Our Content Manager, Amelia Hall, is a self-professed theatre nerd, bookworm, and dog lover. When she’s not in the office, you can find her treading the boards in Exeter as part of a local light opera group. Or gravitating towards the nearest dog.
There’s a lot of things that signify the start of the Christmas season. And no, it’s not when the temperature outside drops below 10 degrees. Subconsciously, we’re programmed to associate the festive period the first sound of Christmas songs on the radio, the eating of mince pies, and – distressingly – pieces of mass marketing from huge conglomerates that urge us to buy from them.
Adverts are usually an annoyance (we just want to watch YouTube videos in peace!) or an opportunity to make a cup of tea. The point is, we don’t often pay attention to televised sales pitches.
Granted, Christmas ads aren’t your ‘average’ advert, since it does tell a (usually heart-warming) story complete with the ubiquitous acoustic cover of a popular song, but it’s still clearly an advert asking you to part with your cold, hard cash.
So why, then, do we wait with feverish anticipation for these festive adverts? And why has the competition to release the ‘best’ Christmas ad of the year become an “arms race”? (Yes, that is a direct quote from a marketing publication.)
What makes Christmas adverts such a big deal?
Well, part of the reason is that for most, the first Christmas advertisement really does herald the beginning of the festive season. By mid-November, you’re likely to find your social media feed flooded with the festive ads of all the big hitters. It’s a signal to think “it’s ok, Christmas ads are out. I can shed a little happy tear over this lovely advert, start enjoying the thought of spending time with family and friends, and begin panicking about all the Christmas shopping that I have to do.”
No matter how much we try to resist, the release of Christmas adverts from our favourite brands is the ‘official’ checkered flag for celebrating our favourite time of the year.
They feel different from other ads
Christmas adverts tend to leave us feeling warm and fuzzy, in stark contrast to the ‘hard sell’ of normal adverts.
The John Lewis ad is arguably the most noticeable and highly anticipated member of the pack. They can probably count themselves as masters of the emotional Christmas advert since it’s been making them the longest and is the most widely imitated – not to mention the fact that their annual Christmas advert is famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page.
You only need to cast your mind back to classic adverts from the past few years to remember Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of ‘The Power of Love’ accompanying the snowman searching for the perfect gist, the bear and the hare, Monty the penguin, the man on the moon, Boxer the dog, and – of course – last year’s Elton John advert.
And they’re all John Lewis doing what they do best – delivering the Christmas nostalgia.
In fact, the number of brands going for the emotional punch seems to be increasing every year, leaving us viewers feeling particularly wobbly.
We love things that we can share
With Christmas ads getting more and more emotional, they’re also getting more shareable. Following the release of the handful of ads that created some buzz this year, social media was buzzing with opinions – including clear declarations of loyalty to particular brands’ festive output.
Festive adverts are an easy, pleasant thing to share with your friends, which is why we love being able to consume them digitally.
Which brands are in line for the crown this year?
Old favourites like Coca Cola and John Lewis put out pretty good adverts – I actually enjoyed the Excitable Edgar ad. But for me, they were challenged by less traditional brands, like Walkers’ Mariah Carey ad, Iceland’s family-friendly Frozen 2 effort, and McDonald’s adorable #ReindeerReady story.
Aldi put out another great Kevin the Carrot chapter, Asda and Sainsbury’s presented a heart-warming advert, Lidl used their humourous marketing to their advantage, and M&S got everyone doing the ‘shoulder roll’ in their knitwear-inspired ad.
For me, though, this year’s prize goes to Hafod Hardware, the viral smash of 2019. Made for just £100 by a local hardware shop in Rhayader, Powys, the advert follows a two year old boy called Arthur as he runs the hardware shop for the day.
The advert is set to a cover of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’, and as we see Arthur transform into an adult, we see the tagline ‘Be A Kid This Christmas’.
For something so genuinely heart-warming, genuine, and Christmassy, it’s only fitting that this lovely advert was created by a small, high-street company. It definitely made me shed a little happy tear, start thinking of spending time with family and friends, and begin panicking about all the Christmas shopping that I have to do.