This year UK retailers are looking to spend £5.6bn on advertising in the run-up to Christmas, with TV forming the centrepiece for the big brands. With only four weeks to go until Christmas, we’ve had plenty of time to watch and analyse this year’s offerings. From the much-anticipated John Lewis advert to big budget Burberry epic, we take a look at the best and the worst of this year’s Christmas adverts and decide who takes the crown for best Christmas advert 2016.
Each advert is scored based on two key components.
The first is festive spirit, ranked out of five candy canes. As the name suggests this score is for how Christmassy we think the ad is. The ads that scream Christmas and fill us with that warm and fuzzy festive feeling will get the best marks in this category. Bonus points go to those who have tried to break away from the clichés without losing any Christmas charm.
The second score is the marketing score, ranked out of five gold stars. This score is more of a general mark for how good we think the advert is, with a focus on the marketing message. Brands that have a powerful marketing message and make use of their advert to show off their products, services or brand image while remaining fun and festive will get top marks.
John Lewis has focused on smiles rather than tears this year with their Buster the Boxer campaign. It has been suggested that the nation has become overly familiar with and, dare we say it, tired of their Christmas ads in recent years. Whatever the case we appreciate the change, and who doesn’t want to see a collection of animals bouncing on a trampoline?
Unfortunately, they slightly skip the Christmas day anticipation and miss capturing that strong feel good festive feeling seen in previous years. The overall appeal and their marketing message do better thanks to the ads humour and their ‘gifts that everyone will love’ slogan at the end.
As well as some interesting virtual reality displays in selected stores, John Lewis has taken Buster online with a full landing page experience. Users can view the ad, shop for related products such as stuffed animals and Buster pyjamas, and read about their partnership with Wildlife Trusts. You can even download the soundtrack on the ad from iTunes. This year Buster doesn’t have his own social media accounts, but their #BusterTheBoxer hashtag is going strong.
Marks & Spencer
This year Marks & Spencer get top marks for their festive spirit with families coming together and Santa saving the day. They also get extra points for trying to do something a bit different with a stylish Mrs Claus, plenty of modern gadgets and a touch of humour as well.
While their ‘Christmas with love’ message isn’t the most imaginative, they make the most of their 3 minute slot with plenty of stylish clothing while still focusing on telling their Christmas story. We also like the use of a female protagonist to relate to their target market. You get the impression that the advert is just one component in the type of seamless multichannel campaign that is only possible with a good and honest idea.
A look at their online offerings confirms this with their dedicated Mrs Claus landing page, which makes the most of shop-the-look ecommerce techniques. Users can watch the ad, read an ‘interview’ with Mrs Claus, shop her wardrobe from the advert and shop for the perfect gift with her help.
The TK Maxx advert is a completely different kind of festive and hits all the right notes. The traditional Christmas pastime of carol singing with the family is given a hilarious makeover, making it both silly and festive. It’s not all laughs, though; they still manage to slip in their highly relevant message ‘surprising gifts at surprising prices’.
Their online offering of a basic landing page where customers can then shop for gifts for him, her and kids isn’t as memorable, but is well suited to the simplicity of their TV ad.
ASDA shows off its festive spirit with their main advert showing some of the things that make Christmas. From the dreaded and loved tradition of Christmas jumpers to the cliche of a full house and dinner table. While the ad is definitely fun and festive, ASDA didn’t exactly break any moulds with this one.
Unfortunately, apart from a predictable Facebook competition based on what people like to do because it’s Christmas, their digital marketing leaves a little to be desired. One big plus for this ad is the break up of the traditional Christmas activities that correspond to their Christmas categories. This also makes the ad perfect to break up into different shorts, leaving less opportunity for people to get tired of seeing the same old ad. They have their general Christmas landing page and they address a range of their adverts, such as the never-ending table, which helps to nicely break up their Christmas categories.
Burberry offers arguably the least festive out of all the ads. There is an uplifting storytelling feeling many of us associate with Christmas, but nothing specifically Christmassy. Well, the Burberry children are shown opening presents for half a second towards the end, but had this ad been shown in February we doubt anyone would have noticed.
The ad itself offers a star-studded cast and the history of Burberry in what most people have likened to a movie trailer. Aside from just being an interesting story, albeit with some fictional characters, the Burberry advert is a good brand identity piece. A captivating story and plenty of smart tailoring throughout convey exactly what kind of brand Burberry is. Their dedicated landing page continues where the TV ad finishes with more about Thomas Burberry, some behind the scenes information and a shop-the-look at the end.
Waitrose’s sweet TV ad about one robin’s epic journey home is just festive enough without falling back on old Christmas clichés. Their ‘home for Christmas’ message is clearly illustrated and the traditional wholesome tone of the ad is a perfect fit for Waitrose’s brand as well as being relatable for many. Points off just for being a little subdued and not as memorable as some of the other ads this year; there has already been plenty of comparison with John Lewis’ snowman advert a few years ago.
That being said, their complimentary online landing page does enough to make up for this. This includes a link to purchase a supporting book of the robin’s story by famous author Michael Morpurgo. There’s also robin branded products, an online game, an activities pack download and some other related content such as teacher support documents for classroom study.
Unsurprisingly the Aldi Christmas advert opts for a touch of dark humour to set it apart yet again from the other supermarkets. With a lyrical narration and flying Santa, all in animation, there’s plenty of festive spirit to be seen. It’s the first attempt at the popular storytelling format and the #KevinTheCarrot hashtag has so far proved popular. For all their digs at John Lewis, it seems they’re actually taking a leaf out of their book, albeit with their own twist.
Points off because this year feels decidedly less different than we’d expect from the black sheep of the supermarkets. You get the impression they could have done a bit more: more dark humour, more Christmas-with-a-twist and more of a message. There are hints from Kevin the Carrot himself via his dedicated twitter account that there could more adventures to come, so maybe we haven’t heard the last of Kevin.
Argos’ yeti advert aims for something a bit more different and fun with a bunch of multi-coloured yeti’s speeding around on ice. Granted, there is plenty of snow and it doesn’t fall back on any clichés, but generally we think Argos could have packed in a bit more Christmas with this one. Viewers will, however, appreciate the quirky style, without a tear-jerking scene in sight. It also means they can really highlight the star of the show, their same day delivery service, and is nicely complemented with their #justcantwait hashtag.
Argos doesn’t offer any ground-breaking online marketing aside from their Christmas landing page where customers can shop for gifts by category and view the ad. There are some competitions running on their social media giving people the chance to win a gift and have it delivered the same evening, packed of course by a yeti.
Toys R Us
This year we’re pretty unimpressed with Toys R Us. Technically, there are plenty of festive activities packed into this ad including carol singers, Christmas jumpers and a cute kid by a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, points off for pulling out all the Christmas clichés and not even trying to do something a bit more imaginative. While their trademark theme tune and classic storefront shot may be on brand, this advert definitely isn’t pushing any boundaries. Overall, pretty unmemorable.
Unsurprisingly, the lack of creativity leaves little to work with and Toys R Us has no specific landing page or social media for their campaign. You could argue that since it’s Christmas, toys are always in demand, so why bother? Let’s hope for their sake this is true.
Morrison’s show off their festive spirit with this advert. We see the typical run up to Christmas activities, plus a touch of humour. Their ‘Morrison’s makes it’ slogan does a good job of tying up the ad and all their Christmas offerings, but overall we have taken points off for lack of imagination and creativity. Wholesome is good, boring is bad.
As far as online offerings go, their Christmas landing page features their Christmas ad and recipe ideas and their social media has been used to promote a competition with a Trivial Pursuit prize, but not much else.
Tesco is easily the worst of the supermarket Christmas ads this year. Apart from the fact they haven’t progressed much since last year’s Christmas campaign, the inner monologue shopping list format is more than a little boring. They score some points for being technically festive but lose some for an extreme lack of creativity. As for marketing, we’ve only given points for the ‘bring it on’ slogan which could have been great with a punchier advert.
Online, their Christmas page features a lot more content than Morrison’s and looks beyond just food or gifts, but their TV advert is nowhere in sight and it hasn’t inspired any interesting digital marketing as of yet.
Sainsbury’s aims for plenty of festive fun and humour with their animated offering, making a show of all the little problems in the run up to Christmas before giving their Christmas punch line ‘Christmas is for sharing’. Using light-hearted humour to address the problems many face over the holiday makes this ad relatable with a sweet but serious point about spending time with family. For packing in most of the emotions we associate with Christmas, we’ve given them top marks.
Overall, the ad is good but it’s definitely a bit of a change for Sainsbury’s, and because of that you could argue what it really says about the brand. The ad is titled ‘the perfect gift’ when you’d really expect them to be focusing on their food over the holidays. Still, we appreciate the message, and maybe this is the start of something new for Sainsbury’s.
Like many of the supermarkets, you can watch the ad on their Christmas page. They also offer highlights of their Christmas products as well as advice and recipes, although nothing specifically on their social media besides the usual profile pictures.
This year we’ve had another broad range of Christmas ad styles, from upbeat to just plain silly. Some might even be relieved to see less heartstring pulling than we’ve seen in previous years, while others may be wondering if 2016 has really been a great year for Christmas ads.
We can’t say whether this year’s ads have been as successful as last year yet, but we can say declare our 2016 winner.
For all round festive cheer, a basic but catchy story and some pretty well thought out marketing, M&S is the winner of best Christmas ad 2016.
So do you agree, or do you think someone else deserves the crown for this year’s best Christmas ad?