Target’s 2016’s Back-To-School TV Commercials — What You Don’t Know About Them Will Delight You

Target’s back-to-school TV commercials are different this year, but you may not even know why. Sure they’re cute and all, but the secret to their success (at least in entertainment value) is all because of who actually created these little gems. This year’s crop of commercials were written and directed by kids ages 8 to 17. While knowing that kids are the brains behind the cameras may not help excite kids at home to look forward to school, you have to give Target credit for creativity. Who better to market to kids than other kids?

While Christmas is the big money maker for Target stores, back-to-school shopping is the company’s second-largest sales event, so good promotion is important.

“For back-to-school, Target knows their guest views this time of year as so much more than just buying school supplies for their kids. It’s about setting their kids up for success in the school year and for all the years to come,” says Karen Costello, executive vice president and executive director at Target ad agency Deutsch. “The To School & Beyond campaign is about recognizing this insight and celebrating and fueling the potential of all kids, and to bring this all to life in a way that felt like it truly honored Target’s belief in kids, we asked ourselves, ‘What if we didn’t just say that we believed in the potential of kids and all the amazing things they’re capable of, but we actually proved it?'”

Target says that their temporary teen marketing team consists of about two dozen kids with varied responsibilities including creating scripts, storyboards, and creative direction. Even this year’s theme song has been created by the “tween” girl band L2M. But just how much of the actual TV, digital video, radio and in-store marketing did the kids take on? All of it.

“I’m going to be completely honest—the thought of giving up that much control scared me… We debated which portions of the campaign would actually be kid-created vs. kid-influenced. Later on, when we got on the phone to speak to the kids who would eventually direct our spots, the level of expertise and professionalism displayed by them was awe-inspiring. We never looked back.”

“I never thought I’d be sitting here saying, ‘Oh, I directed part of a Target back-to-school campaign,'” Claire Jantzen told Co.Create. She’s 17. She and the others were found through different sources including 826LA, a creative writing program for kids based in Los Angeles and Adolescent Content, a production company that advocates for young filmmakers, photographers, and even social media stars.


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“This is what is so interesting about this entire campaign. I got to work next to these adult professionals, but really the kids got to be the professionals. We got to run this,” says Jantzen. She was given the chance to direct five of the Target commercials. The other two directors were age 13 and 15.

“At each stage of creation, we worked with the kids in roughly the same amount of time we would spend working with adults doing the same job,” Costello says. “Overall, we were very thoughtful about creating environments that were supportive, motivating and non-patronizing. This whole endeavor was not about ‘look at those cute kids doing cute things’ but rather ‘look at those amazing kids, creating amazing things.’ Then, for each element of the campaign, we worked with specific teachers and mentors who had expertise in guiding kids of all ages through creation and execution.”

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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