This year, advertisers could have gone one of two ways with their Christmas ads.
Ignore the ‘year like no other’ and sock the Christmas spirit to us in the usual fare of snow, Santa and sentimentality. Or, acknowledge a difficult year and jump on some the resonant themes of benevolence, community, giving back etc. Now in week two of the festive ads season, we’re seeing something of a mixed bag.
We know that advertising plays a key role in getting people in the mood, and that some ads have become part of the cultural fabric of Christmas. Kantar’s 2019 research into which TV ad campaigns worked best with viewers highlighted that festive ads earn attention by taking us on emotional rollercoasters.
We summarise the degree to which ads evoke an emotional reaction on people’s faces while watching an ad, in a measure called "expressiveness". On average, the expressiveness of 2019’s very diverse set of ads was in the top 20% of all UK ads.
However, this year we found that only 30% of people were looking forward to watching the Christmas ads compared with 46% last year. There are those who have been financially affected by the crisis and don’t want the added pressure to buy things they cannot afford; 39% predict they will cut back on their Christmas spending.
To what extent do you agree with the statement 'I am looking forward to watching the Christmas ads on TV this year'?
Yes, brands need to be aware of the reality we’re facing, but any attempt to reference the Covid situation must be authentic and not a forced fit. So have Christmas ads so far hit the sweet spot in terms of tone of voice and authenticity?
Amazon has changed its tone of voice this year and decided to tread a much tougher more personal path. Gone are the joyful ‘singing boxes’ that have become iconic for the brand and in comes the story of a talented, determined young ballet dancer in ‘the show must go on’. The sentiment is powerful and brings to life a spirit and determination that is inspiring and aspirational, but that's all it is.
But there’s always Kevin the Carrot. In a year where the world has been turned upside down, it’s great to see Aldi’s loveable vegetable back. In a tale of hardship, as Kevin and hedgehog try to find their way back home, it’s got a lot of the right ingredients – empathy, tension, resolution, branding. It’s cliché free, well-branded and makes a hero out of a carrot.
When it comes to humour, so powerful in advertising, yet sadly in decline, the biggest shout out goes to Walkers for featuring sausage roll crisps, a LadBaby cameo, and a charity link. It’s sure to bring a cheesy grin to the nation’s faces. Damned close to genius.
Written by Lynne Deason, head of creative excellence, UK at research firm Kantar
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