Christmas Adverts 2018 Roundup Part 2

Christmas ads aren’t just something to fill time between TV shows any more.

They’re a bonafide cultural phenomenon in the UK, and many of them are hotly anticipated when November rolls around.

We’ve looked at some of the biggest Christmas adverts in 2018 in a previous article. In this follow-up, we continue our Yuletide odyssey through some of the biggest ads on (and off) our televisions.


Marks and Spencer’s Shameless Ads

High-street stalwart Marks and Spencer are taking a different approach to their Christmas marketing. Their previous efforts have had a certain cinematic flair, or cultural icons such as Paddington Bear. This year their advert has a more familiar structure, and a more explicit focus on their sales goals.

As well as the conventional advert, M&S have released another video on Twitter asking the public about their favourite Christmas food. They’ve even created the #MyMarksFave hashtags to encourage participation.

While the advert is meant to touch on familiar activities, like partying and watching Bridget Jones, it also reflects the problems that high street stores are having at the moment. We touched upon Debenhams’ retail woes in our previous article, and we suspect Marks and Spencer have similar motivations. The way people shop has changed, and their focus on different marketing messages and channels is an important step towards a more integrated marketing approach.

The key lesson here is that marketing channels like social media can’t be ignored. They’re a more organic, accessible way to connect with your customers and you need a solid presence on them if you want to thrive in today’s marketplace.


JD Leads the Way

We’ve established that Christmas adverts don’t need to be complex to be effective; but they do need to connect with your audience on some level. That’s the approach sports retailer JD Sports have taken, with a celebrity-stuffed celebration of their products.

This is very much an advert for JD’s core audience, as every aspect of it is designed to appeal to the young demographic audience. As well the big brand names like Nike and the North Face, the celebrities have been chosen for their social media presence. According to Prolific North, the celebs in the video have a combined social following of over 85 million people.

While we’ve established Christmas has a basically universal audience, it’s still important to focus on your target audience.


Visa is Streets Ahead

Christmas ads are no longer for the big four supermarkets anymore. To stand out from the Christmas advert noise, businesses need to be a little more creative. That’s the approach Visa are taking with their first major Christmas campaign. Rather than focusing on what people can buy, Visa is focusing on where you buy it and is highlighting local high street shops.

The advert includes many different kinds of shops, including grocers, booksellers and toy shops (obviously) with some subtle Visa branding sprinkled on top. It also has the benefit of Mariah Carey’s classic Christmas song to tie it all together.

What makes Visa’s ad stand out, is that it’s a little subtler with its marketing message. Visa branding is present throughout but the ease of payment is both appealing to consumers and to independent business owners too. It’s a great example of “less is more” and manages to target two audiences at once.


Iceland Courts Controversy

Iceland’s advert is a little different from the other ones in this list. Using footage from Greenpeace, it tells the story of a little girl who finds an orangutan in her bedroom. When she asks why the orangutan is there, it explains that its home is being destroyed for palm oil. Moved by the orangutan’s plight, the girl vows to do something about it, with Iceland announcing the removal of palm oil from its own products.

The advert has been hugely popular, and features narration by Emma Thompson, who is an active environmentalist and Greenpeace supporter. However, it has never been broadcast on British television. The organisation Clearcast, which pre-approves TV advertising in the UK, have banned it on the basis it being political advertising.

Though Clearcast has no legal authority, its rulings often mirrors that of the Advertising Standards Authority, which does. According to The Guardian, our broadcast codes prohibit adverts ‘directed towards a political end’, which Iceland’s ad has fallen foul of.

Of course, television isn’t the only avenue for marketing. The advert has been viewed 5 million times on YouTube and 13 million times on Facebook. It’s also been retweeted 90,000 times on Twitter, suggesting this is an advert that’s really caught our attention.

Iceland’s advert reflects a wider trend of adverts that are more ethically conscious. Palm oil has long been a controversial ingredient in the products we consume, so for Iceland to take such a public stance on the issue is significant. At the very least, the advert and the ban itself has given the food retailer a massive boost of publicity.

As shoppers become more and more ethically conscious they’ll be looking for businesses that can put their money where their mouth is. It’s never too soon to take a look at your own business practices. See if there are any changes you can make to be more environmentally friendly.


Elton John Lewis

Department store John Lewis has some serious clout, both as a retailer and Christmas advertiser.

Many people don’t get into the Christmas cheer until the John Lewis advert has aired, as it’s simply not Christmas without it. This year they’re drawing on good old-fashioned star power, with an advert focussed on the career of the one and only, Elton John.

The advert emphasises the power of gift giving by looking back at some of the musician’s most famous performances. Towards the end of the ad, it’s revealed what launched the Rocket Man’s career was his first piano, which he received as a Christmas present from his mother.

Like the Debenhams ads, John Lewis focuses on the act of giving rather than receiving (even if it’s still about buying products in the long run). This may be indicative of John Lewis’ fortunes; according to Ad Age, the department store made a first-half loss of over £19 million this year. John Lewis’ attempts to reinvent their marketing message could be seen as a way to draw in more customers during a tough time.


Will the real John Lewis, please stand up (aka Twitter’s Christmas advert)

As mentioned previously, it isn’t Christmas until the John Lewis Christmas advert airs. The response on social media is always high when the advert comes out and the Twitter handle @johnlewis always gets plenty of attention during this time of year.

Except that isn’t the retail stores official Twitter handle. @johnlewis belongs to a lecturer in Virginia called John Lewis.

He is often mistaken for the retail store, but has become a cult icon due to his charming responses to customer queries.

John Lewis November Tweet

To promote the joys of social media, the UK branch of Twitter, commissioned a Christmas advert in the style of a traditional John Lewis retail store Christmas ad to be created staring the man who is John Lewis.

It’s a light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek advert that pays homage to past John Lewis Christmas adverts as the home of the man John Lewis features props like a cuddly penguin and Moz the Monster from previous Christmas adverts by the retail store.

According to Twitter UK the social platform is a place for anyone to join the conversation. Even if it’s a conversation you weren’t expecting to be a part of. Twitter’s Christmas advert debut is certainly a creative one and champions humour in the best possible way.


Too Good to Wait?

If you’re a certain kind of person, waiting for Christmas is a chore. Of course, you only have to wait for as long as you want to wait, and Waitrose have taken that idea to heart in their new ad.

It’s a fun piece of marketing, and taps into our love of good food at Christmas. It also reflects how we don’t like to wait before eating it; we at Electric have spent most November rating mince pies on our Instagram page (which will only intensify in December).

The advert also gives a nice nod of recognition to its partner, John Lewis, as the family fasts forwards this to then be able to eat the tasty Christmas treats. At the end of the day, good food is good food so go for it and enjoy.


The Show Must Go On

If you’re a parent, you’ll probably be attending at least one school concert this year. Unfortunately Sainsbury’s have set the bar pretty high, thanks to their bombastic take on a school’s Christmas show. It was directed by Michael Gracey, best known for the smash hit musical The Greatest Showman.

The advert encourages you to throw yourself into the Christmas spirit, with Sainsbury’s on hand to help make that happen. The advert has been accompanied by other ads on radio, in print, and—of course—on social media.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Sainsbury’s, however. The ad is pretty similar in concept to an John Lewis advert that aired earlier this year, which also sees a bunch of children covering a famous pop song (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody just in time for the premiere of the film Bohemian Rhapsody). Sainsbury’s defended themselves, arguing the shift to Christmas and use of colour helped set their ad apart.

Companies like Cadbury’s (the famous gorilla advert) and Honda (–please mention the advert you mean as there have been a few over the years –) have shown us that we can sideline a message in favour of something that’s daring and memorable. The advert doesn’t have to say exactly what we do or what makes us important. It just needs to tie our brand to something people want to talk about. Sainsbury’s advert seems to have crossed that threshold; it’s been viewed more than 2.5 million times on YouTube alone.


Turkey Vs Chicken

KFC is no stranger to clever, unusual advertising; they managed to turn a chicken shortage into a PR win, and have taken an interesting, pared-down approach to last year’s Christmas ad. This year they’re focussing on a new rivalry, even if said rivalry is ultimately one-sided.

Humour and plenty of self-awareness are at the heart of KFC’s advertising. In this ad, they hammer home the point that they’re available (almost) all year round, with turkey very much a runner-up in this scenario. It’s a great way to add some humour and encourage brand loyalty. The advert is supported by cheeky print ads as well, which further shows the importance of an integrated marketing approach to marketing campaigns.


Nice Driving

We don’t really associate Christmas with insurance companies, but NRMA didn’t let that stop them. The Australian insurance provider has released a new advert, where a busy father is saved by his eagle-eyed daughter and her fluffy friend.

It’s a neat way to highlight a serious problem, both in Australia and around the world. According to ABC News, New South Wales Police fined 39,000 people for using their phones while driving. NRMA’s advert ties in with common Christmas themes of family and empathy, without making the underlying message too gruesome. Road safety videos often rely on shock value to make their points, making NRMA’s lighter approach more impressive.

Although this advert is neither a traditional Christmas advert nor a UK-one, we decided to include it into our list, as it approached a topic that is well-known in a new and creative light. And creativity is what we love to see.


In a (roasted) nutshell

We’ve seen a real variety of ads this Christmas, drawing on different ideas like humour, showmanship and social consciousness. But they all have something in common; despite the advert views being in the millions almost universally, this year’s adverts have so far failed to win over their audience.

Marketing Week has reported on research carried out by a group called System1 on Christmas ads. The group asks people about the ads they watched, and assigns ads a star rating based on their response.

29% of campaigns got three stars (out of five), making this the worst year for ads since System1’s records began. The Heathrow Bears advert was the best received, while Iceland’s ad was the worst-received – despite the social media numbers implying that it’s one of the best received in the public sphere.

There are several reasons for this—Brexit and economic worries are amongst the most prominent—but another one may be simple ad fatigue.

Big, brash storytelling is still very popular, just not as it has been in the past.

Businesses need to take their ads in a new direction.

The positive response to the first Christmas advert by Twitter may indicate where Christmas ads need to be going over the next few years.

It all depends on what the KPIs of your Christmas campaign is.

Ad Age has released an article on Iceland’s advert, who turned their online-only ad into a selling point.

It’s argued now that the advert ban which usually would’ve been a PR disaster has actually worked in Iceland’s favour and was most likely a calculated move by the brand.


Whatever direction they go in, Christmas ads are going to be a big part of the UK’s marketing landscape for some time to come. We’re big fans of the message, communication style and overall creativity of Christmas ads, so we will be continuing to enjoy what this year’s Christmas campaigns have to offer.

If you’re looking to add a little creative spark or strategic backup to your business in the new year, we’re a design agency in West Yorkshire with experience in developing and implementing integrated marketing campaigns across digital and print.

Have a gander at what we’ve done for our current clients in our case studies, or call us today on 0113 287 9900 to discuss your business plans for 2019.