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Palessi | Payless | DCX Growth Accelerator
Download Download JPG | 3677x2607px
Industry: Apparel, Clothing & Footwear
Style: Minimalism
Why is this work relevant for Media?

This campaign became a global earned media sensation. The campaign went viral and led to an onslaught of national and international media coverage totaling over 8.8 Billion total international earned media impressions (excluding TV buy which began Dec 5th). That Adweek story became the most read article on the publication in all of 2018.


As a budget shoe retailer from Middle America, Payless had been stigmatized by fashion influencers as a low-quality and fashion-backward place to shop. Its going in and out of bankruptcy in 2017 added to this stigma. However, Payless had added a variety of fashion-forward shoes to its portfolio, and wanted to announce that the store was a great place to shop for high quality yet affordable high fashions.

The Brief
From Thanksgiving through the Holiday Season, consumers are bombarded with tremendous amounts of advertising clutter. Payless’ holiday advertising has in the past gotten lost. This year, we want to advertise Payless’ Holiday and Winter shoes in a way that breaks through in this extremely cluttered media environment.

Increase awareness of Payless during the holiday season
Communicate value-for-money proposition of Payless’ new shoe portfolio
Create social media buzz

Describe the creative idea/insights (30% of vote)

We opened a fake luxury store in LA, called it Palessi, and filled it with Payless shoes marked up by 1800%. We then invited fashionista influencers to an exclusive launch part and asked them question about the brand, planning to use their responses as footage in what ultimately became the commercial.

Socio-cultural insights drove this campaign. We had three socio-cultural hypotheses that proved correct and generated significant media coverage.

1. The Supreme Influence of Brand Cues. Branding cues alter perceptions of a product’s value, but nobody had ever tested price irrationality to this extreme. We hypothesized that even experts can be influenced to pay price mark-ups of over 1800%.

2. Influencers as Cultural Flashpoint. We hypothesized that public interest in Influencer culture was approaching a tipping point: Mainstream consumers were increasingly surrounded by Influencers, trying to make sense of this, and yet no major

Describe the strategy (20% of vote)

Target Audience.
The consumer target consisted of pragmatic, mainstream, budget-conscious shoppers who share a taste for the latest fashions but also a no-bullshit ethos. The influencer target consisted of professional Influencers. We recognized that influencers would have a propensity to share a story that made fun of their own profession.

Media Planning/Creation and Distribution of Assets.
We created various videos that told the story of the event. While we launched the asset on both TV ad Digital, we also conducted extensive outreach to media outlets.

As we interviewed Payless shoppers, we uncovered a backlash sentiment toward elite influencers. As one consumer put it, “Influencers represent all that is wrong in America today.” We hypothesized that public interest in Influencer culture was approaching a tipping point: Mainstream consumers were increasingly surrounded by Influencers, trying to make sense of this, and yet no major Influencer news story had emerged.

Describe the execution (20% of vote)

Influencer Event
10/28 - We hosted an opening party for Palessi. Typical of influencer events, we recruited through social media, and used video to capture testimonials about the quality of the products and the “attitude” of the brand. The difference was that the event was “fake,” and the shoes were from Payless. We created videos of influencers endorsing the shoes.

Influencer Pubs
11/21 - We followed the unusual strategy of seeding the story to the group that we were making fun of: Fashion Influencers. With a provocative press release, we targeted influencer trades, encouraging them to post stories to their social channels so that influencers could easily share. Adweek’s posting became its most shared story of 2018.

Earned Media Placement & Scale
11/28 - Avoiding ‘pay to play,’ we used an earned media approach, seeding influencer video testimonials to mass-market news outlets, TV shows, fashion publications, and social

List the results (30% of vote)

Conversation spilled into popular culture globally:
8.8 billion total global earned media impressions (excluding TV/digital buy which began Dec 5th)
Spread globally to 49+ countries
Featured in 1,641+ broadcast shows across the U.S. alone
Feature segments in Good Morning America, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Steve Harvey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Real and MSNBC
Forbes: “Brilliant Palessi Stunt”
USA Today: “Genius marketing”
The Washington Post: “The Prank of the Century”
Maxim: “Don Draper-Level Brilliant Marketing”
1.5 billion+ impressions across Facebook & Twitter, spreading broadly through fashion, finance, hip hop and even sports.
Questlove: “Champion Trolling”
Barstool Sports: “Take a freaking bow, Payless. It actually makes me want to go shopping at Payless because of how they dunked so hard on “influencers”
23% increase in Unaided Awareness
42% increase in Brand Consideration
46% increase in “Brand is Better Value”
Production Company:
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019
Silver Media
Use of Stunts
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019
Shortlist Brand Experience & Activation
Breakthrough on a Budget
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