Plano-based company says it’s ‘extremely proud’ to partner with DeGeneres after commercials premiere during Oscars
PLANO — The 84th annual Academy Awards served as J.C. Penney’s launching pad for its new “Fair and Square” ad campaign featuring gay talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Despite the upset from an anti-gay hate group after DeGeneres was named a company partner, a spokeswoman said Plano-based J.C. Penney is thrilled to have the lesbian comedian represent the company during its new branding.
“As we focus on being in sync with the rhythm of our customers’ lives and operating in a ‘Fair and Square’ manner that is rooted in integrity, simplicity and respect, we couldn’t think of a better partner than Ellen DeGeneres,” J.C. Penney spokeswoman Kate Coultas wrote in an email to Dallas Voice. “We are extremely proud to have her on our team.”
J.C. Penney announced Jan. 25 that DeGeneres, who was a store associate in her teens, would be the company’s brand partner as part of the company’s brand transformation. Shortly after the announcement, One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the American Family Association, began a boycott of the store, demanding they fire DeGeneres because she is gay. The AFA is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families,” One Million Moms wrote on its website. “More sales will be lost than gained unless they replace their spokesperson quickly. Unless JC Penney decides to be neutral in the culture war then their brand transformation will be unsuccessful.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation responded with a “Stand Up for Ellen” petition that generated more than 24,000 signatures in a few days and a little more than a week after the initial announcement of the partnership, J.C. Penney refused to give in to the anti-gay hate group, announcing that it was keeping DeGeneres.
But One Millions Moms didn’t stop, releasing a message on the group’s Facebook page that read: “By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”
DeGeneres then addressed the statements on her talk show, pointing out that the group has only 40,000 followers on Facebook and explaining that she stands for traditional values.
“Here are the values I stand for: I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need,” she said. “To me those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.”
The audience of the Sunday, Feb. 26, awards show saw five commercials with DeGeneres in them highlighting the fact that company changes are on their way and addressing coupons, returns, pricing and sales.
“Fair and Square” is a new pricing strategy with three types of prices, the company outlines on its website. Regular prices are offered every day, month-long values are for items customers currently need and best prices, which are the lowest prices offered on the first and third Friday of every month as stores clear space for new merchandise.
The idea behind the new strategy is instead of “inundating the customer with a relentless series J.C. Penney will host 12 promotional events each year, on a monthly calendar,” according to the company’s website. “Each month will include even better values on the things customers are looking to buy during the month and a host of exciting products and services that are unique to the month.”
In the ads that premiered during the Oscars, DeGeneres is seen in a changing room with various people moving in and out of the rooms, with the tagline “stay tuned to see how things are changing.”
Another ad shows a current DeGeneres showing up to a sold out shoe sale at 8:20 a.m. Store associates tell her the shoes are gone because the sale began at 6 a.m. She then asks, “Has it always been this way?” before being transported back into a 1950s era family and asks if the sale is all day. The tagline that follows is “No door busting, just great prices all the time,” followed by the now iconic phrase “That’s fair and square.”
Additional ads show a modern day DeGeneres overwhelmed with dozens of coupons before wondering if there were always so many coupons and envisioning western times and coupons, sending the message that J.C. Penney customers can expect “no coupons, just great prices.”
Another shows the confusion of a Victorian Era DeGeneres as she asking a store clerk why prices are always followed by 99 instead of the nearest dollar, with the tagline “no games, just great prices.”
And the last commercial shows a Roman DeGeneres trying to return a toga without a receipt etched in stone, which tells customers that they can “return any item, any time.”
One Million Moms is now trying to force Toys ‘R’ Us to remove Archie comics from its stores because it features the marriage of a gay character.
Requests for comment from Toys ‘R’ Us and One Million Moms were not returned.
All of the Ellen ads can be watched on J.C. Penney’s channel at Youtube.com/user/jcpenney.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 2, 2012.