Top Retail Brands Drive Back-to-School TV Ad Performance
EDO TeamAugust 31, 20233 min read

Retail TV Ad Spend is Down for Back-to-School 2023—But Ad Performance is on the Rise

As summer comes to a close, and kids (and relieved parents) pack their backpacks to go back to school, leading brands have been hard at work wooing consumers to buy their latest supplies, outfits, technology, and more.

To gauge some of the performance this Back-to-School season, EDO analyzed every national TV ad in the Retail category from July 1 through mid-August. Using EDO’s extensive TV outcomes database, we’re able to determine how effectively a given TV ad drove consumers to engage with the brand online.

What we found is that Back-to-School ad spend declined 26% among Retail brands year-over-year, but overall engagement increased by 6%. In essence, Retailers like Target and JCPenney are spending less money on back-to-school ads, which are outperforming their campaigns last year. 

Here are a few other insights gleaned from our analysis.

Consumers were more drawn to back-to-school ads than other retail pitches

During the time period we analyzed, Retail ads featuring back-to-school messaging were 11% more engaging, on average, than Retail ads that didn’t feature back-to-school messaging.

Back-to-School campaigns were particularly effective among a trio of retail leaders: Macy’s, JCPenney, and Kohl’s. Macy’s back-to-school ads were 17% more effective than the rest of their TV advertising during this period, with JCPenney and Kohl’s boasting back-to-school bumps of 13% and 8%, respectively.

One 15-second ad from Macy’s, focusing on tee’s and jeans, was 47% more engaging than the brand’s average ad from July to August. 


JCPenney and Target achieve strong engagement despite lower spend

Retail giants JCPenney and Target each decreased their spending on back-to-school TV advertising this year as compared to last. However, each brand is enjoying stronger engagement in 2023.

Ad effectiveness for JCPenney's back-to-school creatives is up 26% YoY, despite a 78% decrease in spending. Meanwhile, Target has enjoyed a 10% YoY engagement boost against a 65% decrease in spend. As we head into the final stretch of back-to-school season, these brands could generate major engagement by optimizing on-air creatives with existing budgets

DoorDash makes its successful back-to-school debut

Believe it or not, Back-to-School advertising now includes delivery. In addition to Walmart touting delivery in one of its ads, DoorDash also debuted a pair of national TV spots for back-to-school season.

Both the :15 and :30 versions of the DoorDash back-to-school ads outperformed the brand’s average creative since July 1, with the shorter spot delivering (pun intended) 23% more engagement than the average DoorDash ad during this period. The ad parodies the chaos of the back-to-school season and offers an alternative for parents who want to savor summer before thinking of notebooks, backpacks, and new jeans. 


Whether you’re advertising in English or in Spanish—we’ve got you covered

With EDO’s Convergent TV advertising database, advertisers can learn in real time whether their ads are really driving the engagement necessary to turn awareness into intent, and intent into sales. If you’ve got questions about your back-to-school campaigns, simply reach out to learn more about how we can help you measure and optimize engagement.

There’s more actionable retail insights coming your way soon. Check back next week for our overview of how back-to-school advertisers are winning over Spanish-language TV viewers—with ads that are generating 29% more engagement than their English-language counterparts. To tide you over, here’s Target’s most effective SLTV back-to-school creative, which outperformed the average Target ad since July 1 by 2x. 


Know What Works. Always.

Sign up for EDO's weekly newsletter to get the latest TV advertising insights straight to your inbox.