Another year, another round of Christmas adverts. This year the Advertising Association predict that businesses spend 5% more than 2017’s record-breaking total, with expenditure coming in close to £6.5 billion pounds on seasonal advertising.
It’s no surprise advertisers continually increase their investments in Christmas advertising year-on-year; they know it works. The joy of seeing what brands bring out each year has become an integral part of British Christmas and maybe the only time of year that, as a nation, we think twice about fast forwarding the adverts.
Previously this key retail period has brought us blockbuster adverts, with John Lewis leading the way time after time. This year however, with the UK high street’s future as uncertain as ever, we see less blockbusters and more product-led adverts, and an overwhelming lack of festivity. Whether it’s down to the lack of quality and emotional resonance, or the nation simply feeling a bit like the Grinch, only 29% of campaigns scored more than three stars out of five according to System1’s Ad Ratings.
Possibly the most talked about campaign this year is the ‘Rang-tan’ short. Originally produced for Greenpeace, Iceland had planned to run the animation as a campaign to promote the impact of palm oil usage (something they have worked with Greenpeace to eradicate from their products by the end of the year). Clearcast, the body which approves ads for broadcast on TV, wouldn’t sign it off as it breaches advertising rules. The breach doesn’t relate to the content, rather to Greenpeace’s involvement, who are unable to prove they are not a “political advertiser”.
There has been outrage on social media about the disapproval, leading to a potentially wider reach than it would have seen on television. The viral impact is undeniable; James Corden retweeted the video, with an overall engagement of 665,000, while the video on Iceland’s Facebook video has had a staggering 16 million views and almost 700,000 shares. It’s no surprise the video has been watched by more than 50 million people online through a variety of channels.
Although moving and thought-provoking, Iceland certainly lacked any sort of festive cheer, so as a nation we looked to John Lewis.
Who decided to ditch traditional Christmas for an Elton John biopic…?
The highly anticipated 2018 Christmas advert, ‘The Boy & The Piano’ is a story of how one gift inspired and influenced the course of Elton John’s life. John Lewis know exactly how to connect with people on an emotional level, and although they’ve taken an untraditional approach in comparison to their previous Christmas adverts, they have still kept their festive positioning focused on thoughtful gifting.
Set to Elton John’s hit Your Song, the ad begins in the present day and works reverse chronologically through Elton’s life, arriving back to the moment he received the “piano that changed his life forever”.
“Think back to all the Christmases that you have enjoyed over the years – I’m sure there is one very special gift that stands out above all others. That’s the magical feeling we wanted to bring to life this year.” Explains Craig Inglis, Customer Director at John Lewis.
In a year which has seen the fall of many retail giants, many have reigned in the budgets, promoting specific products and killer price points rather than a general brand campaign. Bucking the trend, John Lewis still seeing the value of a good old fashioned story. While Elton mightn’t have resonating as well as characters like Moz the Monster or Monty the Penguin, the advert was still very much welcomed by the nation (and has also been used to great effect in the group’s Waitrose advert).
For me though, Heathrow has won this Christmas for bringing festivity back to our TV’s with their ‘Bears Return’ campaign.
Now in its third year, the cuddly couple have again won the hearts of the nation with an ad that perfectly balances humour and heart-warming charm to deliver all the Christmas feels needed at this time of year. Just like Coca Cola’s classic ‘Holidays are Coming’ marking the first sign of Christmas, the Heathrow Bears might just become a tradition for many.
For me, these Christmas adverts are the cream of the crop this year, the bears bringing that festive cheer, John Lewis with an advert you can sing along to, and not forgetting ‘Rang-tan’ shedding light on what’s important – even at Christmas.
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