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JC Penney’s Progressive Ads Appeal to the Young, But Irk Older Consumers

 Retailer’s most recent campaign creates polarizing responses among shoppers during uncertain economic times.

 JCPenney Father's Day Ad

The recent public controversy JC Penney has garnered for its Father’s Day advertisement featuring two dads and their kids is reflected in a new study about the ad from Vision Critical , which reveals both widely varying sentiment and a sharp generational divide.  At a total level, a plurality of the US population is either friendly to or indifferent towards the ad, with more than two-in-five Americans (43%) saying they love it or like it, and over one-quarter (28%) reporting that they neither love it nor hate it – that ‘it is just an ad’.  A smaller proportion of Americans report negative sentiments towards the ad (28%).

 How Americans Feel About JCPenney's Advertisement

In particular, the progressive JC Penney ad has succeeded at tugging at the heartstrings of younger consumers across the country. When given a list of words/phrases to describe the ad, younger aged shoppers (aged 18-34) were more likely to select positive words such as happy (31%), playful (26%), and fun (20%), while older aged shoppers (aged 55+) were more likely to use negative words/phrases like not for me (31%), distasteful (21%), and offensive (17%).

 Top Words Used to Describe the JCPenney Advertisement

When analyzed in total, JC Penney’s Father’s Day ad does have a positive net effect on wanting to shop the store more (+2%), though the results are more mixed between younger (+10%) and older (-5%) consumers.  This suggests that while the content of the ad will encourage some store visitation among younger consumers, JC Penney shoppers who are older may have a less favorable opinion of the retailer as a result of the ad.

Affect Advertisement Has on Shopping at JCPenney

 JC Penney is in the midst of a monumental restructuring of their brand and broader retail model, the results of which thus far suggest there are no immediate quick wins amidst a retail climate where shoppers are increasingly accustomed to buying items on sale. “JC Penney has made a courageous move by presenting an alternative view of the American family that is increasingly accepted among younger aged shoppers” said Dara St. Louis, SVP of Retail Insights at Vision Critical. “We’re curious to see how the ads pay off in the long-run in actually driving these consumers into the store to buy. Perhaps a better understanding of the granular sentiment toward the ad, which could be attained by leveraging  Vision Critical’s Media Impact online content testing tool, may have helped identify the potential risk among older shoppers prior to June campaign launch so that creative refinement could be taken to help mitigate concerns among core older shoppers.”


The data featured in this release was conducted by the integrated Consumer, Retail and Shopper Insights Team of Vision Critical. Results are based on a national online study conducted in the U.S. June 4-5, 2012. The total sample size is 1,018 adults in the US. The margin of error for this sample size is +/- 3.07%, 19 times out of 20.

About Vision Critical

Vision Critical pairs the world’s leading market research specialists with the most innovative software developers, marrying the precision of market research with the speed and power of online technology. Serving over 600 global brands through offices across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, Vision Critical creates powerful software and research solutions like the world’s leading Community Panel platform. For more information, please visit and follow Vision Critical on Twitter at!/visioncritical

Contact Information:
Rich Rizzo
Vice President Consumer, Retail & Shopper Insights