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Christmas 2019: What the adverts need to focus on.

As the chill of the air sets in and we say goodbye to the skeletons from Halloween, our focus turns to Christmas. Around this time, we start seeing the advertising campaigns of all the major brands in the UK and it’s one of my favourite times of the year.

Seeing what my fellow Marketing folk, with big budgets, are coming up with to woo their customers over the festive period is always fun. Ever since John Lewis premiered “The Long Wait”, the Christmas advertising battle has heated up with all major brands going for it. Except for Coca Cola, who just do their own thing. 

As we head into this new season, I wanted to highlight a few things I hope that our brands do to make sure they get the most out of this season. 

Focus on storytelling

The adverts as of late have become more product heavy, M&S and Boots are two of the biggest offenders and use it to push seasonal buys instead of focusing on heartwarming stories. They need to make the story more of a central column in the advertising and use product placement to prime the viewers into the conversion they are so desperately looking for.

John Lewis is another company that is bad for this, but in a different way to the others – Buster the Boxer is a good example. Using the advert as a way to flog seasonal limited edition products really takes away from the good message you can get across. 

Aldi in the past few years have it down with Kevin the Carrot, focusing more on the story first and then selling a cuddly toy. Although I have a fear this will go downhill in the upcoming years as the toy becomes more and more popular.

Family, friends, and inclusion

The Sainsbury’s 1914 (2014) advert, which focused on the Christmas truce during World War 1, and Tesco’s Everyone’s Welcome (2018) campaign, which focused on different families celebrating the holidays in very different ways, spring to mind when I talk about this. Christmas, to me and probably many others, is all about who you spend it with not what you get under the tree.

Focusing on this aspect over the products and weaving this into a good story to really make the waterworks start across the UK will be a great emotional marketing tactic. I can’t say there has been a real tearjerker of a Christmas advert since Sainsbury’s ran their “Christmas in a Day”  (2013) campaign though (I wonder how the spreadsheet man is doing?). 

In the turbulent times we are in politically at the moment, this might also be a good time to spread the message of togetherness through the UK – at least for the time being. But avoiding any major political messaging. 

Pick an avenue: Funny or Emotional

The successful and memorable adverts of previous years have had one thing in common. They’ve had a focus on either emotional or funny. The Long Wait (2011) was a good advert because it focused on pulling on your heartstrings, something really emotional. 1914 had the same response for the same reason.

Then we look at the other side of the spectrum: Sainsbury’s “The Big Night” (2018) advert involved a children’s school play and was funny (go plugboy!) – when it got into it. The previous years Sainsbury’s debuted another song which was excellent. Then we had the “Lights On” (2014) Tesco advert which showed everyone’s different preparations for Christmas in a humorous light and then ASDA joined in 2015 with “Light Up Everything” highlighting the madness people go through to make their life festive.

I don’t think the adverts that sit in the middle really work that well. John Lewis has learned the hard way with things like Bear and Hare or Man on the Moon. The Asda Mum advert from 2012 also didn’t really strike a chord – it tried too hard to be funny and emotional at the same time, and was seen as incredibly sexist. 

Catchy songs work as well, either emotional like John Lewis’ “Bear and Hare” (2013) which was quite emotional or Sainsbury’s “The Greatest Gift” (2016) which was quite funny and stayed with the theme of either funny or emotional. 

Don’t forget about the surrounding Marketing

Christmas advertising is one part of the larger campaign and we cannot forget that most of this need supporting media elsewhere. We live in an age where social media helps to prop up campaigns for free and can be utilised in many ways to enhance a campaign, from sneaky messages in the run-up to a campaign launch to continuing use throughout. 

Marks and Spencers did a great version of this when they set up Twitter accounts highlighting Magic and Sparkle where a rugby club got snow and other small things. No one knew what the Twitter accounts were but the speculation helped grow the campaign. Sometimes it might not work in your favour especially if someone thinks it’s not the right brand, but you should always give it a go – the payoff is always worth it.

Honorary mention to Coca Cola who use Christmas the truck advertising in a brand new way with the now annual Christmas truck tour. But they always do their own thing and very rarely change their recipe.

I’d like to wrap up by saying thanks for reading and I hope that this year we get some crackers of Christmas advertising in the UK.