Christmas Adverts: What’s In It For Brands?

Flip the calendar to November and its not long before the big leagues of Christmas adverts kick in. With supermarkets and big brands jostling to have the most memorable, heart-warming ad around, the spend grows, more companies jump onboard and we find ourselves asking what is in it for the brands at the end of the day? Sure, entertaining the nation and being the talk of the water cooler is no mean feat but ultimately in times of economic challenge, any brand looking to throw a big budget on a seasonal advert must have pretty serious expectations for return?

What’s to gain?

This year,  the joint John Lewis and Waitrose ‘Excitable Edgar’ advert is rumoured to have cost around £7 million to produce so what kind of what conversion can they be expecting? And for all the other brands trying to outdo one another, tell a story, stay on brand, and be memorable all at once, is it really worth the effort?

Ultimately yes. Or so the experts will tell us. And it mostly comes down to FOMO. For these big brands who have already captured a market share, they need to keep going. UK consumers spend upwards of £30 billion in the ‘golden quarter’ before Christmas (Kantar) and the competition to attract that spend is fierce and doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon. We assume that consumers are loyal, that we all know where we’re shopping, but marketing noise is loud around Christmas time and having a memorable, stand-out Christmas ad can help brands to cut through the noise and stick in the consciousness of consumers. John Lewis have reported that in general, their Christmas ads deliver 20 times the return on a standard advert. It’s easy to see why opting out is not really an option.

Market Share

If we’re talking statistics, the supermarkets are a good place to start. In September 2019 Tesco held 26.9% of the market share leading the way by around 11% from Sainsbury. But the next 4 brands (Sainsbury 15.3%, Asda 15.1%, Morrisons 9.9%, and Aldi 8.1%) are all fairly close so making a dent in this ‘big spend’ quarter, can go on to make all the difference in market share.

Less figures and more ‘feels’, consumers seem to love Christmas Ads. With high levels of virality, and big engagement across the brands, they seem to represent the universal ‘like’ for most consumers. Build onto that the new opportunities for brands to merchandise based on the premise of their ad and suddenly the gains are even bigger. An even more compelling argument is that winning the hearts and shares of consumers through the Christmas period will help to prolong your brand spread well into the next year. These big investment adverts are seen to lay the foundations for brand growth and increased marketing share for subsequent quarters so not something that brands want to ignore.

Doing good

And then, there’s the chance to make change that comes with Christmas adverts. The most viewed and shared of all the year’s ads makes these productions the perfect place to push a brand promise, to advocate for change, or to publicly support a cause for no other reason than because it’s good. While this might not always work – take Iceland’s #nopalmoilchristmas advert which was banned in 2018  for being against advertising standards – there are others that have made the cut and continue to do good. Boden this year for example, makes the committed staff of the NHS their stars for Christmas.

It’s also possible that this trend for lavish ads no longer reflects the current economic climate. With Debenhams shooting their ad in house and John Lewis and Waitrose combining their Christmas production for the first time, perhaps we’re seeing the start of a spending cut. But while we ride the wave of the many memorable 2019 adverts, that remains to be seen. Clearly something is working for brands and who are we to argue? These mini films fill our Christmas hearts up with warmth and if they truly are making a return for brands then long live ‘Nicholas the Sweep’, ‘Let’s Make Christmas Extra Special’ because after all, ‘Everyone Needs Someone To Love.’

by Karen Barr

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