What makes a successful Christmas Ad?

November 29, 2023
Amy Scott

It's coming around that time of the year when we all start hedging our bets on the 'best' Christmas ads. An obvious front-runner, John Lewis, has gripped the nation's hearts for years with their genius storytelling, touching music, and adorable characters. This strategy seems the way to a successful campaign - it sparks conversation and pulls on the heartstrings. Customers feel compelled to buy from the brand because that warm and fuzzy feeling about a kid waiting to give his parents the parents is now associated with buying new kitchenware and a laptop. This emotional connection fostered between consumers and products has transformed how brands approach Christmas advertising, highlighting the potency of sentiment in influencing consumer behaviour and shaping brand loyalty.

Michael Buble for a Asda Christmas Ad

Interestingly, though, Christmas ads took a slightly different approach after the pandemic. In 2020, we didn't want to further engage with our emotions as viewers. We were all too depressed to see melting snowmen and a lonely man on the moon, and many companies quickly picked up on this. So, the new age of escapism quickly pivoted to Mascots! This shift in advertising strategy reflected an awareness of the changed emotional landscape post-COVID and demonstrated nostalgia's pivotal role in providing solace and reassurance during 2019-2021.

By infusing campaigns with the charm of mascots and other 'out of this world' animation, advertisers successfully tapped into the collective yearning for a sense of innocence and joy but, more importantly, escapism. Suddenly, our screens were plagued with Kevin the Carrot, Roddy the Reindeer, and the Lidl Bear. Perhaps this was to appeal to the consumer's inner child. Throwing it back to a time when there was nothing to worry about at Christmas other than what toy would be waiting for you under the tree. Christmas was innocent again, and advertisers wanted to tap into that nostalgia. This shift to using mascots in Christmas advertisements was about invoking nostalgia and creating a sense of community and togetherness. As the world grappled with the challenges of the pandemic, people were searching for a connection that was reassuring and comforting, especially around the festive period. These mascots represented a familiar and friendly face that brought a sense of cheer and optimism to the festive season.

We are entering a new age of Christmas ads, which seem very much character and celebrity-focused. Sunday Treat was excited this year to be a part of Pop the Bublé, a new Asda Christmas ad that features the one and only Mr. Christmas himself, Michael Bublé. Being a social and online content-first agency, we were thrilled to take this project on. But the need for an agency like us to work on an ad like this speaks to where the new priority lies in Christmas marketing, which is a social-first approach.

Alison Hammond for a Sainbury's Christmas Ad

We also worked with Alison Hammond last year for Sainsbury's, doubling down on this new wave of comedy-focused adverts whilst also recognising that we live in an age where the product and story isn't the focal point of selling; it's now the influencer. This shift in advertising dynamics underscores the growing influence of popular figures and influencers in shaping consumer preferences and driving purchasing decisions. It's not about 'what the story tells you', but rather 'who is the storyteller'. By incorporating renowned personalities like Michael Bublé and Alison Hammond, brands amplify their reach and engagement and establish a more relatable and personable connection with their target audience. This fusion of entertainment and product promotion speaks to the evolving nature of consumer engagement, emphasising the pivotal role of influential figures in the contemporary advertising landscape.

No matter what form a Christmas advert takes, whether storytelling, animation or celebrity cameos, you cannot overstate the significance of music. Music is a powerful catalyst in creating a festive atmosphere and evoking a sense of nostalgia and joy among audiences. Music can transport viewers into a world of holiday magic, whether it's the familiar chimes of bells, the enchanting melodies of traditional carols, or contemporary renditions of timeless classics. It sets the advertisement's tone and cultivates an emotional connection with the audience, tapping into shared cultural experiences and memories associated with the festive season. By harnessing the emotive power of music, advertisers can effectively reinforce brand messages, create lasting impressions, and foster a sense of warmth and familiarity, making the advertisement a memorable part of the holiday experience.

As we approach the season of festive cheer and spirited marketing, it becomes evident that the landscape of Christmas advertisements is continually evolving to capture the hearts and minds of audiences. From the heart-warming narratives that once reigned supreme to the whimsical escapism of mascot-driven campaigns and now to the era of celebrity influencers taking the reins, the essence of Christmas storytelling has found new avenues to enchant and engage. This transition in advertising strategies reflects a keen awareness of shifting emotional landscapes, especially in the aftermath of a global crisis. It underscores the profound impact of nostalgia, community, and relatability in shaping consumer experiences. It is a testament to the ever-changing dynamics of consumer preferences and the powerful influence wielded by the storytellers themselves.

As we embrace this ever-evolving journey of festive marketing, one aspect remains constant: the enduring power of these adverts to ignite the spirit of joy, togetherness, and celebration, resonating with audiences far beyond the holiday season.

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