The most wonderful time of year is very suddenly upon us! As we approach the annual festive holiday season with a side of caution after what has been a challenging year, now feels like a good time to reflect on what’s really important to us; Family? Health? Good fortune to all? Maybe for some; but for marketers and festive ad fanatics alike, the holidays only mean one thing – That’s right. Christmas ad campaigns.
Now this might seem like a cynical perspective to hold, putting consumerism at the centre of what was once seen as such a wholesome period; but actually festive ad campaigns have become a cornerstone of Christmas nostalgia for the festive season with everybody each picking their favourites, and anticipating their release as much as a visit from Kris Kringle himself. In fact retailer John Lewis’s ads are so widely anticipated that British bookmakers take bets on features of the campaign such as the adverts director and the artist behind its soundtrack.
Christmas ads have only become an integral part of the holidays because they embody festive spirit in every sense. The best ones usually centre around spending time with loved ones, tear-jerking sentiment, and the occasional piece of sneaky product placement. With this in mind, here are ten Christmas ad campaigns that are sure to put a smile on even the most hardened resting grinch face.
John Lewis: The Man on the Moon (2015)
When discussing Christmas ad campaigns, starting anywhere other than with John Lewis just feels wrong. John Lewis is a business built around Christmas. 20% of their annual sales come from the holidays, and 40% of their annual profit. The John Lewis Christmas ad is hands down the most anticipated advert year in year out in the UK. The advert even marks the beginning of the countdown to Christmas for many people, and has created untold brand equity for John Lewis.
The adverts are notoriously emotive, and 2015’s entry “the Man on the Moon” is widely accepted to have been the saddest. The campaign involved John Lewis partnering up with AgeUK to raise awareness of age-related loneliness at Christmas. The advert was so emotional that it caused John Lewis to reconsider their approach the following year as they were concerned the advert might’ve been too sad.
Iceland: Palm Oil (2018)
Large companies partnering up with charities is a fairly common yet effective strategy for creating a successful Christmas campaign. Take John Lewis and Age UK in our previous example; Partnering with charities allows organisations to align themselves with a cause that people care about. In turn it gives companies like John Lewis lots of extra weight to use to pull on people’s heartstrings, which we all know is what Christmas Ads are really all about. This is a strategy that Iceland executed perfectly when they partnered up with Greenpeace in 2018 to raise awareness of deforestation caused by the palm oil industry.
The discount supermarket created a short animated video featuring a baby orangutan and the destruction of its habitat by palm oil farmers. The campaign promoted the fact that Iceland’s product range was palm oil free, and included sales of cuddly toy versions of the orangutan that featured in the advert, with money from sales being donated to Greenpeace.
The advert was later removed from TV for being deemed to be too political by the regulatory body. This caused Iceland to run the campaign purely through online channels where it went viral, generating 65m views within a week of being removed from television.
Google: Home Alone (2018)
Like most things in life there’s a right way and a wrong way to do celebrity appearances in Christmas Campaigns; and in 2018, Google did theirs right when they took viewers on a trip down memory lane by recruiting actor Macaulay Caulkin to play his most infamous part just one more time. The advert features the actor playing an all grown up version of Home Alone’s Kevin McAllister 28 years after he first played the mischievous 8 year old in the blockbuster Christmas classic.
The advert takes place in the family mansion from the film, and shows ‘Kevin’ interacting with his ‘Google Home Assistant’ whilst home alone in a very different way . Google also recreated some classic scenes from the 1990 film to give viewers that extra hit of nostalgia.
Spotify x Sonos: Playlist Potluck (2016)
When we’re discussing the best Christmas campaigns, it’s natural to think if a campaign doesn’t include a cuddly character and tear-jerking blockbuster TV advert with a cost equal to a 6 bedroom flat in central London, then it’s probably not worth talking about. That’s why Sonos and Spotify’s ‘Playlist Potluck’ campaign in 2016 was a breath of fresh air, and showed what a Christmas campaign should look like for tech companies.
The concept worked in the same way normal potluck works but instead of everyone bringing a dish to the party, they each added a christmas song to a communal playlist for Christmas dinner. Christmas music and party playlists are as big a part of holidays as, dare I say it, Christmas adverts; By making their brands an integral part of the Christmas party playlist with this fun an interactive idea, Spotify and Sonos have cemented themselves into the festivities.
Coca-Cola: Share White Christmas (2015)
It’s no secret that Coca-Cola are Christmas Campaign royalty in the UK. The unchanging ‘Holidays are Coming’ adverts that feature Santa Claus himself driving the Coca-Cola 4×4 lorry appear annually on our screens to let us all know that the festivities have started. What we don’t often see in the UK however, are some of the more creative festive campaigns that the Coca-Cola team come up with, including this one from 2015.
The advert shows a pair of coca-cola branded machines, one placed in snow-filled Canada, the other in Singapore, a country where residents are not used to seeing snow at Christmas time. The machine in Singapore is a snow machine that’s activated when its canadian counterpart is filled with snow from the other side, allowing Canadians to share their white Christmas with Singaporeans.
KLM Bonding Buffet (2016)
Airports are often a sad place to be on Christmas day, filled with people, often travelling alone, who couldn’t quite make it home to see their loved ones. In 2016 dutch airline KLM went out of their way to bring the festive spirit to people in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Christmas day.
The ad features a Christmas buffet upon an apparatus that requires all the seats at the table to be filled before any of the guests can reach the food.
WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-time Giving (2013)
As we appear to be on the topic of air travel companies, now feels like a good time to mention Canadian Airline ‘WestJet’ and their 2013 Christmas campaign. As someone who knows very little about Canadian culture, I can only assume that emotional Christmas adverts for airline companies are some kind of national delicacy, as choosing just one for this blog post was a real challenge. WestJet appear to be leading the way, but only in spite of some tough competition from their competitors AirCanada. This 2013 Christmas advert brings the gift of giving to WestJet customers who are travelling on Christmas day.
Ikea: D-double E (2019)
Next up is the most recent campaign featured in this post, and it comes from Swedish furniture store Ikea. Ikea have been lauded for their first ever UK Christmas advert after they collaborated with underground Grime artist ‘D Double E’. The advert features a family awaiting Christmas guests. The family are berated and shamed into cleaning up by a number of household ornaments with the voice of D Double E. Choosing an underground artist from a niche music genre shows how well Ikea understands its target audience with this ad, and the end product is hilarious.
Little Tickers: Twinkle Twinkle little Heart (2018)
This 2018 campaign from children’s congenital heart disease charity ‘Little Tickers’ is a great example of mixing media with the physical world to create an engaging and memorable campaign. The campaign involved hooking up the heartbeat monitors of children suffering from congenital heart disease to the Christmas light installments in Covent Garden. The result was Christmas lights powered by the child patient’s heartbeat.
Pret A Manger: A Little Thank You (2015)
Christmas ad campaigns are undoubtedly a seasonal treat for many of us; Festivity purists however, might argue that actually there’s nothing Christmassy’ about multi-million and billion pound corporations spending untold fortunes on trying to convince us all to buy more stuff. That’s why Pret A Manger decided in 2015, to donate all their Christmas marketing budget to their selected charities. As well as their marketing budget, they also donated all their marketing
channels including social media accounts. They even set up an ‘A Little Thank You’ website where people could go to donate to charities, and created sponsored social media posts that would direct people to the site. This is a great heartwarming twist on the Christmas campaign, and really resonated with the more cynical among us.
Until Next Decade!
That’s it for our festive trip down memory Madison Avenue! From international snow machines to heartbeat powered Christmas lights, these have been our top 10 festive campaigns of the decade. Now all that’s left is Christmas dinner and a visit from old Santa Claus to make this year complete. We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years of Christmas spirit looks like in the world of advertising. See you in 2030!