All I want for Christmas …

Being laid low by ‘flu isn’t much fun (note to self: have that flu jab yourself that you organise for everyone else).  But catching up on a restorative spell of daytime TV viewing and YouTube surfing means I’ve have enjoyed  a high frequency dose of Christmas advertising.

And there certainly is a bumper crop this year, with some definite themes.

The Down-to-Earth-Reality-TV-Style ad: Tesco have been running this style of ad throughout the year, and I’m sure everyone can remember at least one Christmas like those captured in their Christmas special (personal favourite 1993 curtains for hair);  Aldi have long captured perfectly the humour of the everyday situation, and Sainsbury’s have taken this style to the next level – with an hour long YouTube documentary.  This isn’t about selling you an aspirational, perfectly baked Mary Berry Christmas.  This is about keeping it real and relating to everyday family situations,  appreciating that it’s often the little things which make a difference to our lives – whether it’s getting friendly service at the till, or a great deal on your Christmas booze.   This reflects the need for brands to connect with everyday people and understand that when life is a struggle big budget ads potentially don’t play as well, as well as maybe reflecting the ongoing longevity of  reality TV.

The Out-and-Out-Heart-Warmer:  The weather’s grey with light drizzle, many Brits haven’t had a pay rise for a couple of years but life goes on and Christmas gives us an excuse for a treat.   Key contenders in this category have to be the short TV ad version of the  Sainsbury’s film, Homecoming, and John Lewis’s all out schmaltz-fest, the Bear and the Hare.  Arguably these kind of ads work best when they remind you of things you care about; there’s a degree of relevance and, obviously, from a brand perspective, there is a fit with the story being told and the brand.  Both of these brands can get away with the latter element, given they are iconic British retail brands.

The Christmas-Romance-and-Magic ad: One of the longer running Christmas ad genres continues.  Marks & Spencer have certainly moved their celeb fairy story telling on from their 2003 ad (prizes to anyone who can name all the celebs in this original one?), with a glossy big budget ad reprising the Magic and Sparkle tagline.   Debenhams also builds on last year, which was their first Christmas ad for many years, with a romantic ad which focuses on what Christmas for many, is all about – romance, love and getting all dressed up.

All of these ads still seek to do what Christmas ads have always sought to do, capture how special a time Christmas can be, and create those magical feelings we want to associate with Christmas. But a common theme that runs throughout those mentioned here is the level of Emotional Engagement being sought.  And this year more than ever its being done with a more direct, honest and relevant tone.   So it’s beginning to look a lot like a very Merry Christmas this year – all be it a little less Mariah in her fluffy red costume and a little more Fairytale of New York – a gritty, real, tear jerker, full of Christmas emotion.

To find out how to understand the Emotional response to Advertising, there are a few spaces left at our latest Neuroscience seminar on December 4th.  Please visit to register.