They have been busy working on them all year and now, with the festive season just around the corner, nearly all the major brands are busy persuading us that their campaign, not their competitors’, will mark Christmas 2014. Last year festive TV and social media ad campaigns topped £390m in the final quarter, according to market analyst Nielsen, which is expected to increase this year. This year many of the campaigns are focusing on narrative-driven event campaigns, focused on good deeds and random acts of kindness, attempting to strike that challenging festive balance between the twee and the genuinely inspiring. Some focus on choosing the perfect gift, some tug on the heart strings, while others look to inspire Christmas cheer.
Already one of the most copied and abused pieces of content out there this Christmas, John Lewis’ award-winning Monty the penguin campaign has become one of the most talked-about online events of the year. According to The Drum, the department store saw a whopping 903% increase in multichannel brand consumption, with 178,000 tweets on the hashtag #MontyThePenguin. It so far hasn’t quite managed the longevity of its 2013 effort the bear and the hare, which cost £7m and generated a media frenzy that is still being talked about a year on. John Lewis chose to turning away from rivals’ tactics of promoting products and deals, to focusing on narrative story and revert to a pure content marketing. This year the trend continued and the department store sold out of its cuddly penguin toys in just 24 hours.
In a rather ironic advert called Christmas is for sharing, Sainsbury’s attempted to stamp its mark on the campaign battlefield and beat the other high street names by marking the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War and the Christmas Truce, scaling up its online battle with M&S, Morrisons, Aldi and John Lewis. The campaign marked a new height in narrative-based content marketing, taking the story elements to another level. It has been regarded as something of a miss however, not quite hitting the mark against the popularity of the penguin. The Advertising Standards Agency apparently received 240 complaints in two days after its launch. There have been some interesting debates as to why this is with Twitter comments ranging from praising it to hating it. Some people have been offended by Sainsbury’s associating itself with the Royal British Legion, others say it just lacked the homely appeal of other campaigns, some were even annoyed at the product placement of the Sainsbury’s chocolate bar in the video.
B&Q has struggled somewhat in recent years with increasingly patchy consumer demand for DIY. Its ‘Unleash’ campaign however has trundled along nicely on social media and seen complimentary feedback and a growing following. It has now generated a strong online community, particularly on Facebook and Pinterest with a dedicated online community of image sharing and DIY discussions. Its Christmas campaign around the theme of unleashing the DIY expert in all of its customers struck a fun chord and was well received at #ChristmasUnleashed where it blended Christmas DIY mishaps with advice in the build-up, focused on elements of the campaign.
4. Follow the Fairies
The latest M&S campaign met a decidedly muted reaction at its #TwoFairies hashtag, which focuses on the generation of festive sparkle and rekindling the spirit of kindness at Christmas. Most notably M&S has dropped the use of celebrities to push its brand and focused on style and narrative message in its content. Its Twitter hashtags stepped away from the brand and it also ran a number of unbranded events such as creating snow outside a primary school in Cornwall, giving gifts to night shift workers and creating fairies made of lights above Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge. It cleverly left people guessing and sharing as why M&S’ brand wasn’t plastered all over it.
5. Holidays are coming
Coca-cola’s announcement in November that it plans to release its own brand of “premiumised” milk, stirred up some very strong opinions on Twitter and may have diluted its online campaign somewhat in the UK. The black fizzy drink brand pretty much began the notion of festive marketing with the first red Father Christmas marketing in the 1930s and has re-booted its ‘holidays are coming’ Christmas campaign. Entitled: Give a little happiness, Coke has dropped the popular polar bears of last year, with a renewed focus on small acts of kindness. One shot in particular that got people tweeting was to point out one scene (also called a ‘mistake’, ‘sham’, and other choice comments used), where a police officer buys shoes for an elderly homeless man. Linked, quite obviously to the sharing frenzy in 2012 that made a hero out of New York Police Officer Larry Deprimo, who famously bought shoes for a homeless man.
It’s been called a make or break time for beleaguered Morrisons and there is clearly a lot riding on this year’s Christmas campaign and the shoulders of frontmen Ant and Dec. It focuses on providing an authentic family Christmas, beating off its low-cost rivals, and perhaps the consumer who has had enough of overly stylised campaigns. Morrisons has apparently cut some of its lines in an attempt to simplify the offering and feed into its #MakeChristmasSpecial campaign, which has yet to make much impact. It’s a very different kind of campaign to some of the others, stepping away from narrative-driven content marketing and reverting to very much an old school classic, product and deal-driven Christmas.