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Blog

2023 Christmas Campaigns - Wrapped

Date

Dec 14, 2023

Read Time

min read

Category

Insight

Date

Dec 14, 2023

Read Time

min read

Category

Insight

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Campaigns that sleighed it... ‘The World Needs More Santas’ – Coca-Cola ‘Holiday Night Fever’ – Capital One ‘Good as Gold’ – Shelter ‘Fancy a McDonald’s?’ – McDonald’s ‘Kentucky Fried Turkey for Christmas?’ – KFC ‘The Bag for Life’ – JD Sports ‘Joy Ride’ – Amazon ‘Happy Holidays’ – TUI Campaigns that failed to deck the halls... ‘Snapper: The Perfect Tree’ – John Lewis ‘Love Thismas, Not Thatmas’ – M&S Clothing and Home ‘Make this Christmas Incredibublé’ – Asda ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ – Morrisons ‘Dancer’ – Argos Key Takeaways

With the festive season in full swing, our screens are full of Christmas ads all vying for our attention.

Planning for Christmas campaigns months ahead can be tricky when external circumstances can so quickly alter our priorities and what we expect from brands. It’s almost impossible to anticipate the mood of the nation when storyboarding a Christmas ad as early as June in preparation for a November launch.

After a tough year, we’ve seen brands tackle this challenge in a variety of ways in their 2023 festive campaigns. While some have invested in tried-and-tested star power to capture audiences’ attention, others have taken a risk and been more daring.

We’re always excited to see which direction brands have taken and what’s resonating with audiences. So, after huddling around a computer screen in the office and watching this year’s lineup, here are our thoughts on which campaigns packed a punch and which missed the mark this year.

Campaigns that sleighed it...

‘The World Needs More Santas’ – Coca-Cola

coca cola ad

Coca-Cola has continued to build on decades’ worth of work to tie itself to the festive season and strengthen its longstanding association with the image of Santa Claus. This year’s ‘Anyone Can Be Santa’ ad taps into one of the brand’s core values and an important theme that resonates more with audiences now than ever before – the importance of kindness. In our opinion, it’s everything a Christmas ad should be.

‘Holiday Night Fever’ – Capital One

capital one ad

Capital One may not be known for its Christmas ads, but this year the credit card suppliers took two icons – Santa Claus and John Travolta – and put them together to pay homage to one of the most famed scenes in cinema history. The ad plays on nostalgia, which we know works so well with audiences, cleverly recreating Saturday Night Fever with some perfectly placed product shots. Santa Claus disco dancing to the Bee Gees is the 2023 Christmas icon we didn’t know we needed!

‘Good as Gold’ – Shelter

shelter ad

Shelter’s ‘Good as Gold’ ad powerfully cuts through the often-saccharine seasonal sentiment with a hefty dose of reality – some children just want a home for Christmas. The ad opens in the style of a typical feel-good festive ad. But things quickly take a sombre turn, as the young girl realises that the one thing she wants the most for Christmas – a home – isn’t something that she’s able to make come true. A heartbreaking and compelling reminder of what’s important in life during the season of excess.

‘Fancy a McDonald’s?’ – McDonald’s

mcdonalds ad

It can be difficult for a brand that doesn’t have a direct or obvious association with Christmas to give audiences that festive feeling. This year, McDonald’s decided to build on its infamous “Raise Your Arches” branding for the holidays, using a nod to the Christmas classic, Love Actually, to help tie it to the season. It does a better job at pointing out the tedious and unenjoyable parts of Christmas than the M&S ad has (see more on that below!) by encouraging people to escape from them – a message that’s right in line with McDonald’s longstanding cheeky and feel-good tone-of-voice.

‘Kentucky Fried Turkey for Christmas?’ – KFC

kfc ad

Remaining true to your company’s values is paramount, and, for KFC, that means having a laugh with its audience. With the company bombarded with requests to add Kentucky Fried Turkey to its menu over the period, KFC took  the opportunity to play a headline-grabbing trick in its ad stating, “We heard you, and we ignored you”. A much more powerful message than the introduction of turkey that would go against the very foundations of the business, Christmas or not.

‘The Bag for Life’ – JD Sports

jd sports ad

Whilst it might not be the most ‘Christmassy’ of this year’s ads, JD’s campaign prioritises authenticity and is a striking celebration of the impact the brand has had on youth culture for decades. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the iconic JD duffle bag, it demonstrates the brand’s deep understanding of its audiences and has successfully resonated with both older consumers who have nostalgia for the brand and the young people who are shopping with JD in 2023.

‘Joy Ride’ – Amazon

amazon

Amazon’s ‘Joy Ride’ ad has all the ingredients of good storytelling: nostalgia, warmth, and the unexpected. We love to see a Christmas ad celebrate friendship, and even better to feature older people being playful and having fun – as this demographic is all too often homogenised, stereotyped, and overlooked.

‘Happy Holidays’ – TUI

tui ad

Another campaign we weren’t expecting, given TUI has never released a Christmas ad, but a stroke of genius nonetheless. The brand has produced a fun and energetic ad that puts Santa’s elves in the spotlight. Acknowledging that its brand is quite far removed from Christmas, it focuses on elves having fun, ignoring their boss over the holidays with subtle product placement. Launched at a time when its competitors are quiet, the ad is ideal for ensuring TUI is front of consumers’ minds in January when their annual leave resets and they want some sun to look forward to. We can’t wait to see how they follow this up in 2024.

Campaigns that failed to deck the halls...

‘Snapper: The Perfect Tree’ – John Lewis

john lewis ad

We know this one will cause a stir… it even has the office divided. But all in all, whilst we don’t dislike this year’s John Lewis advert, we do think it’s moved too far away from the ingredients that have made previous campaigns into the heartwarming classics we remember year-on-year. 2023’s ad leaves us wanting more – and not in a good way. When you know your audience as well as John Lewis does, and you understand what they like, any change in direction, even if small, is going to be magnified and judged heavily. Are we holding it to an unusually high standard? Maybe, but this year the mark has been missed.

‘Love Thismas, Not Thatmas’ – M&S Clothing and Home

m&s ad

M&S’s advert is a prime example of a brand failing to gauge the mood of its audiences. This year’s ad didn’t win us over with its glitzy and over-the-top showcase of celebrities in the name of ‘breaking traditions’. Firstly, we didn’t see a link between the message ‘do Christmas your way’ with the branding of M&S. If anything, M&S is a brand steeped in history and breaking tradition does not play into its values. And secondly, whilst some audiences want to be whisked away from reality, there is such a thing as being too far removed and unrelatable. An interesting – and maybe controversial – move after focusing on charities for its ad last year.

‘Make this Christmas Incredibublé’ – Asda

asda ad

Another brand which is guilty of prioritising celebrity appearance over substance, Asda throws Michael Bublé into the mix to bring audiences a clumsy message: ‘have an incredibublè Christmas’. For us, it’s un-festive and lacklustre and, crucially, misses a story to tie Michael to the brand over-and-above the fact that he’s associated with Christmas and Asda wants to capitalise on that. Interestingly, this ad performs well for brand recognition according to data, so maybe it’s just us feeling this way?

‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ – Morrisons

morrisons ad

Brands can’t rely on a good song to make a successful Christmas campaign, and Morrisons’ lip-syncing oven gloves are no exception. The ad lacks emotion, story, and any festive feeling – surprisingly, given how competitive supermarkets usually are with each other around Christmas campaigns. What only makes it worse is that it’s poorly executed. Whilst budget isn’t everything, if it looks poorly and cheaply done, the value only declines in the audience’s eyes.

‘Dancer’ – Argos

argos ad

Subtly wasn’t on Argos’ ad checklist this year. Instead, its ad is littered with product placement and no story, leaving it feeling cold and far too self-serving for a festive campaign. What’s more, the ad misses the opportunity to demonstrate Argos’ values and remind its customers of the meaningful role it plays in their lives.

Key Takeaways

Not all businesses can successfully associate themselves with the festive season, and FOMO is not a good enough reason to try. As with all marketing efforts, nothing good comes from adding to the noise with something that adds no value or will jar with your audience.

When it comes to festive marketing, we know what works: being authentic, staying true to your brand, and doing something different.

Find out more about how we can support your business in creating creative and purposeful marketing.

We're always interested in a new PR challenge

People dancing
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