The Christmas Advertising Battle has Begun


It’s that time of year again; tis the season to be jolly, tis the season to be merry, tis also the season to be vigorously and unashamedly advertised to. It’s the time of year that retailers wheel out pre-planned Christmas adverts, shot in Spring, in hopes they’ll nail the emotional close 8 months later and have you jingling all the way to the check-out page.

The battle of Christmas advertising is well-known, well-documented and one of the only times a year consumers actually take note of retailers attempts to persuade them. The Christmas advert is so highly respected that according to Advertising Association and WarcData, UK retailers are expected to spend £5.6bn on their campaigns. When you consider these spots are likely to have been conceived and in production before Brexit and Trump, it becomes paramount that brands must seize the opportunity with the necessary vitality and foresight to get the tone right, despite uncertainty.

Since the introduction of a yearly Christmas campaign from John Lewis in 2007, it’s steadily grown into an annually anticipated event hailed as ‘British advertising’s most-hyped ad of the year’. John Lewis actually estimates that since 2012 its sales have increased by more than 35% as a direct result of their successful Christmas advertising.

But how do they keep doing it, year on year?

Well, first up, you have to remember that big brands like John Lewis have astronomical budgets to play with. The 2015 spot ‘Man on the Moon’ cost £7m to execute, while the company reportedly spent a ‘broadly similar’ sum on 2016’s ‘Buster the Boxer’.

But, money aside, when you strip a John Lewis advert to its bare minimum, they are built on fundamental tactics that a business of any size can, and should, employ.

Rock Solid Narrative

Everyone knows the true essence of Christmas is the magical appeal for children… and as adults, not only wanting to evoke that for the children in our lives, but the memory of our own excitement. And what does each of the John Lewis ads showcase? A strong narrative that triggers memories and childlike emotions.

Wildlife Theme

How often have you heard your cold-hearted friend say ‘I cry more at animal’s in films than people’? Animals and children naturally draw a higher emotional response and it’s an easy way to guarantee an emotional investment from viewers.

A Song to Remember

Memorable music is vital for the impact and longevity of successful advertising; often the lasting aspect of a Christmas ad after it’s ended is the music stuck in your head. It’s no wonder that two of the seven speciality cover songs John Lewis has used have made it to No.1 in the UK charts – with this year’s currently the bookies favourite to steal the Christmas top spot too.

John Lewis moved away from using clichéd Christmas songs early in their campaign history and created unique, fitting covers for each spot, which helped elevate their brand above the festive noise.

For a retailer that makes 40% of its profit over the Christmas quarter, capturing the attention of consumers at this time is crucial.  People won’t be captivated by boring content – and John Lewis knows it. In a world where our attention is pulled in every direction, the annual success of John Lewis’ advertising is a reminder that a good story still matters, and still wins.

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