Much like the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the Christmas ads officially start the run-up to the festive season. And we love them, as marketers and as consumers. They are long anticipated and create joy and contention in equal measure.
It must be an exciting (and tough) brief to take on from the goliaths of the retail world. Deliver a Christmas campaign to outperform last year’s. Promote joy and brand connection. And increase sales in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
They have the responsibility to capture the spirit of an era in 90 seconds. From Yellow Pages’ Mistletoe ad in 1992, ‘The Holidays are Coming’ (Coca Cola) in 1995 to Irn Bru’s adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman in 2007, we are all witnessing social conscience evolve through Christmas ad messaging, to build more meaning. With each phase, brands are adapting to tap into our ‘heartstrings’ to create more relevance and connection.
Traditional scenes of family joy and harmony over a festive feast, shape-shifted into themes of doing more to focus on family, as demonstrated with the brilliant Doc Morris ad from Germany.
With each phase, we are getting closer to the things that matter. It should be no surprise that two of the biggest retail giants this year have brought to the front and centre of mainstream advertising, with this as the core message of their most important ad spend of the year.
John Lewis has used its mighty seasonal platform to raise awareness for children in care. The ad ‘tells a story of a big-hearted man taking up a new hobby a little later in life’, to connect with a child in the care system, shining a light on an important conversation with no apparent subtext. A bold and humble move in partnership with ‘Action for Children’ and ‘Who Cares Scotland’ to highlight the 108,000 children in the care system in the UK. What an amazing way to create awareness.
Marks & Spencer is pledging a donation of £1 million pound to The Neighbourly Foundation to support thousands of community groups who feature in their feel-good story about giving. And it doesn’t get more community-focused, with M&S Romford launching a Christmas single, with proceeds going to S.M.I.L.E., a partnership supporting low-income and struggling local families.
Our friends at Neighbourly have also partnered with both Aldi and Lidl on their toy donation campaigns and will ensure that gifted toys get to where they are needed most. So this feels like one of the first collaborative community initiatives from the biggest retail sector, choosing their partner for their relevance rather than being concerned about any competitive dissonance.
Some great examples of genuine and true giving – taking the responsibility and power of their platform to make a real difference.
Every day, everywhere, selfless acts of care and compassion are keeping our families, communities and the planet together, driving social value. A few more £million in advertising spend from the royalty of Christmas advertisers, is very warmly welcomed.
Social value is all about giving. There’s no better season to be talking about this.
Happy Holiday Season to all.