‘Tis the season to be jolly! And ‘tis also the season to hit the stores and swipe that credit card! With Black Friday less than two weeks away holiday advertising is in full force. In this sea of promotions and sales, two types of ads buoy to the top: the humorous and the heartwarming. Does tickling the funny bone or tugging at the heartstrings offer a better bet for advertisers? Let’s take a look at two holiday offerings from Kmart and Kohl’s.

Kmart, “Show Your Joe”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PVhIMr4ScI

With over 5 million YouTube hits in four days, and a national debate underway, “Show Your Joe” clearly generates buzz for the brand. This type of humor bets that the buzz alone gets consumers in the door. And that the new traffic driven by edginess will more than make up for any losses from offended customers going across the street to Wal-Mart. But will it?

On the other side of the Christmas coin is this heart warmer from Kohl’s:

Kohl’s, “Holiday Surprise”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=driTzMkPxyA

With a mere 150K YouTube hits in the week since it launched, this ad isn’t the buzz-generating behemoth that Kmart has created, but it’s considerably less risky. Or is it?

Actually, “Holiday Surprise” is probably not as risky as “Show Your Joe.” No one is going to stop shopping at Kohl’s because they saw this ad. However, warming hearts doesn’t guarantee a home run for the advertiser. In this case, Kohl’s runs the risk of not getting credit for the warm-fuzzies.

At first blush, “Holiday Surprise” is a pretty typical holiday offering: a couple preparing for a first Christmas together or for a holiday party. Viewers need to make it through the end to get the “May you always do for others and let others do for you,” holiday message. The risk here is: does the ad keep viewers engaged through the final beat of the story? If it does, does the goodwill generated get attributed to Kohl’s? Kohl’s typically focuses on value in a retail environment. Does this shift to kindness at home fit the brand? Or could the ad be for any retailer?

Mitigating risk is where copy testing comes in. Copy testing “Show Your Joe” using the Ameritest system would show if the polarizing nature of the ad turns off Kmart’s target and/or turns on a new customer base. Ameritest would determine if “Holiday Surprise” engages viewers through the reveal, integrates the brand into the story, and if the good feelings it generates translate to goodwill towards Kohl’s.

Holiday humor and heartstrings in advertising each come with their own set of risks. The Ameritest system can help retailers determine if the risks are worth the rewards.