From TikTok to TV: How to Be Truly Social-First

Old Navy’s TikTok-created TV spot featuring Christine Andrews and family

We’ve been preaching to be social-first in campaign planning for the last several years, but brands rarely listen. Sure, most brands have devoted healthy budgets to social and influencers as part of integrated multi-channel campaigns or as standalone initiatives, but it’s rare to see a truly social-first fully integrated campaign.

Until now. You’ve probably seen Old Navy ads all over the most popular social platforms over the last several years, particularly during key retail moments around Back to School and Holiday. Their traditional target is a middle-American female head of household hovering around 45 years old, which is most efficiently and frequently reached through good, old-fashioned GRPs. The brand’s social efforts have largely been focused on Millennializing themselves and more recently, endearing themselves to the burgeoning buying power of Gen Z. The new spring fashion campaign focusing on fleece items is the epitome of “social-first,” utilizing a TikTok format created by an influencer (Christine Andrew) as — wait for it — A TV AD.

Yes, a real TV ad, running a vertical asset on cable and network. If you’re a cord cutter you probably would’ve missed this, but it’s revolutionary. Old Navy is somewhat known for doubling down on big, creative agency-driven ad campaigns (remember when Amy Poehler was their spokesperson?), but the brand is also a Beta partner for many new social ad products. So while this isn’t particularly surprising from the brand, this shift to being truly social-first without big resources being used to grab attention signals a dynamic shift in how we will view integrated campaigns in the future. The best part is their agency planned the campaign this way. Often, we look at social as the pinch-hitter when the dollars aren’t there for a fully integrated campaign, but that need not be the only use case.

TikTok has been preaching to let creators lead, and this feels like the best example of this outside of the famed AE x Addison Rae partnership built for the platform. This takes that advice and applies it to creative strategy outside of social, which I think we can all take queues from. If nothing else, this proves that social ideas can live well in traditional ad settings when planned with intention, and that it’s much easier to repurpose social ads for traditional formats than the other way around.

Lippe Taylor is New York’s most iconic digital pr and marketing agency.