Back in the 1930s, Coca Cola displayed the ultimate brand power by changing the colour of Santa’s outfit from its traditional green to red, a colour it has remained ever since. The brand then kicked off the Christmas TV phenomenon began back in 1993 with the famous “Holidays are Coming” Coca Cola advertisement that we all know and love – the bright red Coca Cola lorry lighting up towns and cities as a little boy watches in wonder.
The all-powerful brand is taking it further than simply screening the ad this year with the famous truck from the ad set to visit 60 towns, cities and supermarkets in Great Britain and Ireland over the coming weeks and quizzes and polls taking place across social media to boost festive engagement with the brand. This year’s ad will also feature the hash tag #holidaysarecoming to generate excitement and buzz ahead of Christmas.
If Coca Cola set the trend, other brands soon caught up. In recent years the Christmas TV advertisement has become big business in terms of brand presence and recognition. Brands including John Lewis, M&S and the supermarkets vie for the top spot every year as the all-important festive season approaches.
What do Walt Disney, Lily Allen, Michael Buble and Rod Stewart have in common this festive season? They’re all behind the soundtracks to this year’s Christmas TV adverts from the big brands.
John Lewis have set the bar high in previous years and as such are seen as the brand to beat. This year’s offering, the Disney team animated £5 million “The Bear and the Hare”, tells the story of “an animal who had never seen Christmas”, and is aiming to top last year’s heart-warming snowman adventure – “The Journey”- and 2011’s tale of the little boy who couldn’t wait to give his mum and dad their Christmas present. As the ad was mentioned in 50,000 tweets in the first 24 hours after launch, they certainly got people talking.
Sainsbury’s have approached the all-important festive ad differently this year, with their offering comprising of their customers’ real video clips depicting traditional Christmas moments from buying and decorating the tree, little ones trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve, the excitement of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, the timing of cooking the Christmas meal and finally, in a clip designed to elicit a big “awwwww”, the children of a soldier filming a Christmas message for their dad who is serving in Afghanistan, only for him to walk through the door. The full feature is a staggering 45 minutes long and was produced by the Oscar-winning Ridley Scott.
Tesco have also gone for a nostalgic feel this year with a collection of Christmas family videos filmed from 1983 to the present day, set to a soundtrack of Rod Stewart singing his 1988 hit “Forever Young”. The ad aims to celebrate what makes Christmas special, from catching up with family to opening presents on Christmas day.
Boots have got it right this year with their tale of how to “make the people who make us feel good, feel good”. The film-style ad featuring a teenage boy delivering gifts in secret has been billed as the best of the bunch this year, with many viewers admitting to shedding a tear or two.
Morrisons have focused on fun, with Ant and Dec enjoying a Christmas feast with a festive gingerbread man, set to the classic song “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with the lyrics amended to include popular festive foods such as “spicy prawns, spicy snacks and panettone baked from scratch.”
Discount brands including Iceland and Lidl are also competing this year with ads featuring Michael Buble’s cover of “Jingle Bells” and One Direction’s “Little Things” covered by The Majority Says respectively as they aim for a classier, more mainstream feel than previous years.
The initial unveiling of the Christmas TV ad has become almost as important as the advertisement itself. John Lewis had the big reveal on primetime Saturday night viewing during the X Factor on 10th November this year. M&S had a screening for press ahead of the big reveal and emailed their customer database with a sneak preview. Boots did the same. The “big reveal” is fast becoming as important an event as the first screening of the ad itself.
It’s often difficult to track a return from TV spend and it could be argued that the ROI is almost irrelevant for the Christmas TV ad. It’s more about getting your brand into the forefront of shoppers’ minds at this all-important time of year. Indeed, actual product has become redundant from many of the big ads this year, with John Lewis and Sainsbury’s not featuring any product at all. M&S have bucked the trend with key pieces from their clothing ranges being modelled by their big-name brand ambassadors, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Helena Bonham-Carter and David Gandy in their Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz “Magic and Sparkle” themed ad.
The cynical amongst us might not be convinced by what could be seen as mercenary pieces of marketing but for most of us, these ads have become an intrinsic part of the run-up to the big day, almost as much as the Christmas lights switch on and hearing the first Christmas songs on the radio.
What are your thoughts on the growing phenomenon of the Christmas TV ad – do they get you in the Christmas spirit or leave you saying “bah humbug”?