The Christmas adverts are now upon us with Debenhams and John Lewis launching their endeavours over the past week.
Debenhams recently pushed their #FoundIt advert live (on the 2nd of November to be exact) with an online gift finder at “foundit.co.uk” and a “#foundit” social media campaign to correspond with the tagline.
John Lewis gave us Monty the Penguin, a cute penguin who is best friends with a little boy. The overwhelming response to the ad was a positive emotional one.
I started wondering about why one advert was warmly received over social media, and the other was not.
I looked at their timing. Both adverts were released within days of each other; Debenhams on the 2nd of November (just 2 days after Halloween, and before Bonfire Night in the UK) while John Lewis launched on the 6th of November (just 1 night after Bonfire Night, and a week after Halloween).
A lot of the negative comments (as shown from the Facebook comments on the Debenhams advert above) were over the timing of the launch. Some people even using the words ‘greed’ and ‘watered down festive spirit’ in their comments. Could the difference of just 4 days mean so much?
Next, I looked at the content and presentation. Both ads use children to implement the narrative, giving the audience a glimpse into the wonder and magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child.
I want to focus on the blatant commercialisation of Christmas for a minute. Using Christmas to sell stuff goes back to at least 1911 when used Santa in an illustrated advert for Ginger Ale. Coca Cola remain a prime example of how marketing with Christmas can stay with people.
The fact is that many retailers will make about 80% of their annual profit in the final quarter (November to January). An enormous amount of planning and preparation go into Christmas advertising campaigns, and while this can appear annoying the second Halloween is finished, it is usually the result of months of hard work. Get it right, and a retailer can sit back and let the footfall roll in – get it wrong and it’s usually a stressful scramble to win customers back. The bottom line remains the primary objective of any advertising campaign. How you dress it up is what will set your store apart from the competition.
I’ve worked in the retail industry for more than a decade now, and I’m used to Christmas meetings in July.
What sets John Lewis apart is the risk. They chose to minimise the product placement. They chose to spend months animating a penguin, rather than light a store and follow child actors around with a camera crew. Most retailers are not so brave.
By presenting something unique that removes itself from physical shopping, John Lewis took us back to the emotional core of Christmas. They gave the audience a more genuine and heartfelt experience. Because of continued successes from previous years, the “John Lewis Christmas Ad Reveal” is now becoming an event in its own right. In terms of companies that are ‘getting it right’, they are, in my opinion, up there with the likes of Guinness who have been turning out effective and memorable campaigns for decades, and I look forward to many more in the future.