lost to struggling retailers who are just trying to make it to gift giving. 4 and 5. I'm not even going to mention them because someone will probably get right to it.

In other words, I don't think it can be stopped. But on the bright side, if retailers continue to get a jump on the holidays, the whole thing will eventually catch up with itself. In about 10 years, we will be shopping for next year, this year, and nobody will be the wiser. At least, we can all hope.

*Based on the examples, The Consumerist is trying to avoid promoting specific stores. But unless Christmas Creep retailers are outed, then the ornament trolls are not much more than empty action. On the other hand, at least they are trying to do something.
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