Target also leads the pack when it comes to paid search spending, a new report finds.

When executives at Target Corp. mapped out their holiday campaign strategy this year, they had two goals—start earlier and be more social.

The result is The Holiday Odyssey, a season-long campaign that starts with a digital storybook narrated by actor Neil Patrick Harris that features three children, the Target mascot dog Bullseye and supporting characters from toys, TV shows and movies, such as Legos, Minions and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The campaign aims to span the season—from early gift planning through spending time with family during the holidays.

The retailer posted the first episode Oct. 30 on YouTube, placed the first pieces related to the campaign in stores on Nov. 1 and began targeting shoppers with ads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest on Nov. 4.

“This year’s holiday campaign is Target’s most ambitious social spend for a single campaign,” says Colleen McDuffe, senior director of social media at Target, which ranks 325 in the 2015 Social Media 500, an Internet Retailer database that ranks retailers on the percentage of their overall traffic that stems from social networks. 3.14% of Target’s traffic last year stemmed from social networks.

The retailer boosted its social media ad budget 30% this holiday season, which means ads that appear on Facebook and other social networks will account for roughly 12% of its media spending, she says. The majority of those ads—60-70%— focus on driving traffic to, its mobile apps and Target stores, with the remainder aimed at enticing shoppers to interact with the brand.


Across each social media channel, the retailer is taking a different approach.

On Facebook, for example, Target is experimenting with Facebook Canvas, a new ad unit that, when clicked, presents a shopper with a full-screen array of images. The shopper can then browse through products. When he clicks to buy, he is then taken to the retailer’s site. For example, on Dec. 6, the retailer plans to launch Wonderpacks, themed activity kits such as an “Ugly Sweater Makery,” which provides the supplies to adorn a coffee mug like an ugly holiday sweater. It also is using less flashy Facebook ads, like promoted posts, to ensure shoppers see posts like its video preview of its Black Friday deals, which it posted Nov. 9. That video, in particular, has been seen 2.9 million times and generated more than 7,200 comments and 820 shares.

Target is using Instagram’s Marquees, the social network’s premium ad unit created to help brands “drive mass awareness and expanded reach in a short time-frame” to promote larger, limited-time events, such as one it ran Sunday to highlight its “10 Days of Deals” sale.

On Pinterest, the retailer is promoting its relationship with Instacart in a handful of markets. Target is presenting some consumers with buyable pins, which enable consumers to purchase products directly within a pin on the social network’s mobile app, on a handful of Thanksgiving recipes that appear in its Thanksgiving board. A shopper can then click through to add the ingredients to his Instacart.


And the retailer is seeking to drive shoppers to engage with the brand on Snapchat by rolling out a series of unique seasonal filters—including one for Thanksgiving Day and another for consumers waiting in line to do Black Friday shopping in a Target store. Target says it plans to roll out a customized geo-filter every day between Dec. 1 and Christmas to drive engagement with the brand.

McDuffe declined to share exact results from the campaign, but she says Target is “pleased” so far with consumers’ responses.

In addition to social media marketing efforts, Target has been aggressive in paid search advertising, according to the latest report by paid search measurement firm Adgooroo.

Target spent $1 million on 158 Black Friday-related keywords for U.S. Google desktop users between Sept. 27-Nov. 22, which significantly outpaced the competition, the report finds. Here’s a list of the top five Black Friday advertisers, with their total Black Friday-related ad spend, estimated click-through rate, estimated cost per click and number of keywords:


In addition to leading in ad spending, Target also led in terms of performance; it commanded 22.8% of Black Friday-related click share during the period examined. The next closest competitor, Inc., had a 10.6% click share.