Amazon resurfaces ‘spend less’ messaging for back-to-school ads

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon on Monday (July 17) debuted its 2023 back-to-school campaign starring actor Randall Park, known for his role in “Fresh Off the Boat,” according to details shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Campaign spots in 30-, 15- and 6-second versions feature Park encouraging parents to spend less on school supplies by taking advantage of Amazon’s deals. The effort will span TV, online video, digital and social media throughout the summer.
  • The move, which follows similar messaging used by Amazon for its 2022 back-to-school campaign, arrives as parents continue to grapple with ongoing macroeconomic tensions that have impacted the way they spend during the season.

Dive Insight:

Amazon is doubling down on deals this back-to-school season as it vies to stay relevant in a landscape dominated by shrinking budgets, a theme that similarly cast a shadow over last year’s back-to-school season. During the period this year, families with students in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected to spend a total of $31.2 billion, a 10% year-over-year decline from last year, according to Deloitte findings.

“Back-to-school advertising is all smiling kids, bright colors and happy music. But no one talks about the elephant in the classroom: Back-to-School season is an annual reminder of how incredibly expensive it is to raise children,” said Jo Shoesmith, executive world wide creative director at Amazon, in release details. “That’s especially true in this age of steep inflation, when it’s hard to afford eggs, much less backpacks.”

Amazon itself hasn’t been immune to a cost-cutting mindset, having in recent months undertaken mass layoffs and pulled back on strategies like opening more physical store locations. These moves helped Amazon beat analysts expectations in Q1, when revenue increased 9% and the company posted a profit of $3.2 billion.

At the center of Amazon’s new campaign is a tongue-in-cheek spot starring Park, who presents the idea of spending less on back-to-school shopping as novel, later receiving support from young children, including one who notes that the concept is “fiscally advantageous.” The spot, shot by director Jody Hill, known for “The Righteous Gemstones,” is also intended to promote Amazon’s single-stop Back to School shopping guide.

Comedic spots and spend-less messaging was also enlisted by Amazon for its 2022 back-to-school campaign, which starred actor Kathryn Hahn and encouraged parents to “go ahead and spend less” on their kids while still keeping up with trends. The use of comedy in the campaigns could help destigmatize the concept of spending less on back-to-school supplies, while also striking a chord with parents by using relatable messaging.

Along with Amazon, a handful of others have begun to roll out lighthearted back-to-school marketing in hopes of reaching early spenders; according to Deloitte, 59% of this year’s back-to-school projected spend is expected to be divvied out by the end of July. JCPenney recently unveiled its own campaign, which attempts to communicate authenticity by enlisting non-actor children for spots to the tune of “We Are Family.” Carter’s launched its “Love Every Moment” campaign, an effort promoting the value of life’s sentimental moments.

Amazon’s back-to-school campaign rides on the heels of its successful Prime Day annual shopping event, which was held from July 11-12 this year. Shoppers over the course of the two-day event purchased over 375 million items worldwide, and July 11 alone became Amazon’s single-largest sales day in company history.