Posted on the 18th December 2015

Is advertising taking the lead role in this year’s Christmas story?

So it’s that time of year again when our favourite television programmes are sandwiched between Christmas adverts, each battling against one another to be crowned the nation’s favourite.

But does it really matter which of the Christmas campaigns is the most talked about and does ‘talkability’ equal increased sales? Last year, Sainsbury’s First World War themed Christmas campaign proved that it does, as the supermarket achieved a record-breaking final Christmas week, with 30 million transactions[1].

In many cases, Christmas adverts are just the beginning of the battle to win Christmas customers. It’s only if the idea is strong enough that the campaign can be activated and extended through other channels. Therefore businesses are learning to take a more integrated and PR-led approach to create a more sustained campaign.

Companies are moving away from advertising interruption marketing, in which enjoyable content is disrupted by a word from the sponsor – think ScS. Those companies that still use this approach are becoming increasingly less able to draw in an audience. Advertising is taking a step back and it is the role of earned media that is stepping up. It appears that an increasing trend is to push brand values rather than the product itself. The key is to integrate communication into content that people want to consume.

It’s also not just British adverts that have pulled on the nation’s heartstrings this Christmas. Facebook has been saturated with international Christmas adverts, including a heart breaking story about a lonely grandfather from Germany's Edeka supermarket.


bcsAgency’s favourite past and present Christmas adverts

For the past five years, John Lewis has used well-crafted storytelling and film to boost its brand reputation and sales. Last year, John Lewis enjoyed 22 million online engagements for its Christmas campaign, ‘Monty The Penguin’, in addition to numerous mentions in newspapers and broadcasts.

Spend on this year’s Christmas campaign, ‘Man On The Moon’ is relatively modest, with John Lewis relying heavily on PR and social media to distribute the two minute film. And so far, this seems to have paid off, according to a brand watch analysis, which compared the Twitter conversation surrounding the crucial first 24 hours of the John Lewis campaign (6 November) with its closest competitor, Sainsbury’s, who released Mog’s Christmas Calamity advert on 12 November. With 40,000 mentions compared to 15,000, John Lewis triumphed over Sainsbury’s by nearly three to one[1].


‘Man on the Moon’ John Lewis Christmas 2015

Of the tracked campaigns, the John Lewis advert accounts for 73% of the conversation on Twitter, with Sainsbury’s claiming 16% and Aldi, Debenhams and Asda have managed to obtain 2% of the conversation a piece. However, supermarket giants, Tesco and Morrisons have failed to make any impact with the public on Twitter[1].

The viral impact of ‘Man on the Moon’ has created a domino effect, which is still being seen in both social media and press. Following the immediate success of the advert, a number of parodies have since been created, with Aldi even receiving an approving thumbs up from John Lewis. XFactor also got in on the act, when Louis Walsh played the man on the moon in a brief spoof, as he made a fleeting return to kick start the show's final weekend.

Away from social media and the press, John Lewis has continued its annual tradition by bringing its Christmas campaign to life and selling ‘man on the moon’ themed products, from telescopes and pyjamas to chocolate and balloons. The success and consumer following that John Lewis’ Christmas adverts has built has earned the department store the right to sell related products, enabling customers to truly buy into the campaign and brand itself.

Is advertising taking the lead role in this year’s Christmas story? Well I think it’s very apparent that advertising is no longer offering businesses the sustained marketing approach it previously has done. Instead, for businesses to succeed in the saturated Christmas market, they need to take a holistic approach, in which PR, social media and advertising support each other to create a sustained campaign.

So if you have a great idea and are looking for expert help to create a campaign at any time of the year or simply fancy a chat, give us a call or drop us an email today.


[1] PR Week Dec/Jan issue page 12

[2] PR Week Dec/Jan issue page 12

[3] PR Week Dec/Jan issue page 12

Natalie Gribben
Natalie Gribben