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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

By Emma Johnstone 

Emotive advertising at Christmas

Firstly, a disclaimer; I love Christmas.  And I mean, I seriously love Christmas.  Tinsel should be my middle name.  So given we have 8 sleeps until the most magical day of the year, it’s hard to write this and keep my inner, overly excited 6 year old self out of it.  You see, when advertising execs dream up their next Christmas ad campaign, it’s me they’re thinking of.  I’m their target audience…falling unashamedly hook, line and sinker.  It’s hard to be objective at this time of year…or remotely professional when analysing what’s happening in the world of Christmas advertising in a blog post.  But here goes… 

I’m here to address (and celebrate) the shift there’s been in Christmas advertising in the UK in recent years.  In the past, many large retailers have been guilty of adopting the ‘he who shouts loudest’ approach with their TVCs which results in a cluttered, noisy and headache inducing space.  Hardly goodwill to all men.  But more recently, instead of shouting at consumers, retailers are adopting a far more refined and sensitive approach.  John Lewis, and Marks and Spencers in particular…stand up please, I’m talking to you.  These UK retailers are creating their own little Christmas emotional rollercoaster adverts by delivering hotly anticipated, widely talked about, Hollywood budget style productions. 

Starting with the teasers on social media, the retailers get target audiences excited about their imminent Christmas advert.  Genius.  Normally we’re rolling our eyes when Christmas campaigns start playing in mid October but these clever retailers have shifted the power somewhat.  John Lewis’ Christmas advert last year was a tough one to beat.  Who can look past a lonely penguin at Christmas?  But then comes the grand ‘premiere’ of the follow-up Christmas advert on national TV, a hotly anticipated event with immeasurable talkability.  And talk they do.   It’s essential viewing for water cooler small talk in any office in December.  So cleverly the advertising itself also becomes the PR.   

What’s interesting about these adverts is how the product placement takes a distinct backseat.  Instead retailers hero the emotions of audiences at Christmas time – magic, excitement, loneliness, companionship.  It’s like a Wham song in advert form.  And it works.  In fact don’t even get me started on the soundtracks.  Tear jerkers every time.  By bottling up our emotions surrounding Christmas and selling it back to us, retailers arguably make a deeper connection with consumers which in turn is then rewarded through increased sales.  John Lewis last year saw online sales soar 23% over the all important festive period.  The advert was also so popular that Monty the penguin toys sold out within 24 hours of going onto shelves – swiftly popping up again on eBay for five times their value.  #Montythepenguin happened.  So if a retailer can tap into the magic, emotion, memories and nostalgia of Christmas and do it in 2 minutes, then I’m buying.  What did I say about being objective?  Hook, line and sinker.    

Perhaps there’s something to be learned from this emotive advertising.  Perhaps Australian retailers will follow suit.  Myer has certainly had a bit of a go this year.  But for the moment who cares? I’m grabbing the popcorn and unashamedly watching the reruns.  Who’s in? Merry Christmas one and all!


PIER’S top Christmas picks:

M&S 2013   |   Coca Cola 1995   |  Sainsburys 2014

 

Emma Johnstone is PIER Marketing’s PR Specialist. 
Connect with Emma Johnstone on LinkedIn au.linkedin.com/in/emmajohnstone/en