Every year, big brands are keen to maximise their marketing budget, investing huge sums of money into their Christmas advertising campaigns. It has almost become a competition to see who will make the most popular Christmas advert.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Gifting (guaranteed new socks), pigs-in-blankets, tinsel, the office Secret Santa, German markets, Brussel sprouts (some people like them) and of course – the turkey.

Our Account Director doesn’t believe it’s Christmas until you see the famous Coca-Cola truck and you can read his blog here, but for me, it’s not Christmas until the John Lewis advert airs on our screens. Maybe it’s the slight age difference, but it’s this very debate that evokes emotion around the festive period and the competition amongst brands is getting fiercer, each vying for our attention.

If you have been living under a rock and haven’t seen
the John Lewis Advert this year, the story follows a young boy called Joe who is kept awake by a seven-foot imaginary monster called Moz who lives under his bed. The two form a friendship and play together every evening, but staying awake through the night starts to take its toll on Joe, who can hardly keep his eyes open during the day. For Christmas, Joe receives the gift of a night light which helps him sleep – but this does mean Moz disappears. The background music is another cover a John Lewis trademark tactic which has been tried and tested over the years; Elbow covers Golden Slumbers originally written by The Beatles.

Christmas provides a golden opportunity for lots of business’, especially those specifically in retail and the knock-on effects of their campaign success go way beyond the seven-week run up to Christmas.

In my opinion, John Lewis idea (like most years) was to show that giving presents is much more enjoyable than receiving them, so shop in their stores. However it didn’t connect with me as their previous ads have done so successfully like Buster the Boxer or Man on the Moon did. It’s tough when expectations are so high. So overall I’d say it’s good but not great. There’s definitely room to improve in 2018 and to bring a more Christmassy scene back to the advert rather than it being all about the presents – I’d go way back to the Snowman, the essence was the same but the delivery was so much more powerful. First mistake for me is covering a Beatles track; I’m not saying there should be a law against that but…

Will it still work?

I believe so. Christmas provides a golden opportunity for lots of business’, especially those specifically in retail and the knock-on effects of their campaign success go way beyond the seven-week run up to Christmas. The success of their Christmas activity can have both short-term and long-term effects in terms of showing an increase in sales and profits. The more popularity and buzz generated by an advert, the longer the impact it has on the brand. For example, John Lewis estimates that since 2012, its sales have increased by more than 35% thanks to the success of their Christmas advertising.

What are competitors doing?

Most big brands have almost been forced into making a Christmas advert to keep up with the popularity of John Lewis. I’ve looked at the two other adverts to form a more balanced view, these are the best and the worst of the adverts in my opinion that I have seen this year;

Sainsbury’s “Every Bit of Christmas”. I was looking forward to this one more than the John Lewis advert this year if I’m honest, with the success of the previous year’s ads with the World War truce homage being one of the nation’s favourites. However, I was disappointed after watching it. From my understanding, Sainsbury’s were trying to bring this a bit closer to home with a song about the small things that the majority of British families go through around the Christmas period and I can understand the reason why people would like it as it is relatable. In essence, it’s a nice idea but I don’t really connect with the delivery as much, what it delivers in tradition it lacks in magic. In spite of this, I was expecting an advert that would make me feel almost emotionally attached to a character with a happy ending, which is a tried and tested formula for Sainsbury’s and other big brand Christmas adverts. Christmas is a lot about tradition, but its also about storytelling.

Debenhams “You Shall”. This is the surprise package this year. Not well known for their Christmas adverts, Debenhams have pulled out, what I think is the stand out festive advert full of the magic I believe the Sainsbury’s advert lacked. Cinderella gets a modern day makeover as the classic story takes a twist as the infamous glass shoe has started trending using the hashtag #FindMyShoe. It ticks all the boxes and utilises Social Media perfectly to be a great Christmas advert and to top it off it is narrated by Ewan McGregor which is a great sign, as I can’t think of anything bad that he’s been in?

Not that it hasn’t always been an important time for brands to concentrate on their marketing activity, especially as business’ have always tried to encourage shoppers to buy more for Christmas but I feel like it has undoubtedly become the UK’s biggest marketing event of the year for different reasons. Thanks to John Lewis, brands are now trying to tell stories rather than pushing product or deals. After all, Black Friday now deals with the deal-crazy consumer but the Christmas campaign now has a more emotional connection, which undoubtable has a more lasting effect. Sadly for John Lewis, this year their competitors have figured out how to pull off their trick better than they have. I wonder how they’ll bounce back next year?

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Seasons Greetings – My Favourite Festive Ad’s in 2017

Written By Adam Burrage
Managing Partner at Trident

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