Top Five Festive Favourite Ads 2018 from MD Nigel Rowlson

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again! It only feels like last week that I was on local radio reviewing the 2017 crop of Christmas TV commercials.

This year provides yet another great batch, with John Lewis leading the way again and Iceland being in the controversial position of having its advert banned for on-air use!

Let’s look at some stats first off:-

  • More than a quarter of all advertising takes place in the Christmas period
  • Industry experts say that £6.4bn will be spent on Christmas advertising and the figure has increased by nearly 50% in the last 8 years
  • The John Lewis ad cost around £7 million through its agency – Adam & Eve/DDB) and is two minutes long
  • Company executives say that the investment is worth it because the ROI is an amazing 20:1

Of course, the high street retailers are trying to create an allure and an attraction for us to go in-store rather than buy online – but it seems ironic that a lot of the news on the high street is about closures. We’ve seen the news recently that our own House of Fraser store in Nottingham is set to shut! And Debenhams seems to have an unclear future.

I think it’s about the overall experience for the consumer – if you buy online, there’s no experience. It’s a cold transaction and feels like hard work. Plus, I always worry that I might have put the order through wrong! Have I clicked the right button etc.. there’s no one I can ask or confer with.

Personally, if I like the TV commercial and feel invested in the brand – then I’m more likely to visit the store. The trick then, is to make sure the feeling from the commercial carries across to the in-store experience.

So , let’s have a look at the 5 standout brands this year.

‘Elton John Lewis’

Arguably, the John Lewis Christmas commercial is the biggest Christmas ad every year and needless to say, it’s always highly anticipated by the whole of the UK.

This year’s ad is based around the classic 70’s hit ‘Your Song’ and follows national treasure Elton John through his whole career. From early performances as a young child when he was gifted his first piano in the early 1950s, to performing on Top of the Pops in 1971 and Elton now in 2018, the ad revisits what seems like every iconic performance across the last 50+ years. The commercial closes on a lovely, yet rather different line – ‘some gifts are more than just a gift’.

I personally liked this from a nostalgia point of view. I recently saw the Queen film (which I loved). I think revisiting old familiar songs and images that I grew up with is rather heartwarming and it’s safe to say, that this ad works for me!

Iceland’s controversial ‘No Palm Oil Christmas’

This animated film promotes the brand’s commitment to remove palm-oil from its own-label food by the end of 2018 and does so in partnership with Greenpeace. It is based around a cartoon about an endangered Orangutan called ‘Rang-tan’, who tells a child about how his home has been destroyed by developers.

It tells a very direct and powerful story which certainly catches the viewer’s attention – but has been banned because so called ‘political advertising’ isn’t allowed on TV (although it can be seen on Facebook ads and all social media platforms). Some say the brand is deliberately courting controversy, knowing that the publicity gained from a banned advert far outweighs that of a straight ad campaign. An example of this is when the story broke, James Corden tweeted it and it received nearly 17 million views!

Sainsbury’s ‘The Big Night’

This advert focuses on a little girl’s school performance and ends with the line ‘You Get What You Give’. It is very similar to the Bohemian Rhapsody, John Lewis & Partners advert that came out earlier this year – so it does lack originality!

It does however, pull on the heartstrings of parents who have children that perform in school plays and can relate to the mix of nervousness, excitement and pride they feel. As a parent – I can relate to this and having seen School of Rock in the West End earlier this year – I can understand what goes on behind the scenes.

Marks & Spencer’s ‘Must-Haves’!

An advert with more of a ‘budget’ feel to it and revolves around the Christmas home and clothing ‘must-haves’ that can be found at M&S. The advert stars brand ambassador Holly Willoughby and features a cameo from David Gandy. It shows snippets of famous family Christmas traditions from struggling to plug christmas tree lights in, to singing along to Bridget Jones’ Diary.

It’s a bit ordinary in my view I’m afraid and not in the same league as the others. I think some would argue that it shows the mundane side of Christmas which is nice but when your television is saturated with many high-budget, blockbuster-stye Christmas ads – it’s those that will stand out.

Aldi – ‘Kevin the Carrot’

This one starts off as a spoof of the infamous Coca-Cola truck adverts and of course, driving the truck is Aldi’s much loved Christmas character  – Kevin the Carrot. I think that the carrot character will appeal to many as it gives customers a more complex story to ‘buy into’ and it goes without saying that children will love it too.

The brand seems to want to provide a series of short films based around the character and the situations he gets himself and his carrot friends into…so I suppose it could run and run forever!

Of course there are many other Christmas adverts that will be appearing on our screens throughout the festive period. A pretty straightforward one from Lidl with the line ‘make Christmas a Lidl special’. There’s Boots’ ‘She’s me mum’ which is one of my favourites as it is down to earth and believable. Great casting shows the realistic relationship between a mum and a late teenage daughter plus a great track which is a take on Robbie Williams’ hit with a real Christmas message ‘she’s the one!’.

So a mixed bag this year with John Lewis again leading the pack and setting the standards….. I only hope we don’t get sick and tired of them in the run up to the big day!

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