Our #wrap of the Christmas ad season

Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Sam Knights Min Written by Sam Knights on 24 Nov, 2019

Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas. And as anyone who works in any form of advertising will tell you, Christmas ad season is the best! Not only is it an opportunity to witness some of the biggest budget campaigns from all your favourite brands in one hit, it’s a clear playing field to be as judgemental as you like.

Every agency will conduct their own Christmas ad wrap in some form. Who can blame them? And, we’re no different… But there’s a twist; ours will be addressing how well retailers have unlocked the brand opportunity.

Without further ado…

Argos: The Catalogue of Dreams

Christmas is all about being nostalgic and evoking the emotional connection. I can absolutely remember the time when I’d receive a catalogue at Christmas and was asked to turn the pages down of items to ask Santa for, or simply circle the product in question.

A good brief always starts with visual guidance after all.

Overall, I am a big fan of Argos’ Christmas campaign, even without the nostalgia element. It’s just so much fun! It ticks the family friendly box and highlights the wide variety of product ranges available. Brand incorporation is subtle yet clear, and if you head to the Argos website, it’s completely consistent with the hero products featured across all zone pages.

They even subtly incorporated a whole bunch of ‘la la la las’ courtesy of Simple Minds. Genius.

Threefold Rating: 8/10

Asda: Let’s Make Christmas Special

Emotional storytelling is always nice. The U.K. likes watching nice things (Peaky Blinders aside). And Asda’s Christmas ad this year is exactly that… Really, really, nice. The storytelling is a thing of beauty and the advert itself is beautifully executed.

But what Asda have missed, is a distinct lack of brand equity and Asda brand codes. In other words, most people may not associate the advert with Asda quickly which will impact brand recall. When reviewing how their Christmas campaign was reflected online, there are a few sparkling elements on their food products but that’s about it…

We’ll be keeping a close eye on how this translates to more of a product led offering amidst Black Friday and whether supplier brands feature.

Threefold Rating: 6/10

Boots: Bootiques

Christmas shopping is stressful enough, but Christmas shopping in 2019 for a friend who is into the total opposite thing to you is a nightmare.

Fortunately, Boots have called out a few of these shopper segments in their Bootiques campaign via a hyper-targeted, hyper-personalised digital effort. But their campaign doesn’t only sit online – the Bootiques are popping up all over the UK and present an opportunity for brands to associate with each shopper segment. i.e. Fitbit and ‘The What to Buy the Person Who Loves Working Out as Much as They Love Talking About It’ Bootique.

We all know that guy.

Every piece of comms is highly shoppable which presents another juicy opportunity for brands to get involved.

Threefold Rating: 8/10

Sainsbury’s: Nicholas the Sweep

Sainsbury’s. Home to my least favourite Christmas ad of the year. Sainsbury’s have clearly spent significantly on this advert and while there are some brand codes in there, the emotional pay-out just doesn’t quite work for me. It is not related to the benefit of Sainsburys.

In no way does their Christmas ad this year make me want to rush into a Sainsbury’s store to purchase all of my Christmas groceries; if anything, I’m quite excited to head to Waterstones to buy a Dickens Christmas classic that I can introduce my children to, or curl up and wait for the next great BBC period drama.

Now, the production is great, no question… But is that meant to be the point? I doubt it. Supplier brands at Sainsbury’s could have had an incredible opportunity to be associated with the retail giant in its 150th year throughout this ad, but, similarly to Asda, it feels like a missed opportunity.

Bring back the plug boy! And not just plastered so subtly on a poster that you can barely see him!

Threefold Rating: 5/10

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners

Is it even a Christmas ad wrap without talking about the John Lewis Christmas advert? No.

And JLP are fortunate enough to be able to lean on that accolade, having set an incredibly high bar for themselves.

The ad has all the trademarks of a John Lewis ad. Story? Tick. A bit sad? Tick. Stripped back cover song due to storm the UK charts? Tick.

And while the brand equity for John Lewis is absolutely there; with this ad, there’s a lack of emotional pay out at the end. Edgar the dragon sets alight to the Christmas pud – great. But come on, a dragon setting a Christmas pud alight? The shock factor is waning.

I have no doubt the ad will help to raise awareness of John Lewis over the Christmas period; and I’m pretty sceptical about its awareness for Waitrose. But they’ve executed much of the same, so I’m sure revenue will be exactly that… The same.

Threefold Rating: 6/10

I know we may be biased here but Very are certainly a dark horse for advert of the year this Christmas.

Not only is their copy distinctly Very – bringing together all the characters from their recent adverts and keeping consistency with the pink ‘cube’ – but it also has a beautiful emotional pay-off which is bang on benefit – ‘getting more out of giving’.

I also love the Social Singing Choir’s version of Rudimental’s classic. They should release it for Xmas.

It's no wonder that the advert is already being cited as the most engaging of all so far. One to watch

Threefold Rating 8/10


Overall, Christmas is a fantastic, albeit expensive opportunity for retailers to show their point of difference to the market.

What will be most interesting now to watch, is how retailers’ brand led campaigns switch to product led campaigns in the build up to Black Friday, and where the continuity lies, if at all. It is so important for retailers to have continuity across all communications in order to ease the shopper experience and develop a stronger sense of brand equity. The challenge for supplier brands, is to slot into this and reap the benefits as a reward.