The holidays are typically a time for heartwarming commercials that tug on the heartstrings. But last year, one spot stood above the rest for its ability to elicit a tear from even the most hardened of Scrooges. Kohl’s 90-second holiday spot showcased an unlikely friendship between a young girl and her older neighbor during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a new direction for Kohl’s, which usually leans into more promotional or humor-filled spots, but not for Yard NYC, the agency behind the ad. The New York-based shop has a history of forging its creations with emotional connection.
“We focused on how people were feeling in the moment and how they would be feeling during the 2020 holidays,” says Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief executive. “The resulting spot was inspired by the power of connection and the belief that the smallest acts of kindness are the most powerful.”
It’s a recipe that Yard has replicated for other clients, including most notably Athleta, the Gap Inc.-owned sportswear brand known for its female-empowerment-led marketing. Yard recently helped Athleta push new “Women Run It All” messaging, under its long-running “Power of She” platform, following the election of Vice President Kamala Harris. Such purpose-fueled work helped contribute to Athleta’s skyrocketing sales—the brand exceeded $1 billion in sales last year, growing 16%.
“When you’re a small agency, relationships are everything. Working with a female-led brand as a female-led agency is a dream,” says Bernstein. “And when that brand is one that’s focused on the power and strength of women, individually and collectively, the relationship is that much better.”
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