Retailers and consumers alike gear up every year for the infamous Black Friday deals that kick off the hottest part of holiday shopping. Historically, the day after Thanksgiving has marked the beginning of the holiday buying season, but now retailers like Macy’s and Target are opening their doors earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day! In fact, the Black Friday doorbusters aren’t the only thing arriving earlier this year.

Over the last ten years, Black Friday Internet ad leaks have been released weeks and now months before the sale. If you’re a competitive Black Friday bargain hunter, you may have encountered these ads before, but have you ever wondered where they all come from?

Ad leak mystery solved

Contrary to popular belief, most ad leaks aren’t intentionally released by retailers. Retailers put months and months worth of time and energy into their marketing strategies for the biggest shopping weekend of the year. They certainly wouldn’t want to waste all of that hard work in one fell swoop, by giving their competitors a clear savings benchmark to surpass. Aside from giving the competition a leg up, the ad leaks also encourage customers to postpone shopping until Black Friday, which certainly doesn’t help sales in the here and now.

Instead, many ad leaks make it online through anonymous sources. These sources often include, but aren’t limited to, employees with exclusive early access to hard copies of the ads. These retail employees photograph or scan copies of the ads, then post them online. Due to the variability of anonymous sources, there isn’t always a guarantee that the ad leak you see is legit.

Due to the impact of ad leaks on their marketing strategies in addition to the potential for major consumer misinformation, many retail stores have threatened ad leak promoters with lawsuits. In 2007, Walmart tried to curb online leaks by circulating a warning statement in advance of Black Friday. In 2012, over 30 Black Friday ads leaked out in the first week of November. This sparked some retailers to send out “cease and desist” letters and ask ad leak sites to remove the ads.

Although there are some clear disadvantages to early ad leaks, there are certainly some benefits. By releasing Black Friday ads, retailers feed into the Black Friday hysteria that sweeps the nation like clockwork. Retailers that recognize this benefit are controlling the otherwise messy ad leak situation by strategically releasing sneak peeks and ads by their own timetables. However, the best discounts are ultimately saved for the last moment. Retailers will surely continue to adapt their marketing and sales strategies until the last minute to reflect developing sales trends.

Retailers & social media

Whereas online ad leaks on webpages used to be the only source of Black Friday sales news, now social media is playing an ever-increasing role in sales promotion. This year, Macy’s and JC Penney have used Pinterest and Facebook to release their sales promotions. JC Penney let its Facebook fans know that they would be offering their popular collector’s snow globes instead of last year’s buttons. Along with a detailed press release, Macy’s offered Pinterest users a sneak peek at some of their Black Friday sale items.

Final Word

Holiday shopping has become as much a part of American traditions as pumpkin pie and football, so it’s clear to see why consumers want to prepare. No matter their source, ad leaks and the deals therein captivate millions of shoppers hoping to give all their loved ones the gifts they so greatly deserve. As ads continue to leak earlier and earlier each year, we’ll just have to wait and see how retail stores continue to adapt their marketing strategies.