Nic Young
13 December 2017 00:00


It has become a bit of a tradition with the countdown to Christmas marked not only by the start of the obligatory chocolate advent calendar but now even before the 1st of December we eagerly await the launch of the Christmas ads, and over the past few years the John Lewis ad in particular.  But as this event establishes itself as a tradition our expectations grow and the pressure on the retailers and their agencies to reach ever more dizzying creative heights becomes even more challenging.

Whilst the competition to hit the No.1 popularity spot is great entertainment for us as viewers, for retailers it’s cut throat. The Christmas period is their main opportunity to capture their audience before the highest spending season of the year, and this year with rumours of even more store closures if Christmas targets aren’t met the goal of connecting with audiences emotionally and converting this into sales is a necessity.

Since 2011 John Lewis have been winning the prestigious Christmas contest having mastered the art of ‘emotive’ advertising, despite strong competition from other high street stores and supermarket chains. Data firm 4C has recently published the top 10 Christmas adverts of 2017. The data firm analysed social media posts to reveal the most popular Christmas ad, assessed the increase in the number of times the brand was mentioned and also looked at language to reveal whether the posts were positive or negative.

Aldi was named the most successful overall while Boots' also proved a hit, while John Lewis’ £7million Moz the Monster advert just made it into the top 10.

So, I thought with 50 marketing experts working in the marketing department here at the NEC Group I’d do a quick poll to find out our favourite 2017 ad.

Our Favourite Christmas 2017 ad 

And the results were, well mixed to say the least. Unlike previous years there was no clear winner, the votes were split with Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot just edging the top spot by one vote but a group of different retailers in joint second McDonalds, Toys R Us’ Geoffrey the Part Time Reindeer, Argos’ Ready for Take Off, John Lewis’ Moz the Monster and the Sainsbury’s campaign.  Interestingly Sainsbury’s Every Bit of Christmas proved to be a real marmite ad, polarising the team with some loving the sing along format starring real people and others hating it.

With no clear-cut winners, I turned to some other industry experts and in a recent report in Marketing Week, Millward Brown had released their results from the testing of ads – apparently when it comes to persuasion Amazon topped the charts with Aldi second and Argos third.  But for enjoyment Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot was no.1, followed by M&S and then Morrison’s. So, like the NEC Group Marketing team vote the Aldi advert just edged it.

I guess what you can say about this year’s Christmas campaigns are they’re a bit of mixed bag and perhaps we’re seeing a wobble and levelling off in engagement especially with the more emotive executions.

Here’s a few of the comments from the team…

Anna our Marketing Manager for the NEC Venue voted for the McDonalds Ad - “Beautiful sentiment of family traditions that all ages can relate to, children needing to remember to put out the carrots with the milk and mince pie but also the “pain” for parents of forgetting to have carrots in the house in the first place.”

Adam our Head of Design loved the Sainsbury’s campaign – “Their style of advertising this year has been so refreshing and creative for a supermarket. It’s been great to see they’ve ditched the 2.4 white traditional family concept and shaken up the landscape. It also follows this year’s trend to showcase diversity and challenge the norm in family dynamics. Oh, and it also features an ex NEC Group employee!”

One of my all-time favourites remains Mulberry’s 2014 #Win Christmas, which offered a light-hearted ad, but perfectly portrayed the pressure felt when finding gifts for loved ones, although their follow up in 2015 replacing baby Jesus in the nativity scene didn’t really do it for me!

So, what can event marketers learn from the big retailer campaigns, to help promote their own events?

  • Tap into insights – whether a B2B or B2C event we are real people with real emotions, connection generally occurs when we personally recognise or relate to an issue or opportunities. Putting insights at the heart of your marketing demonstrates that you understand your customers and ensures that your communications have relevancy.

Emotion isn’t always easy to get into marketing but everyone could make better use of insights

  • Scale and Fame always impress – It’s the reason companies still advertise on TV when so many more measurable and cost effective channels are available. Google defines fame as, “the condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements.”  Easier said than done but it should always be one of your objectives!  If you want to read more about the importance of Fame check out some of the IPA reports or the research of marketing guru  Les Binet, European director of DDB Matrix, read more.

  • Make it a big campaign – The most successful Christmas campaigns are those that are multi-channel, not just with advertising but in many cases campaigns go above and beyond, breaking free of traditional channels with characters you can purchase in store e.g. Moz the Monster or Kevin the carrot plush toys. Maximising the number of touchpoints you have with customers is a great way to keep top of mind.

Have you seen the 2017 ads yet?

If you haven’t managed to watch some of the ads this year and have a few minutes to spare why not take a look at few…


Wishing you a very merry Christmas from myself and all of the NEC Group Marketing team!