Spending on Back-To-School Ads Down 70%: Kantar

Kantar said an Amazon back-to-school commercial connected emotionally. (Image credit: Kantar)

Back to school has not only been tough on kids as they try to connect with teachers and classmates over Zoom. 

According to a report from Kantar, back-to-school advertising on national TV is down 70% so far this season compared to last year.

Back to school, after the traditionally quiet summer months, are typically a high-demand period for the ad sales teams at TV Networks.

This year, however, from June 22 to Aug. 8, Kantar said that retailers spent $23 million in back-to-school ads, versus $76 million a year ago.

Normally, back to school is also a fairly cluttered ad environment but Kantar also found that this year,  just six retailers were spending on national advertising, led by Target and J.C. Penney, which each bought more than $7 million worth of commercials.

(Image credit: Kantar)

“With so many advertisers opting out this season, there is a significant opportunity for brands to engage consumers and build customer relationships, as less activity and a scaled down competitive field give those who do participate a greater chance of winning share of consumer wallets,” Kantar said. “After all, students will need supplies whether they are learning remotely from home or attending in-person class, so cutting out advertising altogether could be a costly mistake.”

Kantar also noted that in the good old days, pre-COVID-19, back-to-school commercials were filled with scenes of happy families shopping in stores for supplies and clothing, kids meeting friends and learning in classrooms.

This year, the message is whatever else 2020 brings, we’re here for you and the images are of online shopping, delivery service and curbside pickup. Few ads show kids in school and those show youngsters wearing masks.

“Many parents are feeling anxious about the current uncertainty and conveying their needs will be met, no matter the circumstance, is key,” the report noted. “Placing an emphasis on savings and value is also especially important this year due to the economic strain many families are facing.”

Kantar looked at a commercial for Amazon that showed children learning at home with the Amazon search bar appearing on the screen several times during the spot.

Kantar said the ad connected emotionally and expected it to generate six times the gain in ad awareness compared to Target, JCPenney, Walmart and Macy’s. Kantar also said the Amazon commercial was 25% more likely to generate sales lift than a Target ad that used only illustrations, creating less human connection.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.