Christmas advertising is here – how have brands performed?

As Christmas nears, our TV screens are once again filled with festive-themed ads as brands clamour to draw in the all-important Christmas shoppers. From the sentimental to the downright brash, they are certainly a mixed bag this year. So who has left us feeling thoroughly festive and ready for a Christmas splurge?

Well we certainly can’t look past the success of John Lewis’ latest effort. ‘The Long Wait’, created by agency Adam & Eve, has really caught the imagination of consumers. The ad has been an instant hit, achieving the holy grail of good advertising: it’s got people talking. What’s the secret of its success? It creates suspense and tells a story viewers can relate to – one which, in short, realises every parent’s dream. This emotional resonance, captured in the tagline ‘for gifts you can’t wait to give’, goes a long way when nestled amongst a lot of other predictable, outdated and ever-so-slightly corny fare jostling for our screen space.

Promoting flamboyant spending is ill-advised in the current economic climate and Tesco has somewhat thoughtfully chosen to lead its advertising with the strap line ‘Keeping Christmas Special’, whilst focusing on low price festive goods. Angela Porter, Tesco’s senior marketing manager, explains: “Just because times are tough doesn’t mean that Christmas has to be less special.  Tesco understands this and wants to help keep Christmas special for the whole of Britain, no matter who you are or how you choose to celebrate.”

This festive season has also seen the swansong of Jamie Oliver’s time as Sainsbury’s brand ambassador. Sainsbury’s Christmas panto advert, starring the TV chef, debuted last week and, like John Lewis, aimed for the feel good factor – but falls a little short with a certain air of the predictable.

Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Holidays are coming’ revival and Marks & Spencer’s X Factor themed ad have both grabbed the headlines, but neither have been able to get close to the 200,000 online shares and over one million YouTube views achieved by the John Lewis ad. Annual tradition or not, we’ve all seen the Coca-Cola ad a hundred times before, and this year’s X Factor (staged infighting and rogue contestants aside) has so far failed to spark the public’s imagination.

Although the Christmas season poses a fantastic opportunity for brands, it’s easy for them to get lost in the tidal wave of themed ads.  John Lewis is currently emerging victorious in the battle of Christmas advertising, but the true brand winner will only be revealed once Christmas has passed and sales performance is reviewed. But for now we can sit back and enjoy the show…                                                                         

Ian Savage


Is the future looking bleak for advertising on TV?

There’s no doubt about it; the way we consume media on a daily basis is changing dramatically. From smartphones to tablets, consumers now demand television at the click of their fingers, no matter where they are. No longer is it a case of searching the TV listings and making sure your Saturday night is free for the X Factor, now we can view it online, on the move, or record it and catch up later.

Traditional TV is certainly facing stiff competition from its cousin online, and not just from viewers in search of ‘on-demand’ services. With online access to the latest news and headlines via smartphone apps (such as the BBC’s news app), viewers no longer have to wait for the six or ten o’clock bulletin, but can rather get it as soon as it breaks.

But what does the rise in digital TV mean for ad breaks? I certainly can’t recall a time I haven’t just fast forwarded through them in a recorded programme.

The internet offers diverse and unique ways for advertisers to reach their audience, and with more people moving online it’s no surprise that advertisers are increasing investment in it. ITV’s new ad format for its video-on-demand (VOD) service ITV Player is a perfect example. Allowing users to skip adverts if they correctly answer questions based on the advertised brand or product.

ITV’s managing director of commercial and online, Fru Hazlitt, explained “VOD advertising opens up massive commercial opportunities for broadcasters and advertisers….This shift (from TV to VOD and other online formats) is not about the car replacing the horse; it’s about complementary stuff.”

So can the two platforms go hand in hand? We certainly saw a good example of a successful campaign with Yeo Valley’s farmer rap last winter. The campaign paired an offline TV ad campaign with a Youtube Channel. However, a similar campaign this year featuring the farmer boy band The Churned and a karaoke Facebook page could not replicate that success.

It seems the jury is still out on this one.

The Quirky Factor = priceless PR

As the nights draw in and my thoughts turn to the fact that a thieving vagabond stole my warm coat off a restaurant coat peg last winter (who steals a coat?!), the onset of autumn does bring some good with it. Yes, it’s hibernation time and that means one thing: autumn television is upon us! Hurrah.

And this also means, love it or loathe it, The X Factor has returned in all its primetime glory. Cue a large chunk of the British population (16.2 million to be exact) turning into die-hard weekend devotees of the most talked about talent show on the planet. Whilst a small part of me would like to boycott The X Factor, I hate to admit that it can be kind of watchable. It is also impossible to ignore its colossal popularity and PR gravitas, which was wholly verified yesterday. Protesters flooded social networking sites after contestant Gamu Nhengu, who can actually sing, failed to make the final 12 on Sunday whilst two other contestants got through on their ‘quirky’ factor, despite fluffing up their auditions.

Yesterday morning a fan site entitled “Gamu should have got through” was inundated with more than 135,000 registrations. The site averaged 500 new registrations every few minutes, and ITV has revealed that it has received more than 500 official complaints about Cole’s decisions on Sunday night.

Blimey. I know it was a odd decision, but it’s certainly telling when over 200,000 people can be bothered to sign a petition for a contestant on a singing competition, yet a recent research by The Data Partnership has revealed that 63% of Brits would not sign up to a charity’s Facebook page.  I know the marketing world seems to be constantly talking about the importance of social media, but here is the cold, hard proof about how powerful the marriage of brand awareness and social media can be. If something has got on people’s nerves, pair an immediate communication tool with an angry mob and you have a force to be reckoned with: X Factor bosses are now under immense pressure to disqualify one of the contestants that got through instead of Gamu. The immediacy of social media makes it the perfect tool for ranting, and boy did they rant.

I’d like to quote a commentator on the Brand Republic website here, as I simply couldn’t put it better myself: “When the ratings go up again and there is an X Factor spin, can we all just bow to whoever does the comms planning on this. If you want to know what the modern media world is like and how to live in it, you don’t need to look much further.” Enough said. Look – I’ve even written a blog on it too!

The X Factor – A Case of Unintentional Behavioural Economics?

X-factor's Jedward Twins

Behavioural Economics seems to be a fairly hot topic at the moment, and so it should be in my opinion.

If you’re not entirely sure what Behavioural Economics is, Rory Sutherland explains it perfectly here.   If you have some spare time, or over your lunch hour I’d recommend watching it.

Whilst reading about all this, it struck me that X Factor had done a remarkable job of using Behavioural Economics.

I love the X Factor. I watch it religiously every week. My boyfriend hates it. He likes to think of himself as a bit of a musical authority and only likes “good music”, not pop.

Still, he watches it because I do (he he).

However, a strange thing happened last week. He voted, and he voted twice.

It’s the twins. He loves them because they are so bad, and they give him the incentive of upsetting the X Factor apple cart, and Simon Cowell along with it.

The terrible twins have given my boyfriend a reason to engage with the X Factor and spend money voting.

He’s not alone either. Twitter was full of Jedward supporters – they love them just because they are bad, and because they are so blatantly bad.

The X Factor must know there are loads of people out there who hate the show and only watch it because “they have to”.

But they’ve managed to engage them by pushing rather talentless clowns through the show, along with gifting these X Factor haters with the promise that Simon Cowell will leave the country if they win.

I don’t for one minute think the twins will win, the X Factor fans far out weight the X Factor haters I’m sure. But whether it’s intentional or not, the producers of that show have implemented a rather clever example of Behavioural Economics…