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The Battle Of The Christmas Ads

by Kathryn Green | 13.11.2014
Although it’s November, Christmas is coming and we all know it. However, it’s not because the calendar months are going incredibly fast, or the weather is getting increasingly colder, it’s all down to those festive Christmas Adverts we see on TV or that are plastered across the internet. This is the time of year for companies to really show what they are made of as they are all in competition with each other for who’s advert stands out the most, or who’s is remembered. They all want to have the Best Christmas advert. For companies, Christmas is not only a time to come up with unique ideas to promote products, but it is a time to communicate with the audience in an attempt to evoke emotion and feeling.  For example, in the past, John Lewis’ 2013 The Bear & The Hare advert took the nation by storm. Due to features like the advert’s unique animation and memorable song (sung by Lily Allen), it was by far the most talked about advert on Social media with over 212,000 mentions on twitter between the 4th – 9th December. And this year the ideas have only got better…

Sainsbury’s Christmas Is For Sharing Campaign

For me, this advert stands out a mile from the rest. It does not go with the typical ‘child gets present’ or ‘Santa Claus is here’ scenario, but the heart-warming account of the 1914 First World War Christmas Day truce. The advert, called Christmas Is For Sharing, recounts the day when British and German soldiers laid down their weapons to enjoy time together, sharing greetings, treats and the legendary football game we have all heard of. This particular advert does not only promote Sainsbury’s as a brand but presents their values and support for the Royal British Legion, whom they work closely with, in remembrance of 100 years since the beginning of WW1.

It begins with German Troops singing the classic Christmas carol Silent Night, and when hearing this a young British soldier, Jim, dares to venture into No Man’s Land and greet his rivals. However, though this was a daring risk, the result is surprising as both sides come together to enjoy Christmas Day before returning to their trenches. The most memorable and moving part of the advert though is when a German soldier who had shared a moment with Jim, returns to his trench to find that his British friend has placed a gift of a chocolate bar in his pocket. This promotes the importance of sharing and generosity at Christmas time which was the company’s main aim – “Christmas is a special time of year when people come together to share simple moments and kindness. We wanted to reflect that,” said Mark Given, head of brand communications.

Sainsbury’s then go one step further  and are selling the chocolate bar with the same period packaging in stores for a limited time only, giving all proceeds to The Royal British Legion. This is an amazing marketing technique as not only does it provoke emotion in the audience but it also influences their customers when in Sainsbury’s to support the cause building a positive reputation for Sainsbury’s as a brand.

Marks & Spencer’s Magic & Sparkle Campaign

Usually they have an advert packed full of celebrities (like the amazingly attractive David Gandy), however, this year Marks and Spencer have ditched that idea for the two glamorous fairies, Magic & Sparkle. The advert sees the two fairies spreading Christmas cheer over a dull and dark town turning greying washing to glamorous party outfits and a boring alarm clock to a stylish bra – promoting their line of clothing. Nonetheless, Marks and Spencer have done something a bit different this year and decided to spent a lot of budget on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, shown by the hash tag #FollowTheFairies on the TV advert.

Using social media Marks & Spencer’s can not only communicate a message to their audience but interact with them. They have not only been replying to their followers in rhyme, but committing random acts of goodness and granting wishes, such as going outside a primary school in Cornwall and creating real snow or giving gifts to night workers. This has encouraged interaction from the audience and got the whole of social media talking, publicising and promoting Marks and Spencer’s even more than normal. In my opinion, this was a unique marketing idea as it kept in mind the increase in smart phones and tablets and developed an idea based on this. Therefore, the advert is able to target a large audience range not only their typical older audience but the younger generation also.

Boots’ #SpecialBecause Campaign

Boots have gone in a different direction but like Marks and Spencer’s incorporate Social Media into their campaign. The advert tells the story of a family who at the end of Christmas Day are only just beginning to celebrate. It has just gone Midnight and even though for most Christmas is over and boxing day has begun, one family hold out their Christmas to celebrate with a special woman in their life. Family rush to the house so they can be there when she returns. Why isn’t she there? She is on a night shift at the hospital and returns home to what she thinks will be a sleeping household. Instead she is greeted by all her family to celebrate the Christmas she missed. The advert then ends with the strap line Because She’s Special.

This advert then continues on to social media with the hash tag #SpecialBecause. Using this idea Boots, like the family in the advert, is inviting the nation to interact and celebrate all the special people in their lives this Christmas. A spokesman for Boots confirmed ‘This Christmas we want to inspire our customers to celebrate the special people in their lives, not just by giving the perfect gift from Boots, but by sharing the reasons they matter for the whole nation to see’. Thus, it is clear what Boots believes Christmas should be about and their values as a brand. They are using the power of technology to interact with different audiences but have also expressed a thought provoking and emotional message to the nation to reflect the perfect Christmas. This advert is what some would call a ‘tear-jerker’.

Waitrose’s The Gingerbread Campaign

Waitrose have decided to focus on their employee-owned ethos in their advert and instead of using a celebrity to star in it have chosen one of their own employees. The advert is based on the idea of a little girl who has to make gingerbread for the stall at her school fayre but can’t seem to get it right until one of the employees from Waitrose  helps her. After the stall is over, she then returns to Waitrose to give some to the worker who helped. The advert then ends with the line ‘When you own something, you care a little more. Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose, so they care more’ suggesting they give the best customer service and promoting the brand positively.

The music throughout the advert also plays a big party in the advert. Waitrose earlier in the year ran the campaign Donate Your Voice urging singers across the UK to sing the soundtrack for the advert – therefore getting the public involved. The recordings were then remixed to make a virtual choir singing a version of Dolly Parton’s Try. The song is about overcoming adversity and about perseverance tying into the line at the end of the advert. However, not only is there now a lovely song in the advert but it is being released to raise money for three charities with a 100 percent of the profits being donated. Similar to Sainsbury’s, Waitrose makes it an important value to be charitable and uses this feature to help promote themselves as a company. This also raises the idea of the importance of charity at Christmas Time and how us as a consumer should think of others.

John Lewis’ Monty The Penguin Campaign

Last but not least John Lewis’ famous annual Christmas advert that is the talk of the town every year. This year they have decided to go with Monty The Penguin which has already got social media buzzing even though it was released only a week ago. The advert, with music by the haunting voice of Tom Odell, features a little boy and a penguin playing together, going sledging together and more, but the penguin appears unhappy as it sees couples at Christmas time in love. Finally, towards the end of the advert Monty is given a partner by the little boy as a gift – which he appears extremely happy about. The advert then ends with the penguins being revealed as soft toys and the boy happily playing with them under the Christmas tree with the line #MontyThePenguin.

Similar to the other campaigns, this advert uses the idea of love and giving as a strong characteristic, however,  John Lewis have then developed this idea further and used the promotion techniques of the other adverts combined and more. For example, it uses social media platforms so people can interact with the company and talk about the advert and like the Sainsbury’s advert it sells the product in the advert – the cuddly penguin (which have sold out). Nevertheless, what John Lewis have done different is they have made a special Monty’s Storytelling App. and have even released a story book, thus getting children involved who more than often influence their parents – a great marketing strategy. What is most impressive though, is how in stores children can bring their toys in for the company then to use special technology to bring the toy to life. To sum it up, John Lewis are always one step ahead and know how to market their company with major results.


Which one do you think is the best?