When it comes to the festive season, over the past few years two things have become absolutely certain. That is, that Christmas doesn’t officially start until you see that red Coca Cola van, and that the John Lewis advert is going to be a tear jerker. Come rain or come shine, those two things are an absolute given, and when it comes to digital marketing, few periods are as vital to the big-hitting brands as Christmas.
The unveiling of the Christmas advert selection from brands like Aldi, Marks & Spencers, Boots and John Lewis to name but a few has developed a cult-like status within the marketing industry, with the brands in a fierce battle to nail the message, evoke some emotion and of course - make a boat load of sales too!
But why do we cling onto the Christmas adverts? Why do they hold such weight during the festive season? Why are they such a big deal?
This article seeks to break down exactly why we care about Christmas adverts, why there’s such anticipation for the season, which brands get it right and the common messages we see throughout.
Why are Christmas adverts such a big deal?
Adverts are typically billed as one of the British public’s biggest frustrations. Whether they’re interrupting the season finale of The X Factor, making you wait to watch that cooking tutorial on YouTube or spamming your browser as you’re trying to do some online shopping - adverts are constantly labelled a pain. That is, until it’s Christmas advert season.
The first point to be made here is that Christmas adverts typically bill the start of the festive season. All the big hitters unload theirs in November, and it’s the first signal that the public gets that it’s now ok to start thinking about Christmas.
We all know that Christmas is a season more than a specific day, so the first instance we can smell the mulled wine, prep the sparkly outfits and think about sharing moments with our loved ones, is a pretty exciting one indeed. Much like the gun at the start of a race, the flurry of Christmas ads from brands we know and love is the official checkered flag of the festive season.
A contrast to normal adverts, where you’re being constantly ploughed with sales talk and encouraged to buy things or invest in services left, right and centre, Christmas adverts tend to be underpinned with a moral and heartwarming message that leaves us feeling all warm and fuzzy - rather than skint!
To expand on this a little further - Christmas adverts are officially now an occasion. John Lewis coined the concept of a slightly longer, emotive advert that’s almost like a miniature movie, capturing the hearts of the nation. Watching the hype that followed - several brands followed suit, and now we have a hot competition on our hands where the stakes are raised year upon year.
Which brands are competing for the crown?
The cream of the crop, and often many marketeers’ favourite, is undeniably John Lewis. Classic adverts from the past few years include the bear and the hare, Monty the penguin, the man on the moon, the snowman and of course Boxer the dog too. Each of these adverts packs an emotional punch - and most importantly, comes with a host of different merchandising opportunities too. From cuddly toys to t-shirts, John Lewis know how to cash in on our emotional baggage and make a pretty penny from sentiment.
We mentioned it in the introduction, but Coca Cola is another incredible contender for the Christmas period. Its iconic red truck and jingle bells ahoy are synonymous with Christmas, and it doesn’t really matter what the general content or messaging of their advert is - if you see that truck, you think of Christmas. Coca Cola have the entire marketing campaign nailed, with the big truck visiting cities and presenting lots of opportunities for social media trending, which takes the pressure off delivery a big emotional advert.
Taking up the rear is Aldi, who has emerged as a late contender in the Christmas advertisement stakes with the development of its adorable character Kevin the carrot, with joyous tales of his escapades that many look forward to tuning in and seeing.
Marks and Spencer is renowned for celeb-filled glitz and glam full of festive sparkle, while Boots often plays on personal relationships to create a lovely advert that makes you want to pick up the phone and call your relatives.
You can also expect to see ASDA, Tesco and Sainsbury’s to deliver Christmas bangers and join the race, though few manage to nab John Lewis’ crown!
Christmas advert messaging
Christmas advertising is incredibly important for brands, because as consumers, we’re living in a time where we have never had more choice. We can order all of our Christmas shopping online without getting up from the sofa, we can quickly compare and contrast which supermarkets offer us the best deals and get our fridges filled in the space of a few clicks, and brand loyalty is replaced by convenience, price and the deal we’re getting.
The internet has created a monster with its nation of savvy shoppers, which is why brands need to work that extra bit harder to create marketing campaigns which stand out in our hearts and our minds in the hope to win a little loyalty and consequently a lot of cash this Christmas.
A quick look at 2018’s Christmas adverts will show you how important it is for brands to utilise a quick tug on the heart strings at this time of year. John Lewis have opted for Elton John in a loud, proud and glittery advert which finishes by saying that when you give a gift from John Lewis, you could be investing a something truly magical for the future - like Elton John’s mother did when she bought him a piano as a young boy.
Sainsbury’s have opted for an adorable nativity scene featuring some interesting characters - like a hilarious and adorable little boy dressed as a plug, who has gone viral on social media and created a storm amongst millennials!
Aldi are back with Kevin the carrot in a host of tumultuous scenes which plays on the familiarity of the character to create a clever series, while Boots have created a mother-daughter song and advert that has the power to make most girls shed a tear in appreciation for their mothers.
In summary, themes around family, love, creating special moments, celebrating those who are no longer with us and putting differences aside to celebrate Christmas are all common themes that can be found in Xmas adverts from the big brands.
While the Christmas advert script has taken quite a stagnant formula over the past few years, with brands bringing out their takes on the same themes year upon year, we certainly don’t expect to see this slowing down anytime soon. If anything, more brands will be trying to cash in on the Christmas cheer, bringing their take on yuletide greetings and trying to bring that festive glow which results in sales aplenty.
We care about Christmas adverts because they’re just lovely aren’t they? It doesn’t matter if we’re being manipulated as consumers to buy, buy, buy; shedding a little tear at a young Elton John growing up to live out his dream at Christmas adds a sprinkle of festive joy that everyone needs at this time of year.Return back to Knowledge