Finding the Magic in Christmas Advertising

“Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful”  – NORMAN VINCENT PEALE

Christmas is a special time of year – the celebrations, lunches, decorations, time with family and presents. It’s also a time where globally, brands pull out all the stops for their advertising campaigns.

Let’s take this opportunity to explore the magic of Christmas ads… and to share some of our favourites as we count down the days to Christmas.


The Event of Christmas Advertising

Big advertising campaigns during the festive period have become a sort of cultural trend, akin to the infamous Superbowl spots. Brands work tirelessly and spend big to tap into the palpable Christmas spirit. With good reason too, a 2018 Commonwealth Bank Christmas Consumer Spending Study found that Australians spent around $10.7 billion on their Christmas shopping – South Australians spending an average of $526 on gifts. Brands are right to capitalise off this intent to purchase, but they need to create something great that speaks to their customers and doesn’t feel like a shameless cash grab.

John Lewis the high-end UK department store has become the standard bearer for Christmas advertising and has created much of the buzz around campaigns during this time of year, as The Drum describe:

“John Lewis is a leading light in UK Christmas advertising. Its high-profile work over the last decade-and-a-bit has often captured both the headlines and the hearts of the British public”


Their ‘The Boy and the Piano’ campaign featuring Elton John from a few years ago is a great example of the scope, emotion, and story implemented in their ads to create an effective connection to their audience.



The Importance of Storytelling

We’ve mentioned it before but successful ads leverage great storytelling. This is a common feature of Christmas ads, moreso than regular advertising – they lean into the power of an engaging story and product takes somewhat of a backseat. In fact, this Kantar study found that 80% of Christmas ads utilise storytelling, compared with the 40% on average for ads throughout the year. Engaging audiences emotionally through purposeful communications and a creative story is a sure-fire way to promote engagement and is the ingredient for many of the most successful Christmas ads.

Global VP, Insight and Solutions at Unruly, Rebecca Wang explains:

“Christmas is a special time of year – a time when we are more likely to think with our hearts than our heads… Christmas commercials certainly play their part. For brands, this means there’s no greater opportunity to make an emotional connection with their audiences – as long as they create the right content”


Coca-Cola, who are also synonymous with Christmas advertising encapsulate the power of emotional storytelling with a campaign that is bound to give you goosebumps.



Echo Your Brand Voice – Don’t Be A Cliché

It is important to remember, however, that not all ads need to fit the aforementioned ‘John Lewis tear-inducing, heart-string pulling formula’ to be successful. Brands should create a story that echoes their brand, not what they expect a Christmas ad to be. In essence, don’t be cliché, be authentic. The ad should reflect the positioning, strategy and values that previous communication efforts have established.

This NeedScope framework of gifting is an illustration of potential messaging strategies that go beyond the usual ‘sentimental’ and can get brands thinking about what aligns most with them.

Take the Aldi ‘The Miracle Ham’ campaign as an example of aligning Christmas messaging to brand voice. Aldi steer into their longstanding ‘good different’ mantra and celebrate the community connection of Christmas with this quirky ad from 2019.

To find the magic in Christmas ads, communications should be authentic, purposeful, bold and able to connect.

Merry Christmas from the Square Holes Team.

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