Jan 23, 2016

Christmas Class Of 2014


While most of us were busy enjoying the short lived British summer, scores of marketing teams and strategists across the land were setting the cogs in motion. The reason? To get a head start on what’s arguably the most lucrative period for many retailers; Christmas. As viral marketing and the use of social media to sell products have really come into play in recent years, we can see a great shift in campaign strategies as well the determinants of campaign success. This year’s offerings are really a mismatch of different retailer personalities, with some playing up to their stereotypes and some taking everybody by surprise. Keeping that in mind we take a look at the who’s who of the Christmas Class of 2014 and see how they scored across the board.


Marks & Spencers: The Posh Totty

The 80 second TV advert has been created by the agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. It follows two glamorous fairies, aptly named Magic & Sparkle, as they fly around helping people doing all the usual magical stuff that fairies do (making it snow, turning rubbish gifts into better ones, finding lost cats etc). While I have to admit that the story isn’t particularly heartwarming (consider heart strings definitely untugged) it’s great to see M&S move away from celebrity endorsements and producing something with an original story telling element.

In addition to this they’ve actually build a great social campaign around the advert. Their #followthefairies campaign has seen @thetwofairies travelling around the country and conducting random acts of kindness to people in need. Along with being a very slickly produced advert which reinforces the M&S brand, it will at the very least attract the female shoppers using it’s glitz and glamour. It’s nice to see M&S actually make a Christmas campaign with a little substance. So how did they score?

John Lewis: The Sports Star

John Lewis arguably has had one of the best Christmas adverts of all time — the 2011 campaign with the little boy anticipating Christmas day so that he could give a gift to his parents. This year’s campaign doesn’t disappoint. The 2 minute advert created by agency Adam&Eve/DDB features a young boy named Sam and his imaginary friend ‘Monty the penguin’. It’s a great heart-warming original story focusing on friendship, love and imagination — it’s simplicity being it’s best feature.

It’s made a massive impact over social media, with the hashtag#montythepenguin making waves on twitter as well as the video being shared around 500,000 times in a week (surpassing ‘the bear and the hare’). Oh and Monty the Penguin? He’s everywhere from the trending hashtag on twitter to packaging to branded products in store- they’ve managed to make a truly integrated campaign with a recognisable and shareable element in the form of a cuddly penguin. John Lewis have once again created a story that makes an impact and influences popular culture — top marks.

Boots: The Realist

Get your tissues ready for that single tear moment. Boots’ Christmas offering takes the form of various family members meeting up at midnight on Boxing Day to surprise a nurse who’s just finished her Christmas shift. The 1 minute ad created by agency Mother London does a great job of keeping the viewer wondering as well as providing a realistic depiction of Britain; it is at no point over the top or depressing. It’s a great heart warming and engaging story — something that makes you hope and pray that this kind of thing happens in real life to people who deserve it.

However in terms of engagement they don’t have as much of an integrated campaign over social media and in store. In fact apart from the link between Boots being a chemist and the story centred around a nurse, the products are hardly featured which doesn’t provide much brand equity. It would have been good to see the company doing something in correlation with the campaign (such as charity work) to fortify the message. It’s a great campaign but it may not make as much of an impact as it deserves to due to it’s minimal exposure — so how did it score?

Aldi: The Cheeseball

The 1 minute advert created by McCann Manchester features a slow pan across a variety of Christmas dinner tables with gatherings of people from all walks of life from astronauts to sailors. The overshadowing elements are unfortunately the terrible script, confused concept and two grumpy elderly people informing us that onesies are ‘so last year’ (the highlight of the ad in my opinion). They’ve also gone down the celebrity endorsement route and hired none other than Jools Holland to tinker away at a piano.

It’s understandable what Aldi were trying to communicate in terms of their brand but it feels like they’re trying to be too many things to too many people, with the celebrity endorsement also bringing little value to the table (see what I did there?). The whole thing comes off forced, confused and just a bit tacky. The Jools Holland appearance is also reminiscent of an Iceland ad — I was almost expecting a wink at the camera *shudder*. Inevitably they didn’t score too well.

Lidl: The Poser

The German brand’s 75 second TV advert (created by TBWA London) features a Christmas dinner in a big country mansion with a seemingly luxurious offering, only for the guests to discover at the end of the meal that it’s all from Lidl. With the brand attracting a large portion of the middle-class market in recent times, it’s a good message to communicate. However it falls a little flat. The ‘surprise’ element seems feigned and the fact that the group of posh looking people from Hertfordshire think that that food is from M&S or Waitrose is a little sad.

They have however created the rather clever tagline ‘Lidl surprises’, with the hashtag #lidlsurprises making a decent impact over twitter from customers who have been pleasasntly surprised by it’s offerings — a good brand reinforcing move. Unfortunately the advert still lacks the storytelling element and you can’t help but notice that it looks like it’s been shot right in the middle of summer — is it too much to ask for some fake snow?!

Waitrose: the Over Achiever

Waitrose seemed to have cottoned on to a nice story — a painfully shy girl who’s trying to bake biscuits for the school Christmas fair with a little help from a member of staff from Waitrose. The point being that as all partners actually own Waitrose, they care a little bit more.

The almost 2 minute advert (created by BBH London) is still a little tainted with Waitrose’s signature holier-than-thou attitude — especially the ‘donated voices’ of staff members and customers for the soundtrack. Now there’s no arguing that Waitrose is up there in terms of quality and branding, they’ve already got a solid customer base. The story simply comes across like they’re trying too hard. Maybe I’m a little biased but it doesn’t connect the same way that Monty the Penguin does (and being part of the John Lewis Partership that’s saying something). It’s also been pointed out to me that partners are not actually allowed to accept gifts from customers (that gingerbread cookie? straight in the bin.)

Sainsbury’s: The Dark Horse

Now this one took us all by surprise. Sainsbury’s released a (rather long) 3 minute 40 second ad telling a story based on the real life Christmas truce during WW1 in 1914. The creators of the campaign Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO have clearly planned ahead. They’ve taken into account that 2014 marked 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War and teamed up with The Royal British Legion to produce something which is true to history as well as engaging — no doubt reinforcing the Sainbury’s brand through association.

Following its release, social media was buzzing with praise with the hashtag #sainsburyschristmas making an impact and many favouring it above the star player, John Lewis. They’ve also done well to expand the campaign further than the advert by selling the chocolate bar featured in the ad with all proceeds going to The Royal British Legion. A great multi platform campaign which has successfully pulled off engaging storytelling, taking the consumer by complete surprise.

Burberry: The Show Off

It’s an extravagent affair of dancing, romance and an adorable celebrity appearance in the form of Romeo Beckham — all in the signature Burberry trenchcoats we’ve come to know and love. Like most fashion adverts, it doesn’t make a whole lot of chronological sense but boy is it magical. Romeo Beckham is charming and having a Beckham involved has no doubt reinforced the brand as having fashion know how.

Being a top end fashion brand, their marketing aims may not lie heavily in increasing footfall during the Christmas season but rather with strengthening the brand as well making an impact in the fashion industry as one of the few retailers who have actually produced a Christmas ad. In this respect they’ve done extremely well, with the hashtag #burberrychristmas having a good impact as well as the video being viewed over 5 million times. There’s also no arguing that when it comes to production value and quality, Burberry have done extremely well.


So who’s come top of the class? Of course it had to be John Lewis and Monty the Penguin! Sainsbury’s have definitely given them a run for their money with their very unique and relevant concept — changing what we’ll expect from the traditional Christmas advert in terms of story telling going forward. Burberry have also made an impact showing how celebrity association can be used right to produce a successful campaign.

However in terms of impact, integration with social media and brand reinforcement John Lewis’ campaign has managed to come out on top of the pack. If the 15 million views are anything to go by, I predict that the impact of the campaign will actually achieve what is inevitably their main goal — to have a financially successful Christmas.

Leave a comment