This year I make peace with the early advertising. And next year, if I see a good present in September, I’m going to buy it for that special loved one. It may not only make for a less harried holiday season, but a smoother and more efficient economy too.
Thanksgiving is not yet here and I’m already thinking of Christmas. And I’m Jewish. How does that work? The term in the industry is “Christmas creep,” which simply means that holiday advertising occurs earlier and earlier each year. Knowing that consumers have negative feelings towards this early onslaught, savvy advertisers have begun to use “meta-marketing” tactics (ads about ads) to weasel their way into our brains as early as September. Take for example Kmart’s “This is not a Christmas Commercial” which appeared soon after Labor Day this year.
I like to blame evil corporations as much as the next guy, but a little research sheds light on our complicity in this trend. A Holiday Shopper’s Intentions Survey commissioned by Google finds that “more than half of consumers surveyed said they’ll start their [consumer] research before Thanksgiving,” and the National Retail Federation reports that 40% of Americans begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.
Anti-materialist sentiments aside, is this a trend worth resisting or could there be a benefit to extending the holiday shopping season? Some economists point out that reliance on year-end sales makes for a more turbulent economy with lots of wasteful spending. In his paper The Deadweight Loss of Christmas, economist Joel Waldfogel asserts that one-third of the items purchased for others are not wanted, and that money or gift cards are (big surprise here) the most efficient form of gift giving. While this certainly helps explain my attic, it also takes the gift out of the giving.