Tuesday, August 30, 2016 4:14:15 PM

Halloween inspires marketers in a wide range of industries to get in the spooky spirit with themed ad campaigns that appeal to consumers during one of the most indulgent seasons of the year. Yet, Halloween ad spend largely fluctuates from year to year as marketers look for creative product tie-ins. Candy and costumes aren't the only products on consumer minds in October, so advertisers can put their budgets to good use by finding new ways to incorporate Halloween-themed messages and imagery.

Advertisers invested about $47 million on Halloween-themed campaigns in 2014, and unsurprisingly, retailers covering multiple product categories often take the lead in ad spend. Walmart shelled out the largest budget, spending $5 million between September 1 and October 26 and a total of 13.8 million by the end of the Halloween season. Holiday shopping offers substantial revenue for discount department stores, which motivate shoppers to get everything they need in one place by carrying major product categories, such as treats, cards, costumes, craft supplies and decorations.

Try Mixed Media for Spooktacular Advertising

For other industries, the distribution of advertising dollars should be tailored to the product and consumer audience. An unexpected trend emerged in 2014 as advertisers diversified their budgets more than ever. At $32 million, TV-based ad spend decreased by 25 percent from the previous year, while advertisers increased spending on local radio and magazine advertisements by 31 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Choosing the right media often depends on how early advertisers launch their campaigns. In 2015, an estimated 157 million Americans celebrated Halloween, collectively spending about $6.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. About 32 percent of consumers planned to shop in September or earlier, 43 percent planned to wait until the first two weeks of October and 25 percent hit the stores in the last two weeks of October. Magazines are ideal for early advertisers who hope to influence shopping decisions before consumers plan their holiday purchases, while radio and TV spots offer immediacy when running multiple or wide-scale promotions throughout the season.

Think Outside the Box for Creative Product Tie-Ins

Research has shown that the Halloween season increases indulgent spending even among consumers who don't celebrate the holiday, providing countless opportunities for advertisers to leverage seasonal promotions. Both the 2014 and 2015 seasons proved brands don't need an obvious connection to Halloween to launch effective campaigns. JC Penney advertised a "Monster Sale" in 2014 to generate interest in everyday inventory. Similarly, PetSmart was a leading ad spender in 2015, marketing its pet costumes and accessories to animal lovers who want to include their companions in their celebrations.

In food industries, brands typically created themed versions of staple product offerings, such as the green, monster-themed Lunchables meal or the Burger King Halloween Whopper on a black bun. However, Subway remained true to its health-conscious branding in a season driven by indulgence. The food franchise launched a TV ad campaign encouraging diners to eat healthy and stay in shape to wear their favorite figure-flattering costumes.

Spend More When It Makes Sense

Interestingly, major brands have dropped in and out of the Halloween race from year to year. While Walmart was the forerunner in the 2014 campaign season, the multinational corporation only spent approximately $197,000 on Halloween advertising between September 1 and October 23 of 2015. In contrast, Burger King sat out of the 2014 season, but spent more than $7.5 million on advertising during the 2015 black Whopper campaign.

The trend suggests that brands conserve advertising budgets when they don't have a clear Halloween-themed message or product launch to rally behind. Strong campaigns emphasize savings, novelty, limited availability or lifestyle benefits, and expensive advertising isn't worthwhile if the marketing message doesn't contain any of these incentives.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from a flexible spending model, devoting more advertising dollars to campaigns with high revenue potential. Otherwise, it may be more effective to focus on sustaining repeat business from core audiences by broadly focusing ad campaigns on the combined fall and winter shopping seasons. For help choosing the best media, layout and timeline for your holiday ads, contact the LA Times today.

Categories: Marketing Tips, Marketing Trends

Tags: marketing tips, trends, advertising