When I sat down to watch last night’s episode of ABC’s Revenge, I was intrigued to discover that the entire episode was sponsored by Target. The hour-long episode featured five commercial breaks totaling about 10 minutes. However, unlike a traditional commercial break, the advertising shown was all for Target’s new Nieman Marcus holiday collection. Even more interesting is that no matter where fans watch the show – whether it’s on ABC.com, live on TV, or on Hulu – the exact same advertising will be shown.

Titled The Gift of Revenge, each short commercial break tells one part of a cohesive narrative. The clips are meant to encourage fans of the show to actually watch advertising rather than fast-forward through commercials like so many TV viewers have become accustomed to doing.

To ensure that the advertising segments would be appealing to fans, Target enlisted the help ofRevenge writers, set designers, and actors to create a seamless transition from show to advertisement. Being a fan of the show myself, I have to admit that I found Target’s advertising to be quite entertaining. I especially liked seeing my favorite characters modeling outfits that I could actually hope to afford.

In an interview with AdAge, Target’s chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones, acknowledged that though the strategy is experimental, he sees similar efforts “in which the ads surrounding a program are made to look just like it” appearing in the future.By telling a story and keeping it within the realm of the show that the viewers have chosen to watch, advertisers can keep their audience intrigued, and thus engaged.


The Revenge campaign also lends itself to a social media strategy. Viewers were encouraged to use the hashtag #GiftOfRevenge when discussing the show on Twitter, and there was a live Twitter discussion throughout the episode with one of the show’s actresses, Dilshad Vadsaria. On Facebook, discussion of the commercial has taken over both the Target Style and Revengepages. Based on a quick glance at the comments on both pages, it seems the commercials were received quite well by loyal fans of the show. Finally, the clips are available on YouTube along with some additional “secret” footage that wasn’t shown during the show.


Target’s initiative with this project reflects a growing distress among advertisers with regard to reaching an audience that tends to find ways to skip commercials. Creating a seamless transition from feature show to commercial seems to be one way to avoid this pitfall of traditional TV advertising. As inbound marketers, we talk a great deal about the ineffectiveness of “push” marketing and old-school advertising methods. However, a campaign that integrates television advertising, branded content, and online marketing certainly could reflect the future of digital advertising.

The advertising of the future is all about the concept of integration. No matter what type of advertising you choose, you need to think about it as a multi-faceted effort. It’s no longer possible to simply have a television or print advertisement. Every effort must be carefully crafted to reach the customer on a number of levels including online, social, and mobile platforms.

Particularly when it comes to television, advertising is getting skipped, so the key is to create content that is both entertaining and shareable. Target has certainly been experimental with their marketing tactics recently (especially in their campaign for the fall collection) and if this latest effort is any indication, the brand will continue to be an advertising innovator in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Revenge campaign, Jeff Jones speaks about Target’s rational behind it in this interview:2

1 Advertising Age, “Target Buys Out Ad Time in Sunday’s ‘Revenge’
2 Forbes, “Why Target Got Revenge”