JC Penney’s doghouse: get inside

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If you still need proof that you can’t simply get away with a 30-sec TV commercial nowadays, here it is. J C Penney has launched an interesting campaign in the US for the holiday season. The brief: convey that diamonds make better gifts. A simple enough brief that would have resulted in a funny TV spot perhaps, about a decade ago. Saatchi & Saatchi and Razorfish have taken this brief and created a wonderful multi-media campaign. Men usually get the stick for poor choice of gifts – an universal insight. And that’s the basis for an idea that puts men literally in the doghouse. The result: a viral marketing campaign that allows women to put their significant other in the ‘Doghouse’ for bad gift choices.

The film is a tad long (since it an online-only version) but the campaign is centred around the Beware of the Doghouse website, where women can show the men in their lives what it is like to be in the Doghouse, and how to get out – of course, by purchasing diamonds. Facebook users can also easily select ‘Doghouse’ candidates from their friends list or post a warning on the candidate’s wall. Once the candidate is selected, women are invited to choose their preferred diamond gift – that will serve as their “get out of the Doghouse card.” The men will then receive an email directing them to the website. Once they purchase the diamonds, women can ‘let them out’ as it were – that being true only in the virtual world!

I think the idea works because of it’s double-barrelled approach: both men & women know exactly how it is to be in the doghouse. It is stereotypical alright but hey, so are the sitcoms – Frasier, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond – you name it, and they were all lapped up. It is also an illustration of today’s communication challenges – getting beyond the obvious TV commercial while being engaging and credible. Unlike some campaigns which tried too hard to the point of being incredulous, this one has potential to connect.

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