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Communicator of the Week: Heathrow

The final weeks of November are the perfect storm for those working in retail and advertising - supported with increasing reliance on digital channels by PR pros. Once Halloween is out of the way, Christmas goods hit the shelves, the marketing e-mails promoting Black Friday deals begin to be sent, and the Christmas ad campaigns go live.

In the last few years the John Lewis Christmas advert has become an event in the way Black Friday has. A quick aside here, I have fought against Black Friday as in the UK it simply does not make sense. In the US Black Friday is part of a holiday weekend when people are off work and able to hit the shops. In the UK it is simply just another wet and windy November Friday. That was until I learnt from a senior retail strategist of its importance to UK retailers with some taking more money than at Christmas.

So for the retail world this period is a high stakes business which is why so many now spend such large amounts of money on creative Christmas campaigns. The competition between the big retailers - John Lewis, M&S along with the big supermarket chains - has been great to see.

This year House of Fraser has gone big with a noisy rendition of the classic song ‘Ready or Not’ accompanying a dizzyingly choreographed set of dance routines. Watching it for the first time I thought it was a Gap ad which may be what they were aiming for.

Sainsbury’s might not be offering too many BOGOFs after splashing the cash on a glossy animated story counting down the days to Christmas and using international star James Corden to voice the time-poor Dad in the ad. It has a bit of Wallace and Gromit magic to it, grabbed my heart-strings a little, as well as backing Great Ormond’s Street Hospital but the song annoys from first watching.

Tesco have a seasonal version of their current ongoing ad campaign meaning continuity of message but little to inspire festive feelings. Waitrose have pulled out a belter featuring a migrating Robin battling to get home to the UK from Scandinavia with the added advantage that, unlike with the animals in the BBC’s Planet Earth 2, there is a happy ending.

Sorry to John Lewis but this year’s just does not do it for me, even if Buster the dog jumping on a trampoline does raise a smile and currently has had over 18 million views on YouTube.

Aldi’s retelling of The Night Before Christmas deserves a mention, as does the M&S bid to put Mrs Claus central to the modern day telling of Christmas. Maybe someone will mention Jesus Christ next year?

For me though the ad that grabbed the heart, kept my attention, made me smile and surprised me with a twist came from an unlikely source this year - Heathrow Airport. A lovely tale of two bears arriving home for Christmas and being helped on the final leg of their journey by various staff at the airport. The ad communicated Heathrow’s messages and brand values effectively and was supported by a microsite and full digital campaign across multiple channels - it even has a soundtrack featuring a classic Chas and Dave song. For Heathrow’s first ever Christmas ad campaign it is a great success and makes Heathrow my Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week written by Edward Staite

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