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From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Old Navy - When a Store’s Doors Close, a Window to Digital Commerce Opens

Entered in Retail & E-Commerce

About this entry

In March 2020, brick and mortar retailers faced an enormous challenge. Entire cities were rapidly shutting down in response to a global pandemic with no end in sight, and government officials were ordering nonessential businesses to close their doors. Almost immediately, the  risk was quite real for all retailers, who had to quickly evolve. Old Navy took immediate steps to adapt with omnichannel strategies and quick maneuvers to appeal to pandemic-stricken consumers and accelerate its business toward the future.

Faced with an unprecedented level of uncertainty across all aspects of American life — health, economy, family, politics — Old Navy and digital partner PMG had to scrap their original plans for 2020 and adapt an agile approach to marketing in a pandemic.

When Old Navy’s stores throughout the U.S. and Canada began shutting down due to health orders, digital became the quickest avenue to recovering lost physical retail demand. PMG had to develop a flexible omnichannel plan to reach at-home shoppers, while accounting for new expectations around safety and regional differences in pandemic response. In addition, we took on the ambitious launch of Old Navy’s newest product line — face masks — rapidly developing and launching a full-funnel plan to bring the new product to market. 

Why does this entry deserve to win?

We reconfigured our marketing intelligence technology to enable dynamic adjustments around investment, targeting and placement, ensuring brand safety at every step. We also put plans in motion to strengthen Old Navy’s market position through new customer acquisition and by bolstering competitive share, while investing in innovative placements that drove efficiency and scale as many advertisers were pulling back from the ad marketplace.

Tossing out our original 2020 media plan and forecast, PMG worked closely with Old Navy to conduct incremental forecasting exercises to ensure every digital dollar spent would drive revenue that otherwise would not have been realized due to the loss of physical retail and new expectations around seasonal retail events. During this phase, PMG scaled the budget frequently and significantly — each time, with the goal of adding incremental revenue while maintaining profitability goals.

Then, as shelter-in-place orders began to lift and Old Navy’s stores began to reopen, we developed a drive-to-store that covered more than 1,000 stores in North America and nimbly adjusted location targeting tactics on an opening by opening basis. We focused on messaging that communicated a safe and healthy shopping experience for customers and the availability of curbside pickup. 

Partnering with Google, Facebook and Instagram, as well as partners that enabled hyper-local targeting — Waze, Nextdoor and Gimbal  — we layered together first-party customer data with location and prospecting data, to connect Old Navy with the right shoppers, in the right places at the right times. Map interstitials and strategic ad placements invited consumers back at moments when they would be most open to returning to its stores.

Our fluid full-funnel media plan for Old Navy face masks was developed and launched in just 30 days, accounting for evolving platform policies around advertising personal protection equipment (PPE). The plan was comprehensive, combining SEM, paid social, influencer, affiliates, programmatic, podcasts, digital OOH, PR amplification and newsletter sponsorships to drive awareness, engagement and transactions — delivering 1.6 billion impressions via more than 180 dynamic creative executions.

Videos and social ads depicting adults and children in Old Navy’s face mask designs ran across TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snap. We also engaged influencer amplification, and worked with Bidtellect to amplify press hits, achieving thoughtful alignment of fashion and COVID-19 content. The media plan also drove brand awareness through publisher partnerships with theSkimm, PureWow and Popsugar; podcast opportunities with Mom Brain, iHeartRadio, and Spotify; and video distribution through Roku, Amazon FireTV, YouTube and Xandr, as well as drove foot traffic via a wide array of digital OOH touchpoints geofenced near Old Navy locations. By engaging with audiences in relevant locations and contexts, Old Navy was able to go to market quickly and serve a critical consumer need.


Old Navy saw massive growth in online sales (up 136%, according to Gap Inc.’s Q2 earnings report) and its strongest early fall sales in a decade, making up for projected losses in physical retail and back-to-school sales. In the earnings report, Gap Inc. called out Old Navy’s “compelling and relevant digital marketing investment” and also noted the success of the drive-to-store efforts — which drove nearly 3 million store visits — saying that they “continue to be an advantage.”

"For all that is going on in the world, for the last few months... you all have been incredible partners." - Old Navy’s Director of Content Marketing


Entrant Company / Organization Name

PMG, Old Navy