Here come the Christmas ads, here come the Christmas ads, right down creative ad-land lane

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Zoë Scorer, Director:
  • Christmas has come early
  • Bringing people together, acts of kindness and generosity
  • Balance between brand awareness and a warm fuzzy feeling

It’s that time of year again… or is it? Christmas decorations and festive music seem to have made an even earlier appearance this year – probably due to the fact that people just want something fundamentally good to look forward to after Christmas was all but cancelled for many around the world last year.

Despite the global supply chain problems (who else was rushing out to get that all important toy request in October?!) and driver and petrol shortages, a lot of brands had already planned to release their Christmas ad campaigns earlier this year to meet growing consumer demand.

I have caught a few on the TV and on social media over recent weeks but I have spent an emotional morning pouring over Christmas spots from around the world. I say emotional because we know Christmas ads pull on the heart strings and can be tear jerkers but the common themes of togetherness, kindness and loneliness are palpable this year. After navigating nearly two years of lockdowns, being apart from friends and family and the general unknown, the majority of brands are putting their focus into what Christmas 2021 holds for everyone. Of course, there are the odd light-hearted gems – such as Waitrose’s nod to the best bit of Christmas, which for many is the outstanding array of festive food and Percy Pig coming to life for the first time EVER!

For me though, I have been particularly drawn to the ads which focus on bringing people together, acts of kindness and generosity. Vodafone has hit it out of the park – here are just a couple of examples. For the UK ad, the film focuses on digital poverty, a topic which was rife in the news at the height of the pandemic and a cause close to our hearts, and reminds us that around 1.5 million households in the UK don’t have digital connectivity (regardless of a virus disrupting our lives). The telecommunications company is encouraging the public to donate their old devices and Vodafone will donate the sim cards with data calls and texts to those who need them. Vodafone Hungary on the other hand puts a spotlight on loneliness and solitude at Christmas – which is no new concept (remember John Lewis’ Man on the Moon campaign in 2016?) – but has certainly been amplified throughout the pandemic for those who live on their own. Vodafone Hungary explains that more than 1 million people in the country live in solitude and the ad seeks to inspire people to pick up the phone or make a visit to those who may be lonely this Christmas.

Here are a few of my other firm favourites this year:

  • Shelter’s ‘The Good Fire’: I have seen this promoted widely on social media as putting a fire on your TV screen (for those who don’t have the real thing) seems to be à la mode at the moment to create the sought after hygge feeling. Shelter has launched a 10-hour virtual log fire on YouTube that will raise money for its Christmas campaign. The creative agency behind the idea has agreed a deal with Google AdSense so the charity will retain the ad revenue.
  • Deutsche Telekom’s ‘The Biggest Gift’: This film is like a warm hug. Viewers may think that the young boy is being greedy asking his grandfather who he hasn’t seen in a long time for a bigger gift but in the end, you see that it’s so he can be closer to his grandfather when he finally sees him at Christmas. “The greatest gift is being back together.”
  • Diageo’s ‘Know When to Stop’: I found this one interesting as the ad could so easily have focused on the fact that Christmas parties and family get togethers can actually happen this year but instead the brand has created a campaign designed to make people think about overindulgence during the festive period.
  • Amazon’s ‘Kindness, the Greatest Gift’: Again, Amazon could have capitalised on consumers’ earlier demand for Christmas shopping but highlights a problem that grew out of the pandemic – anxiety in young adults – and communicates the value of kindness over material gifts. The dulcet tones of Adele help make this ad memorable too!

There are definitely those who disagree with my affinity for that warm fuzzy feeling that the festive ads have served up this season – take Mark Ritson, a brand consultant and former marketing professor, who laments the direction that some brands have taken this year and longs for the days of cheery Coca-Cola ads. There must be a balance between the important brand awareness raising activity that Christmas ads ultimately need to achieve and the emotional pull that most have focused on this year. However, given the circumstances and what the pandemic has dished out over the past 18 months, I think brands have got it spot on for the general population’s mood and eagerness to simply spend a Christmas together with their loved ones.

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