With UK holiday spending expected to reach £79 billion, it’s no surprise that Christmas ad spend looks set to increase again this year to a £6 billion record high. The big-budget epics now expected from industry leaders don’t come cheap but are becoming necessary for retailers to stand out over the holidays.
With just over four weeks to go until Christmas most of the major TV ads have already made their appearance. That means we’ve had plenty of time to take look at this year’s offering and declare a 2017 Christmas advert winner. Just like last year, it’s a mixed bag. Some retailers seem set on keeping to their own Christmas traditions while others have used their digital marketing to do something different.
We’re following last year’s scoring system and ranking each ad for festiveness and marketing. Their festive score is out of five candy canes and assesses that warm and fuzzy feeling we’re all looking for in a Christmas ad. We pay close attention to originality, and anyone that falls into the Christmas cliché trap will suffer the consequences.
The second score is for marketing and ranked out of five stars. Marketing covers how good their message is, whether the ad works to sell the message, the brand and their products, as well as any other digital campaign material. Consistent landing pages and creativity is a winner for this category.
It’s back. Released this year November 9th the John Lewis ad marked the start of the Christmas season once again. Buster the Boxer steps aside for Moz the Monster, a fun Christmas mascot causing midnight mischief and some sleepless nights for his friend. Cute, Christmassy and generally festive. We also like the return of the more personalised gift choice that was missing slightly with last year’s ‘gifts everyone will love’ theme. We can’t give full points because it’s pretty standard for the department store, especially when you look back at some of their previous campaigns like Monty the Penguin.
Where we think John Lewis really stands out this year is their other campaign content. As always, their landing page has been beautifully created, but this year it’s more interactive than ever with a clear focus on the kids. You can create and play with your own monster, and even take a selfie with it once you’re done. Adults can head over to their gifts and home inspiration, and there’s sure to be some Moz the Monster toys on the horizon.
Marks & Spencer
We gave M&S top festive marks last year and we think they’ve delivered yet again. You can’t get much more festive than Paddington and the movie couldn’t have chosen a better brand to team up with. The ad manages to be both light-hearted and also poignant, with Paddington unwittingly turning a common Christmas thief into an unlikely Santa Claus. Their campaign line ‘Spend it Well’ tops it off perfectly and sums up what Christmas should be about.
The complementary landing page covers all things Paddington with a children’s book to raise funds for the NSPCC, a whole collection of Paddington inspired toys and gifts, and a chance to shop the superhero dress from the advert. Plenty to shop but not quite as immersive as their Mrs Clause content from last year.
A little bit weird and quirky, TK Maxx delivers everything we have come to expect and love from the department store. The advert is as festive as TK Maxx ever dares to be, and this year they’ve taken a step away from the perfect gift message to deliver us something else: snow. They are bringing a white Christmas straight to your door as part of their campaign promotion, and what could be more Christmassy than that?
As well as being more imaginative than the usual Christmas promotion, delivering snow is sure to get everyone interacting with the brand over the holidays. From their landing page, you can shake the snowglobe to try and win the white Christmas, with the option to shop each gift that shows up in the meantime. Plus, the whole thing ties in perfectly with their overall marketing message and, more importantly, their brand image.
ASDA create their own Imaginarium in this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired ad. From a reindeer-powered Christmas pudding mixer to tiny canape making elves, this ad takes a childlike perspective on Christmas and we think it pays off. It manages to avoid the other supermarket clichés and do something a bit different without losing any festive charm, and is perhaps even more Christmassy as a result.
They have also created some other shorter complementary ads showing off other aspects of the Imaginarium to promote specific products lines including Toys & Gifts and Festive Decorations. The beauty of their campaign is that it provides almost unlimited content possibilities, but while their spin-off ads are good, their Christmas page is just a lot of advert stills and a bit of Christmas inspiration.
A bit of a disappointment from the high-end supermarket. While the Christmas together theme is arguably festive, we’re not sure how much the ad will really resonate with most people. A group of people cobbling together a Christmas dinner after being snowed in at their pub in the middle of nowhere is a bit of an unusual way of using the same old supermarket Christmas theme. We also think it ends a weirdly with everyone seeming a bit awkward for some reason.
As for their Christmas page, there’s plenty of Christmas inspiration but not an advert in sight. In fact, the whole page seems completely disconnected from their TV ad. Even the image at the top is an animated snow scene, nothing like the rather sombre black and white theme in their ad. Not the most cohesive campaign from Waitrose.
We think Aldi probably should have learned from Tesco’s mistake last year. While still charming, the budget supermarket is in danger of boring the hearts that Kevin worked so hard to capture last year. That being said, the animated ad is undoubtedly festive, and he does fall in love so who knows, maybe next year we’ll have some cute baby Kevin the Carrots running around.
We do think that the nod to the recent cinema release Murder on the Orient Express is a clever marketing touch. For those that aren’t familiar with the old murder mystery, this is simply part of the advert plot line; there’s no gimmicky sponsorship to detract from the festive cheer. If you are familiar with the movie, however, this is a nice touch that will resonate with viewers (especially when it pops up during the trailers for the movie in the cinema).
Unfortunately, this is where the creativity stops. The danger of continuing the same campaign is the trap of content regurgitation. This already seems to be happening for Aldi, with a Christmas landing page and social content that seem virtually identical to last years. Of course, there is the addition of a Katie the Carrot toy, but it’s a bit salesy for our Christmas palette.
While toys and elves are a partnership that always works, there is something lacking with the Argos ad. It doesn’t capture the imagination as much as the ASDA offering or resonate in the same way the M&S advert does. We do like the futuristic North Pole, but again, haven’t we seen this before?
It does better in terms of marketing, with Argos seeming to have created their ad to highlight their speedy delivery rather than their festive cheer. The rocket sleigh theme is continued over to their Christmas page, but while they categorise products and gifts by every price range and demographic imaginable, the less than creative ad doesn’t inspire any other interesting content.
Toys R Us
With a throwback to their 1990 and 2009 Magical Place ads, Toys R Us improves on last year’s Christmas mess with this cute and funny animated film. After the reindeers get distracted by the toys in the store, Geoffrey the Toys R Us Giraffe is forced to step in and help Santa. It’s a feel-good ad that is sure to be a hit with the kids. It still isn’t groundbreaking but at least it does the trick.
The marketing is markedly worse. While the advert is nice there isn’t a particularly strong marketing message, and other than telling the made-up story of Geoffrey and Santa the dedicated page seriously lacks creativity. We would have liked to see games and activities at a bare minimum.
Last year was less than thrilling for Tesco. Partially recycling the previous years’ campaign and filming the whole thing in the supermarket left us feeling fatigued rather than festive.
This year we’re pleased to see a significant improvement with a Christmas ad that touches on some very poignantly British Christmas traditions. From Christmas dinner difficulties to late night snacks, we think this advert will resonate with more than a few of us over the holidays. Still, while it’s an improvement from the year before it is arguably the standard format for supermarket Christmas ads.
In terms of marketing, they do as well as expected to convey their ‘everyone’s welcome’ message. The ad does the job and their Christmas landing page takes care of everything from Christmas dinner recipes to recommend products. We would have liked something a little more imaginative, especially since the crowded Christmas table theme seems to have been well worn by every supermarket at one point over the years.
It’s Christmas as usual with Morrison’s. Instead of one epic advert, this year they are showing us Christmas through the eyes of three different families. From list writing to the school nativity, they certainly cram a lot of clichés into these shorter ads. While technically festive, points off for falling into the cheese trap.
The message of each ad is clearly there, even if they are unimaginative. The best from a marketing perspective is by far their Free From ad, which focuses on how Morrison’s can help cater for everyone at the dinner table. While sure to resonate with plenty of people and something that most supermarkets have failed to address at all over the years, the rest of their campaign content is substandard. There’s not a recipe in sight on their landing page, just row upon row of products which is even more of a nightmare than actually being in the supermarket during the Christmas rush.
Sainsbury’s thinks a bit more out of the box this year with their very own Christmas song. They manage to pack in pretty much every British Christmas tradition and cliché there is, but the fact that it’s an original song completely changes the tone. It’s fun, a little bit catchy and definitely festive. Bonus points for getting people from all over Britain to actually sing it.
Their Christmas landing page lets down all the creativity achieved in the ad by going back to the supermarket basics. Some inspiration, but mostly product guides with their lovely advert stuck at the bottom of the page. They have uploaded a karaoke version of their advert to YouTube, so if we’re lucky they might do some interesting user generate content a bit closer to Christmas.
Lidl have gone for a selection of short ads this year each targeting a different Christmas personality. From the Rebel Roaster to the Mince Pie Maverick, these ads take a slightly more personalised route to appeal to our holiday spirits and they all have a humorous twist to them. While they hit home on a few festive truths, we still would have preferred one longer ad to tie them together and pack more of a Christmas punch. The best ad is probably the Visiting Vegetarian, if only because it addresses something different but still relatable to many over the Christmas period.
The best thing about their ads is probably the marketing appeal. The targeted approach means they can spotlight a specific product at the end of each one, and for a supermarket competing on price over the holidays this works well. Their landing page marketing is also a shade better than most of the other supermarkets with a different landing page for each of their Christmas personalities. You can view the relevant advert, buy the featured product and look at some related recipes.
This year McDonald’s steps up their festive game with an ad that seems much more natural and genuine than previous years. The little girl saving one of her carrots for the reindeer is certainly relatable and means the late-night trip to McDonald’s is expected rather than forced. We also prefer their Reindeer Ready message, which sums up Christmas in a unique way.
Marketing is also pretty good thanks to the creativity of their ad. As well as rebranding all their carrot stick bags with the name Reindeer Treats, they present their festive menu well and have started a user-generated campaign of people getting reindeer ready. Nothing groundbreaking yet, but we hope that the end of the advert is an indication that they might introduce mince pies to their festive menu this year.
Once again, we’ve seen brands step away from the tearjerkers that were popular a few years ago. Most have gone for heart-warming and humorous themes in their bid to capture the hearts, and the wallets, of consumers. Overall the supermarkets disappointed once again, while unlikely candidates like McDonalds stood out for the crowd.
It wasn’t a supermarket or McDonalds that got our attention this year though. For daring to be a bit different, getting the right balance of festive and brand image, and presenting their gift recommendations in something other than a gift guide, TK Maxx is this year’s winner.
It was a close call with Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, so what do you think? Did you think TK Maxx got everything right this year?