Who's led the race in the Christmas commercials this year?

9 minutes read
Rich - 02.12.2015

'Tis the season (etc etc). Not just to celebrate Christmas, but to keep a keen eye on the major retailers as they try and knock festive bells out of each other to win the hearts and minds of the spending public.

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It’s great to see them go toe-to-toe to produce the best Christmas advert and to see how creative they can be. Get the marketing right and an advert can even help brands make a tidy profit in other, unexpected ways (John Lewis up-selling Monty the Penguin toys, for example).

As fun as it all is around this time of year it’s incredibly serious business for retailers. There’s big money to pull in over the yuletide period with £24.4 billion set to be spent on gifts alone according to research from RadiumOne.

And, as John Lewis has shown, the right advert with a message that tugs on the heart stings is more than just a commercial opportunity, and can be imbued in the very fabric of the public’s consciousness. Again, John Lewis’s work with Blink Industries on its Bear and Hare campaign will for ever be associated with Lillie Allen’s number one cover of Somewhere Only We Know.

So, how have the nation’s biggest brands fared this year? Let’s take a look:

John Lewis' "Man on the Moon"


A John Lewis Christmas advert is now a major event in the holiday calendar. Not just Christmas, in fact; its Tiny Dancer home insurance ad campaign earlier this year has helped cement John Lewis as a creative, forward-thinking brand whose messages resonate with a large audience.


They’ve done it again this year, drawing national acclaim for its Man on the Moon advert which portrays a little girl trying to make a lonely old man’s day (or night?) by sending him a present despite the astronomical distance between the two.

It’s a heart-warming spot with John Lewis again going for a powerful, imaginative message to hit consumers straight in the heart without being too corny or sugary-sweet. They’re also selling a Man on the Moon Make Your Own Telescope Kit (although we don’t think they’ll sell as well as Monty did).

Aldi' "Man on the Moon" parody


Aldi’s growth over 2015 has been surprising and shows no signs of stopping, with the German discount chain overtaking Waitrose to become the UK’s sixth largest supermarket, seeing sales rise on a monthly basis, and becoming a very credible threat to the traditional supermarket model.


As well as its affordable products Aldi has promoted itself well with its ‘I like this one…’ ads to show people they can get great quality for less money than branded items. As the chain’s confidence has grown a lot of wit has entered its ads, with their Christmas ad an hilarious take on John Lewis’ effort.

A lonely old man on the moon looks through his telescope, compares mince pie prices, and whoops with delight as an elderly lady flies toward him on a balloon-supported sofa. A clever way of taking something fresh in the public’s minds and adding a funny new twist to it to make people take notice.

Tesco's "The Big Day"


In contrast to Aldi, Tesco’s had a terrible time of it over 2015 with profits falling by more than half over the first six months of the year and its international trade performing poorly. This Christmas is a very important one for Tesco to rebuild its confidence and plan for the future.


Only, their Christmas campaign feels like something of a missed opportunity at such a critical time. They’ve snared Ruth Jones, Ben Miller and Will Close to act as a family shopping for the big day, but it’s certainly a function-over-form set of commercials with little in the way of festive cheer.

Maybe that’s unfair. Not every Christmas advert can be a blockbuster, of course, but in these tough times we expected Britain’s largest retailer to take more of a creative risk. Still, they’re getting the message out there at least. Every little helps, eh?

Sainsbury’s "Mog the Cat"


Sainsbury’s has resurrected Mog the Cat whose clumsy antics were a huge hit with readers until author 92-year-old Judith Kerr killed her off in 2002’s ‘Goodbye, Mog’. Mog now appears in CGI form and effectively destroys her family’s Christmas by burning down the house, only to (somehow) be hailed as a hero by the fire brigade.


The neighbours though all come together and invite the stricken family to a big party, sharing all their food and presents in a showing of unity reminiscent from last year’s Sainsbury’s message featuring World War I soldiers downing arms to famously play football on Christmas Day.

Funny and friendly the store is also using the Mog ad to sell a new book in-store called ‘Mog’s Christmas Calamity’ and cuddly toys. Profits from book sales, published by HarperCollins, are to go to Save the Children to support the charity’s literary work.  

Currys PC World's "Spare the Act"


The Currys PC World Christmas ad has come completely out of left field and introduced an entirely new concept on a totally British habit; smiling and pretending to love terrible gifts so as not to hurt the other person’s feelings.


The ‘Spare The Act’ campaign has cost Currys PC World a whopping £10 million to produce, and though it sounds a lot it can arguably be seen as pocket change considering they’ve got Hollywood royalty in the marvellous, eccentric Jeff Goldblum to front the campaign.

And he fronts it incredibly well. It’s a smart, funny campaign that’s purposely different from its competitors’ flashy festive ones. That they’ve secured a personality like Goldblum is a huge coup for the company, especially considering Currys PC World’s troubles back in 2008.

Coca-Cola's "Coke Truck"


For millions Christmas starts as soon as they hear two simple words: Coke truck. The longevity of Coca-Cola’s Christmas ads are astounding, with the company first using the truck campaign in 1995 to the tune of “holidays are coming.”

In those 20 years Coca-Cola has, amazingly, managed to associate itself with an entire holiday and has used its trucks to market itself in new ways every year. This year, for instance, a member of the public – Matt Smith – got the unique chance to drive one of the trucks for the very first time.

The trucks will be rolled out across 20 locations across the UK this year, turning the advert into a huge photo-marketing and public engagement opportunity for Coca-Cola. What else would you expect from a company that helped create the modern-day Santa Claus?

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. Make sure your social media management is helping not damaging your brand by reading our post "How to boost your brand reputation with social media management"

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