The annual Christmas PR campaigns have hit our screens, and that can only mean one thing – the countdown to the festive season has officially begun.
Whatever your thoughts on the annual heart-warming tale/mawkish hogwash (delete as applicable), there can be no denying that the Christmas ad has become a staple of the marketing calendar over the past decade or so.
Such campaigns tend to fall into two camps – flogging the product or flogging a feeling – so which is best?
The hard sell
Some retailers stick to what they do best – selling their wares. Food and toy shops are particular fans of this approach – hands up who remembers Toys R Us’ Geoffrey, who is presumably now desolately wandering the deserted aisles of the great toy shop in the sky?
This year, M&S and Waitrose have both focused on the product, filling the screens with mounds and mounds of delicious-looking grub – because what’s Christmas all about, if not stuffing your face until you feel sick then passing out on the sofa?
It might not get people talking, but it does give retailers the chance to showcase their products – and their quality – as well as giving them an edge over the competition.
All the feels
And then there’s John Lewis, questionably the undisputed king of the Christmas ad, with this year’s effort. If you’ve not seen it yet, it features Elton John at a piano, before scrolling back through his life and career to the moment he was first given a piano for Christmas as a toddler.
What it doesn’t do is show you any products (piano excepted, and we don’t imagine that’ll be nestling under too many trees this Christmas), but it does sell a feeling. A peculiar, melancholy feeling which makes you think – of your childhood, of your family, of what could have been.
Does it make you want to shop in John Lewis? Maybe. Does it make you remember John Lewis? Definitely.
Other retailers have tried to replicate this, most notably Sainsburys. In recent years, the supermarket has featured the Christmas Day ceasefire and the resurgence of children’s favourite Mog in a bid to steal some of John Lewis’ feelgood thunder.
While none of these ads show specific products – although past campaigns have had merchandise linked to them, such as Mog and Monty the penguin soft toys – it can pay dividends by creating a tremendous sense of brand loyalty, with consumers seeing the faceless behemoths as more human.
Whatever your thoughts on the annual Christmas ad roll-out, there’s no denying that we’re all talking about it – and getting into the festive spirit. Now, where’s the sherry?
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