What gets you into the Christmas spirit?
I learned a thing today that made me feel ancient: its 20 years since Coca Cola starting doing their ‘Holidays Are Coming!’ advert. But that got me thinking, ‘What makes a great Christmas advert?’ So being a dedicated worker, I put my feet up to watch some of the top branded adverts – hey, somebody has to do it – to work out why.
You can’t help but be impressed, or frightened, by how early the promotion of Christmas start. I saw some Christmas cards in a shop in September; um, no thank you. I know it wasn’t a brilliant summer, but please. Still, you can also leave it too late. Christmas is such a massively important time for most businesses, they need to catch the wave at exactly the right time – which can seem very early to most consumers. In financial services it’s a little different – you might not get the same Christmas rush, but the festive spirit is still a powerful force to get people thinking about their lives, their families, and the big changes they may want to make.
Roaring fires, tinsel, glitter, Christmas jumpers, Downton’s Christmas special… The actual Christmas may not remotely resemble the classic ideal, but that’s what we all expect in our commercial imagery. Advertising works by crude but effective broad strokes. Add in some much loved re-worked versions of classic Christmas songs, or in the case of Asda, put in a potential future no.1 song in the form of an X-Factor runner up, and you’ve got an audience who now associate the playing of that song to a company selling lovely sparkly things.
It always, always snows at Christmas in adverts and films. This is the Rule. But what is it about snow that we associate with Christmas? Well, it allows you to imagine a family snow fight, curling up on the sofa, eating chocolates, watching a cosy film, walking in your wellies (but the sun is still shining!). It’s an instant shorthand for fun, comfort and togetherness all in one simple image. As advertising goes, that’s gold dust… well, close enough.
My favourite advert (so far!) is the Lidl advert. It shows us the School of Christmas and you need to see it. Meanwhile Burberry, with their brand all revitalised, have enticed Julie Walters and James Cordon to bounce around for them (that will make more sense when you watch it). Humour is at the centre of British culture, and the best adverts are crammed with all that subtlety and self-deprecation that we love.
The best adverts help you to feel involved. The Waitrose advert shows you people actually making the goods, which has somehow inspired even me to have a go at some mince pies. The Lidl advert shows you how to conduct Christmas without it all going down the drain, and Asda have started a #becauseitsChristmas hashtag. But hats off to Coca Cola above all, who marked their 20 years of the ‘Holidays are coming’ ad this year with a re-fresh of 2014’s success “‘Give a Little Happiness’ TV ad campaign.
The moral of this Christmas tale
Try not to irritate your consumers by starting a countdown campaign too early. Put a bit of humour into the mix, as that will increase buy-in. Invest in some consumer research and find out what makes your consumers tick – if you know this, then the content of your advertising and/or promotional activity will be better received. Finally, make sure there’s something for them to engage with. Most people are on social media, so don’t miss the opportunity to engage with them on a personal level.
The John Lewis advert is being released on Friday 6 November at 8am – we’ve set our alarms!