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It’s that time of year folks. “It’s Chriiissstttttmaaassssssss…. ad season”. And why shouldn’t retailers everywhere use this as an opportunity to entertain their audiences, garner some positive emotion and move their brand and their wares to the front of mind. With an ever more distracted audience amass with content to consume, advertisers are understandably looking for any hook and any advantage to generate maximum engagement from their advertising budgets.

Here’s the thing though, the world’s changed, and maximum engagement (or to put it bluntly ‘bang for your advertising buck’) is achieved in less familiar ways and I for one would like to see both advertisers and consumers benefit from this opportunity.

To illustrate my point, let’s have a look at this year’s cohort of UK Christmas Ads, and how they’ve performed on a like-for-like basis via YouTube stats, here’s the top 5:

1. John Lewis: Moz the Monster
  • Youtube Views: 7.58m
  • Youtube Likes: 58k
  • YouTube Dislikes: 10k
2. M&S: Paddington
  • Youtube Views: 5.66m
  • Youtube Likes: 18k
  • Youtube Dislikes: 3k
3. Aldi: An Amazing Christmas Adventure
  • Youtube Views: 1.98m
  • Youtube Likes: 6k
  • Youtube Dislikes: 1k
4. Waitrose: #ChristmasTogether
  • Youtube Views: 1.75m
  • Youtube Likes: 5k
  • Youtube Dislikes: 2k
5. Debenhams: #YouShall
  • Youtube Views: 1.26m
  • Youtube Likes: 7k
  • Youtube Dislikes: 3k

So there’s a clear winner from John Lewis’s very well received, and socially joined up ‘Moz the Monster’, outperforming the nearest competitor (M&S’s Paddington) by 34% on views. So on the surface this is a great result, and a well-deserved nod to John Lewis on their discipline and production principles in adhering to a well considered formula for increased engagement. To understand the core tenants of this winning formula, you need:

  1. Triggering memory with a strong narrative
  2. Using animals (in this case ‘Moz the Monster’ will suffice as an animal) to boost the emotional response
  3. A song that you will remember (Elbow’s cover of Golden Slumbers by the Beatles for those that are wondering)
  4. A feel good factor advert

Christmas Advertising

If you don’t know what ‘Moz the Monster’ looks like, this is him

But here’s the thing. I think this is the ‘safe list’, I can validate that statement by looking down the list, and matching those core tenants to each of the ads, and further still you can go back the last few years and see the same pattern. Anyone remember John Lewis’s ‘Buster the Boxer’ from last year for example?   

For what it’s worth (and from engagement stats, it’s worth a lot, in fact, it’s worth double the bang for your advertising buck), here are the missing tenants:

  • Make your story real, rather than something made up for entertainments sake
  • Demonstrate a core value or principal of your brand that differentiates you
  • Take a risk, if it doesn’t work out, that’s OK, it helps audiences connect emotionally

Boiling those points down, I’d suggest that what we’re talking about is something dear to our hearts at StoryStream, and that is the power of:

  • Authenticity, something real, with real people
  • A point of difference
  • Vulnerability

So you might have to swap some elements out of the list in order to bring these items in. But when you do that, magic happens.  

Don’t believe me?  

Do you remember WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, real-time giving Ad from 2013? Bear in mind we’re going back 4 years, and the level of social adoption and audience was significantly lower. But let’s leave that point to one side for the minute and look at how it performed after roughly the same amount of time, again on YouTube.  

Christmas Advertising

Real woman & real reaction to the genuine surprise of landing at a WestJet destination airport to find Father Christmas and helpers giving personalised gifts to everyone on that plane. (Note: they actually did this….it’s not made up, which is what makes it so special).

The company expected about 800K views which would still make this year’s UK top 5. But it surprised everyone by achieving 13 million views in the same time span as this year’s UK cohort, that’s almost double what John Lewis’s ‘Moz the Monster’ achieved.  

So John Lewis, M&S, Aldi and co, I’d challenge you to change your formula for next year. Incorporate those missing components. Leave us feeling something that’s so powerful that we can’t help telling everyone we know about it.

Don’t get me wrong, the entertainment side of what you’re doing is fun and positive, but it’s all become a bit safe in my mind which presents a fantastic opportunity for those that dare.

Boots tapped into the feelings of authenticity and christmas magic with their #SpecialBecause campaign. By encouraging customers to share messages about the special people in their lives, Boots reinforced their slogan, “Let’s Feel Good”, during prime shopping time by publishing the stories online and on in-store digital signage.

Read The Boots Case Study