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Why Aldi and John Lewis win the Christmas ads war

A third of mums (33%) want to shop at Aldi after watching its Christmas ad, just beating the 31% who want to shop at John Lewis after viewing its commercial. These are the findings of research carried out by the YouTube network for parents, Channel Mum.

Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum says: “The annual battle of the festive ads has become a major marketing event. As well as entertainment for consumers, creating a memorable commercial is worth hundreds of millions of pounds in both sales, plus PR and publicity for the retailers that get it right. But getting it wrong can lead to you being seen as a festive has-been, and in the worst case could even open up the store to ridicule. 

“This year, our research finds Aldi and John Lewis have created the stand-out ads for families. Whilst they may be at different ends of the market, what they have in common is the innate ability to tap into the emotional needs of their consumers and what they really want from Christmas as an overall experience.”

The nation’s favourite 2015 Xmas adverts

  1. ‌John Lewis 
  2. ‌Aldi 
  3. ‌Lidl 
  4. ‌Asda
  5.  ‌M&S
  6. ‌Boots
  7. ‌Argos
  8. ‌Debenhams
  9. ‌Waitrose
  10. ‌Sainsbury’s
  11. ‌TK Maxx
  12. ‌Morrisons
  13. ‌Tesco 

Most effective Xmas adverts for making families want to shop 

  1. ‌Aldi
  2. ‌John Lewis
  3. ‌M&S
  4. ‌Boots
  5. ‌Asda
  6. ‌Lidl
  7. ‌Waitrose
  8. ‌Debenhams
  9. ‌Argos
  10. ‌Tesco
  11. ‌Morrisons
  12. ‌Sainsbury’s
  13. ‌TK Maxx

The TV stores’ Christmas ads are tearjerkers as 81% of mums admit to crying at festive ads. This “Gogglebox”-style video reveals mums’ reactions:

Freegard says: “In the case of John Lewis, it is an old hand at creating brilliantly crafted stories that tug at the heartstrings. Being the store of choice for the middle class, there’s nothing as crude as heavy product placement – but the Man in the Moon story gently reminds the stores shoppers how lucky and privileged they are, whilst gently encouraging them to spend on others to show they care.

“It’s a masterclass in subtle marketing, and whilst our mums voted it their most popular Xmas advert of 2015, not everyone liked it. Plenty of families have said their young children found the ending upsetting and wished that a rocket could have flown the man to Earth to join in the fun. Meanwhile, some have raised eyebrows about the wisdom of an old man spying on a young girl through a telescope, which has led to several unsavoury pastiche ads being shared on social – which would certainly not have been the store’s intention!

“However, our study shows over a third of parents say the release of the John Lewis ad now marks the official start of Christmas, so it will be fascinating to see how it develops the storytelling format further next year. 

“Moving onto Aldi, the budget chain has had a brilliant year and the confidence shines though in the ‘favourite things’ campaign. Our young mums voted it the most effective of 2015 – which let’s face it, is more important to marketers and PROs than which is popular.  

“There’s no particular genius behind it, but there is plenty of festive magic and all the things mums say they want to see in the Christmas ads, including familiar music, a cosy home and festive decorations, smiling children and families coming together to enjoy themselves. What the store has done well is show budget items can look just as beautiful and aspirational as the food in Waitrose or M&S, and give shoppers of all classes the permission – and indeed desire – to shop there. If you can get something special for less, why pay more? 

“Using ‘My Favourite Things’ as the music may not be festive, but it has caught the imagination of the nation’s children as it’s almost always taught in school music lessons, so that’s a very shrewd move. 

Freegard offers three simple rules for creating a successful Christmas campaign: “Firstly, it’s key to remember it’s as much about emotion as it is product at this time of year. Shoppers switch stores more frequently and need to be wooed. Mums want to feel they are putting on the ‘best Christmas ever’ as well as just getting a bargain buy or the latest must-have as they would the rest of the year round. 

“Secondly, mums also bear the burden of the festive organising so make your key messages short and very sweet to cut through in the limited time they have. 

“And finally, Christmas is all about the kids for families. Think back to what excited you as a child – often it’s the smaller details like the tree going up rather than the biggest present you received on Christmas morning. Capture that spirit, embrace your inner big kid and use it to drive with enthusiasm when speaking to journalists. 

“Everyone love Christmas, so this year I wish all your campaigns will be merry and bright – and that your client thinks it’s gone right!”

You might want to think twice about being lavish in terms of production values though. Although John Lewis is the favourite, loved by half of mums, there is some criticism of its budget, with 48% saying the retailer spent too much on the ad, and should have donated some of this cost to charity. 

While 35 per cent of mums see the annual release of the John Lewis ad as the “official start of Christmas“, a sizeable quarter now feel there is “far too much hype” about the ad and claim it turns them off shopping there. 

The report finds that while TV remains the most popular place to first see seasonal commercials, a third of mums now re-watch their favourites on YouTube. And young mums under 30 go much further with 32% discussing the ads on social media (compared to 28% of mums in general), a quarter (23%) sharing the ads on social media (compared to 17% of older mums) and one in ten even posting the ads on their own social media profiles (8%). 


Channel Mum asked 1,000 UK-based mums and their families to watch a video of all the retailers’ 2015 Xmas adverts before responding to a survey.

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