Target ad campaign: everyday chic? Or wide of the mark?

Everyday products can, we’ve discovered, be repackaged and rehabilitated. Mash potato, regarded, only a decade ago, as a food made by mother for their children, is now a staple of upscale restaurants. Cup cakes — another embarrassing food not so long ago — has passed from unmentionable in chic society, through super-cool, into passe territory, with the rise of the more pretentious macaroon.

The current ad campaign by Target uses fashionista-type shots, clothes, models, etc., to showcase everything from washing detergent to packaged meat. The campaign, created in partnership with ad agency Mono, Minneapolis, will feature eight television ads, three radio ads, newspaper inserts, and short films that will be used as banner ads, throughout 2013.

Inappropriate? Model cowgirl in Target's diaper ad.

Inappropriate? Model cowgirl in Target’s diaper ad.

The campaign is a “spoof” on the fashionista lifestyle, while trying to appeal to the very people its spoofing. Target’s chief marketing officer Jeff Jones says the campaign “creates a foil for what people are used to seeing for grocery advertising. It combines the design ethos and fashion creditability that Target has with the idea that it also has great grocery items at a great price.” Meat, oatmeal, chips, kosher dill pickles, washing detergent, Oreo cookies, and multi-vitamins are just a few of those items being plugged by the chain store giant.

Oreo cookies are one of those items that can conjure up feelings of nostalgia. They’re a kind of cool, if slightly geeky, cooky. There might be something amusing about kosher dill pickles as well. But, Target runs the risk of nudging itself closer to Wallmart and away from its customer base — thirty something trendy individuals, who have commitments and limited time for shopping. In one ad, a model, wearing all white, waves a (white) cloth in imitation of a Matador. Instead of the live bull, though, packets of meat suddenly appear on the screen in place of the animal, forcing us to connect the meat to live animals — something that the packaging is intended to avoid. In another ad, a model with red hair and a cowboy hat is seen putting diapers on babies. Would you really wear white for either of these activities? No.

According to — not a site we’d normally associate with the brand —  “Since 2009, Target has remodeled more than 1,100 stores to its PFresh format and it includes a larger food selection, including meat and poultry products.” The meat and poultry aficianado website quotes Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Target, as saying, “The addition of a deeper food assortment gave us the opportunity to completely reinvent our general merchandise format, transforming categories throughout the store in a visually compelling environment.” This might be corporate headquarters talking, but it’s not exactly Target as we know it, or want it.

The ad campaign is visually compelling, but the products it’s selling — pickles and meat, and, ultimately, Target itself — is a bit anti-climactic. Economically, Target is expanding, and it will continue to grow. In terms of its image, that seems to be in decline.