Abercrombie, Once Averse to Ads, Touts Hollister on Web Series

(Bloomberg) -- Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which once eschewed advertising and counted on its ’90s cool to sell clothes, is stepping up marketing in a bid to win back teens.

The company debuted its first television commercial in more than a decade last year for its namesake Abercrombie brand, and now is rolling out a new, original web series for Hollister to attract potential shoppers with entertainment.

Abercrombie, Once Averse to Ads, Touts Hollister on Web Series

The retailer is launching “The Carpe Life” on AwesomenessTV’s YouTube channel Wednesday. The 12-episode reality show, tied into Hollister’s Carpe Now ad campaign and hosted by influencer Hunter March, will air monthly with other social-media personalities appearing throughout the season.

“This isn’t meant to just be something that pushes product,” Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Marketing Officer Will Smith said in an interview. “We’re not just interested in transactions, we’re really interested in developing the connection to the brand.”

It’s all part of efforts to drive sales at Hollister, which is now fueling Abercrombie’s turnaround. The California-themed chain, started in 2000, is expected to generate a fourth straight quarter of positive same-store sales when the company reports results March 7.

The first episode of “The Carpe Life,” featuring social-media celebrities the Funk Bros and their girlfriends, is frenetic and fast-paced. The host puts the teens through a series of activities -- from jumping into a trampoline-turned-ball-pit to racing downhill on drift tricycles -- documented with GoPro cameras and selfie sticks.

Second Series

The project is Hollister’s second foray into original digital video, and Smith declined to say how much it cost. Last year, the chain teamed up with AwesomenessTV to produce “This Is Summer,” a 24-episode reality show. It drew 16.3 million views on YouTube across its season, as well as 4.4 million social engagements.

“Gen Z comes to AwesomenessTV every day in the way that I used to go to MTV,” said Harley Block, senior vice president of brand partnerships at Awesomeness. “They’re open to being communicated to in partnership with a brand.”

Branded content online isn’t new for apparel companies. In 2016, Nike Inc. launched a branded original series on YouTube called “Margot vs. Lily” to inspire customers to work out, preferably in pictured outfits.

So far, Abercrombie has seen some traction. The retailer said last month it expects same-store sales to grow in the high single digits, up from a previous projection in the low single digits.

“The power of this as a medium is really big, and we only see that getting bigger,” Abercrombie’s Smith said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.