Christmas adverts have become a proper event. No longer do big brands roll out generic festive content; Christmas adverts have become a seriously cinematic experience, taking on average around one year to make and requiring multi-million pound budgets. 

John Lewis can definitely take the credit for starting off the Christmas ad competition between big brands. Their first Christmas advert was aired in 2007 but it wasn’t until 2011 that they embraced the multi-million pound cinematic production with ‘The Long Wait’. Other big brands quickly followed suit. Now they continue to try and outdo their previous year’s efforts, as well as each other of course. 

With the likes of Michel Gondry for John Lewis, Wes Anderson for H&M and Michael Gracey for Sainsburys, along with throngs of A list actors and singers (Stephen Fry, Adrien Brody, Jenna Coleman, Mariah Carey, the list is long) retailers don’t hold back on big names.  

The winning combination seems to be; heart-warming storyline, lovable protagonist and popular song.  

John Lewis now builds up the anticipation by announcing a release date, picking a prime slot to air it initially and share teasers.  This year they released their advert one week earlier than previous years, perhaps anticipating consumers’ motivation to be prepared earlier than usual this year, due to 2020’s lockdown. 

Christmas ads allow retailers to reach consumers in a different way to the rest of the year, providing a platform for brands to spread a particular message, which can impact how consumers feel about the brand. Harnessing nostalgia, sentiment or humour, encouraging consumers to engage with the adverts is essential, particularly during the lead up to Christmas when spending is high. 

Sainsburys famous campaign ‘1914’ was one of the most expensive Christmas ads at that time, but in the end proved one of the most profitable. According to reports, Sainsburys made £24 profit on every £1 spend on the promotion. No wonder Christmas ads have become such big business. 

Striking the right chord with a Christmas campaign can strengthen a brand’s position and set a strong trajectory for good trading the following year. However, as Head of Planning at brand activation agency ZEAL Creative, Callum Saunders explains ‘Ultimately, success will be measured by how well these retailers perform over the critical commercial trading period. The proof is in the (Christmas) pudding.’ 

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