Controversial Comedy in Advertising

To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a K-Mart.  Save a very quick stint in a one-stop light town in rural Alabama, I’ve never really lived in very close proximity to one and really haven’t thought much about the retailer since moving away.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the theoretical convenience of a superstore, but find that I often come home from Target laden with 25 different things I didn't need and sans the one item I had intended on buying.  That’s why Amazon Prime changed my life.  I buy everything from paper towels to k-cups to shampoo on Amazon and I love the convenience of being able to buy exactly what I need and knowing it will arrive on my doorstep in two days.  The best part about Amazon Prime? Free shipping.

It seems as though K-Mart has finally tapped into this consumer trend with their newest online video that touts their new shipping policy in a surprisingly funny and cheeky way.  The new ad uses the play-on-words “ship my pants”, to educate K-Mart customers that all online purchases can be shipped for free.  Sure, it’s puerile but it’s also hilarious and I would argue, exactly what K-Mart needed.  In an increasingly convenience driven market, K-Mart needed something that would set their brand apart from the larger establishment brick and mortar superstores like Walmart and Target.  By offering free shipping, K-Mart taps in to an audience that wants all of the amenities available at a superstore but wants the ease of free shipping associated with Amazon Prime.

K-Mart isn’t the first retailer to take advantage of humor and advertising (see the slapstick comedy of The Papermate Profile or the wry humor of the Mac versus PC ads) but K-Mart’s sharp departure from its typical brand advertising is causing many to stand up and take notice.   In a few short hours the video has gone viral and has received over 160,000 views on YouTube.  While most of the chatter surrounding the campaign has been positive and receptive,  some claim the campaign is vulgar and inappropriate.  Where do you fall in this debate?  Did K-Mart cross a line or is their new ad campaign light heartedly comical? 

--Libby Panke - @LibbyPanke

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