The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

JCPenney Holiday GiftBot

Audience Honor in Innovative Media Buying Strategy


The holidays are overwhelming enough without the added stress and confusion over finding the perfect gift. Way too many options create the phenomenon of “gifting paralysis” making it nearly impossible to choose what’s best. JCPenney, one of the nation’s largest retailers, recognized this customer pain point and created a solution to help their audience make their holiday shopping experience as personalized, easy and merry as can be. 

Born out of this customer insight, the JCP GiftBot leveraged cutting-edge technology to create the ultimate holiday gift-giving companion on the largest social media provider of them all, Meta. Using the power of Merkle’s innovative end-to-end Intelligent Messaging technology, our team created a way for shoppers to generate personalized gift recommendations for their friends and loved ones based on product rating, interest, price and more. The program leveraged both Facebook and Instagram click-to-message advertising solutions to generate 1:1 conversations and also utilized push notifications to highlight key holiday sale moments, a first amongst Meta’s retail partners. 

The program successfully achieved the ultimate goal of providing utility, easy-to-use tech and even a little fun in our customer’s shopping experience, courtesy of JCPenney, as well as exceeding benchmarks on several key metrics. 

Strategy and Execution

Using a data-driven approach to audience development, the team leveraged powerful consumer insights to determine high interest categories and products to help generate maximum revenue during the all-important holiday season.  

The team utilized a custom “Now, Near, Next” roadmap to connect with JCPenney’s target audience: America’s diverse working families. The approach seamlessly integrated paid media and CRM by being one of a handful of advertisers outside of the entertainment vertical to run both Click-to-Messenger (CTM) and Click-to-Instagram Direct (CTD) campaigns alongside “Opt-in for marketing” messaging to drive valuable first-party data collection for future CRM activities. This effort gave the brand the ability to send recurring notifications and subsequent holiday messaging as well as customized offers available only to JCP GiftBot users. Live links in the GiftBot experience sent customers to specific categories (jewelry, home goods, clothing, etc.) as well as the JCPenney offers page to avoid duplication. 

In addition to tight timelines and consumer response team obstacles, being first to market came with its own set of challenges including integration learning opportunities, and quick test, learn, optimize approaches to enable the best consumer experience possible.  


All retailers want to “win the holidays”. Very few put the customer experience at the heart of their strategy and execution like JCPenney. The campaign focused on offering their audience a solution to a significant pain point when it comes to holiday shopping, thereby acquiring their next best customer as well as driving efficient conversions. Deploying first-to-market technology, an audience-first approach and a mix of paid media & CRM activities allowed JCPenney to bridge the gap between the physical and digital world by bringing the store associate to life on a digital platform. In a relatively short campaign timeframe, the campaign saw incredible results tied to JCP's goals: 


Video for JCPenney Holiday GiftBot

Entrant Company / Organization Name

dentsu X, JCPenney, Merkle, & Zeals, JCPenney


Entry Credits