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Pogues, Band Aid, Wham, or Sainsbury's?

Is it just me, or is the battle to be crowned the number 1 Christmas advert becoming bigger than the pop chart equivalent?

Christmas Retail image

I asked my colleagues to name their favourite Christmas ad of all time. They responded:

  • “John Lewis’ penguin!”
  •  “Toys’R’Us, purely for the jingle!”
  • “Coca-Cola, Holidays are coming!”
  •  “Kerry Katona’s Iceland ads” – (I’m not sure this was a serious vote?)
  • “Budweiser frogs!” – was this even a Christmas ad? 

…. and I asked them what will be Christmas number 1?

  • “No idea.  Doesn’t the X-factor get it every year?”
  • “I don’t care.”
  • “Ditto.” 

Risking the wrath of my colleagues, I think it’s fair to say most of us are Generation X, not Y, which might mean my survey is flawed, but I’ll continue.

Sienna Miller Mrs. Claus

According to the Independent UK companies will spend an estimated £5.6bn on marketing in the run-up to Christmas – £300m more than in 2015!

Christmas stalwarts John Lewis & Sainsbury’s have laid down their markers this year with Buster the Boxer and James Corden respectively, whilst M&S have gone for a suave James Bond-esque Mrs Claus.  But 2016 also sees big festive campaigns from Aldi, LIDL, Waitrose and – though they probably wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath - Burberry.  Burberry are reportedly topping the spend charts with a whopping £10m on their Tale of Thomas Burberry campaign (then again, Sienna Miller doesn’t come cheap!). 

So why, with all the post-Brexit, post-Trump doom and gloom, are retailers spending these astronomic amounts on advertising you might ask?

As always in retail, the answer is pretty simple really - sales.

According to one industry specialist, research has shown that Sainsbury’s managed a profit of £24 for every £1 spent on its Christmas ad campaign in 2014.  You may recall this was the commemorative WW1 Christmas Eve Truce ad.

So how will John Lewis or Burberry recoup their £17m combined spend?

Magic Moments

In years gone by we saw an advert on TV (Quality Street, Magic Moments anyone?) and it gave us a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  If Quality Street were lucky that feeling remained and we bought a box of chocolates for a relative when we were on the high street a day or so later. 

Cut to today and that warm fuzzy feeling is instantly shared and replayed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, forums, etc.  With these amplifying factors, one initial TV view could be worth a million times that, and of course we don’t need a TV to view it with the ubiquity of mobile and digital technology. 

That warm fuzzy feeling isn’t shared for a day or so, it can last for weeks & weeks.  At the time of writing, Buster the Boxer has 14.5million Youtube views, and James Corden Sainsbury’s ad has been racking up over a million views a day in its launch week! 

However, getting views, ‘likes’ or creating that fuzzy feeling isn’t ultimate goal - increasing sales is. 

What each of these adverts have behind them is a well-choreographed campaign that drives a consumer to purchase.  Getting the customer to the site or store is only half the battle.  Assuming they get us in-store or online, will they make that purchase?  Will they buy those extras?  Is this seasons must-have in-stock and available within 24hrs?

Retailers spending millions on a festive ad campaign isn’t a guarantee of success, done poorly the shareholders will view it as typical marketing exuberance with no substance, and Christmas spirit will be in short supply when it comes to who authorised the multi-million pound debacle. 

Interim Partners’ Retail Practice works with the best transformational Interims available.  Whether you are looking for a Digital Marketing expert to design a seasonal campaign, a CFO to measure the increase in sales, or a CIO to put the infrastructure in place, we have the industry specialists with a proven track record of delivery to help. 

Come January when the tills have been emptied and the counting up has been done, we’ll see who really was the 2016 Christmas number 1!

For what it’s worth, my favourite Christmas ad has to be the Coca-Cola ‘Holidays are coming’, but as that is more of an ongoing campaign, and this is my blog, I’ll add in a second, Sainsburys 2014.

… and Wham, Last Christmas if you’re interested. 

Click here to find out more about our retail practice, and please share your thoughts on Xmas ad campaigns.  Iceland’s Kerry Katona & Peter Andre may not be in your top 3, but I’ll bet you remember them, right?

Stuart Hogg is the Principal of TMT, Retail and Digital

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