It’s that time of year again! Winter has well and truly settled in, nearly every Argos Christmas tree is out of stock, the odd festive tune creeps its way onto the radio, and with it: the return of the Christmas ads.
So what have the retail giants come up with this year? We take a look at our top picks of 2020 and ask how our sector can take inspiration from the different approaches that have made this year’s Christmas adverts a success.
Disney: The tear jerker
Because that’s what we all want from a Christmas advert: the chance to have a good cry. Disney’s 2020 Christmas ad is a brilliant example of an emotion-centric piece of advertising, designed to provoke a powerful human response that stays with the viewer long after they’ve seen the ad.
It tells the story of Lola and her granddaughter as they share a love of Christmas crafts (and of course Mickey) over the years. It highlights the importance of family and tradition, especially as times change and people grow, a feeling that we can all especially relate to this Christmas. Set to an emotive soundtrack, you really will find it hard to hold back the tears.
Gucci: The retro one
Gucci’s Christmas ad takes us back, not just to the 90s, but to a time of office parties. A time when people used oversized computers, regularly did the conga, and were allowed to stand within two metres of each other. In keeping with previous campaigns, the advert champions an ‘everyone is invited’ message, encouraging people to come as they are. We’re reminded of Gucci’s effort to improve diversity in their business and advertising, something that as marketers we can all aspire towards.
It might have received some criticism due to the questionable authenticity of its 90s-style clothing (some of those floral prints look a bit more 70s to us), but we don’t care because it’s cool, feel-good and inclusive.
John Lewis: The classic
The John Lewis Christmas ad is one of the most highly scrutinised of the festive season, so it’s no wonder that it’s had a mixed bag of reviews this year. And whilst it may be no Monty the Penguin or Man on the Moon, we admire the simplicity of its message: that even a small act of kindness can make a big difference. Very apt for 2020.
With the company suffering losses and job cuts this year, the budget for their Christmas ad was slashed - but luckily not dropped altogether. A handful of artists were commissioned to bring the ad to life, resulting in an eclectic and heartwarming series of mini stories. It’s an uncomplicated celebration of the good that can be seen all around us, even when times are hard.
Plenty: The honest one
The one that makes us cringe and, on occasion, want to reach for the sick bucket. Because this is what Christmas is really like, right? It’s rarely all sparkly lights and laughing merrily round an open fire. It can be stressful and awkward and messy - but we still love it. Which is what Plenty’s Christmas ad celebrates.
It’s a darker, more honest look at the festive period, and a break from what we’ve come to expect from Christmas advertising. There’s genius in the close-up shots of the family’s brilliant facial expressions. And it launches a new message for the brand’s upcoming marketing: that it’s the love we have for our nearest and dearest that means we don’t mind dealing with their mess. As the brand eloquently puts it: ‘Love is stronger than spilled gravy, floored turkey, and baby vomit. And so is Plenty.’
Sainsbury’s: The one up for discussion
This year, Sainsbury’s explores the strong link between food and family, particularly at Christmas time, and presents us with the touching stories of three families as they discuss their experiences and memories of the festive period. Each of the three ads includes home-video style footage and authentic telephone conversations, for a heartwarming and nostalgic effect.
Controversy is probably the last thing Sainsbury’s had on their minds while making this set of ads. But disappointingly, the first advert in the series has been the target of racist backlash with a small number of viewers claiming they don’t feel represented by the Black family in the advert. In a statement, Sainsbury’s said, ‘We are proud that our advertising represents the diverse communities we serve. Sainsbury’s is for everyone and it's important to us that our advertising reflects this.'
Tesco: The funny one
Humour in marketing is memorable. It creates a meaningful connection between a brand and its audience; we instinctively warm towards people who can make us laugh, and the same can be said for our attitude towards adverts. Tesco have opted for the funny approach this year, and they've pulled it off.
With a classic Britney soundtrack and voiceover from comedian Asim Chaudhry, Tesco’s advert announces that this year, Santa’s naughty list has been scrapped. What follows is a list of ‘naughty’ pandemic confessions, our favourite being the man that bought too many loo rolls whose child is outside building an impressive toilet roll snowman. The ad is refreshing, relatable, and ultimately it makes us all think, “Yes, I will go down to Tesco, I will buy that exceptionally extravagant Christmas cake, because I do deserve a treat!” Job done.
TK Maxx: The underdog (or rather, the undergoat)
Who doesn’t love a goat? And a goat wearing a designer outfit? Brilliant. He’s a symbol of hope and confidence, swapping a challenging 2020 for a fresh outlook on the future. This Christmas ad is really a stroke of genius in our opinion.
Perfectly in sync with TKMaxx’s always-on advertising, the ad features big colours, a simple message and a light sprinkle of humour. It oozes extravagance on a small budget, mirroring the TKMaxx offering itself. The power of a strong, recognisable campaign style is evident here, and shows us how creative we can get once we’ve established a solid brand image.
We all love a good Christmas ad and now we've seen the best of the best in 2020. We're always looking for inspiration outside of the education sector and these ads teach us a lesson of driving with emotion to end with connection.