Payless, the affordably priced shoe company, revealed an advertising campaign Wednesday that attempted to show the quality of its shoes by fooling fashion-savvy influencers at a fake posh store in Los Angeles.
The company took over a former Armani store and renamed it "Palessi." The fake store held a grand opening and invited social media fashion influencers to walk on a red carpet. Once inside, champagne was served, according to Palessi's Instagram profile.
Unbeknownst to the partygoers, the brightly lit store was stocked with $19.99 pumps and $39.99 boots, AdWeek reported. Some of the guests raved about the shoes and said they'd pay hundreds of dollars for a pair. The top offer was $640, which would be a 1,800 percent markup, the report said.
"They're elegant, sophisticated," one partygoer said.
"And I could tell it was made out of high-quality material," another said in the video that has more than 255,000 views as of Friday.
Palessi sold about $3,000 worth of product in the first few hours of the social experiment, according to AdWeek.
When it was revealed that the shoes were actually Payless shoes, partygoers were shocked.
"Are you serious?! ... Wait, did I just pay too much?" one said.
The shoe brand rang up the purchases, but influencers received their money back and got to keep their shoes, the report said.
Sarah Couch, Payless chief marketing officer, told AdWeek that the chain aimed to tackle the shoe brand's perception head-on, especially at a time of fierce competition from e-commerce sites.
“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” Couch said.
The ads will run on cable television networks and social media platforms through the holidays, according to the report.
Payless emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2017, after closing more than 670 stores, USA Today reported. It now has about 2,750 stores in North America and more than 3,500 worldwide, along with an online store, the report said.