By Professor Sarah Montano, Deputy Head of Marketing
It’s that time of year, when we anticipate our favourite Christmas ads and wait to see which ones will spark off our emotions! As always John Lewis’ ad is highly anticipated. So, what is the reason that we see such an investment in Christmas ads, what do we think of this year’s ads and what is the Christmas ad theme of 2023?
Why are Christmas ads so important?
Christmas is a vital time for retailers, and it is the so called “Golden Quarter” when retailers need to maximise their profits to help carry them through the quieter times of the year. As we have seen this year, retail is still turbulent and a difficult sector to operate, notably illustrated by the demise of Wilko. Simply put, retailers want customers to choose them over their competitors, so the ads are a way to cut through the competition and appeal to customers. If the retailer has a cuddly friend in the ad – that is a bonus as retailers will then sell the associated toys and products. John Lewis have said that this year’s ad is their most shoppable yet, as not only can you buy a cuddly Snapper toy, but also a book, decorations and pyjamas. Let’s not forget Kevin the Carrot at Aldi, he is back instore from 16th November!
Most of the Christmas ads are emotional and want customers to feel a range of emotions; from a reminder of the wonder of childhood, to sadness at a banished plant, to the great joy when the family celebrate outside with the plant. Emotions are used by the retailers to get us to engage, the more emotional the ad, the more likely we are to remember the retailer and the trust them when making our purchases.
What are the themes of 2023?
As always there are a range of Christmas ads that stir the emotions! This year common themes of the ads are “Christmas Your Way,” a range of lovable friends and an array of celebrity guest stars. Let’s look at each theme.
Christmas Your Way:
As Mind state, Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for those who may be recently bereaved or whose family does not comprise of the standard advert unit or feel under pressure to create the perfect replica Christmas movie. A core theme in the John Lewis and M&S ads is – do Christmas your way and celebrate your family unit.
The M&S ad catchphrase is “Love Thismas, Not Thatmas” and encourages people not to aim for perfection, do what you love at Christmas and not what you don’t. On a similar theme the highly anticipated John Lewis ad brings us Snapper the Venus Fly Trap as an alternative tree and encourages customers to “let your traditions grow,” if you don’t want a standard tree have a Venus Fly Trap instead! Usually, a Christmas ad centres around children yet unusually, Waitrose’s ad focuses on a grown-up party with delicious food and drink (and a cameo from Graham Norton!).
Nostalgia is a big theme this year, many of the accompanying songs to the ads are from the 1980’s and 1990’s, why is this? Well, those doing the cooking and Christmas shopping will have been teenagers in 1980’s and 1990’s and so they will immediately recognise the songs be reminded of their younger days and probably sing along! Waitrose have “I just can’t get enough” from Depeche Mode, Morrisons “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” from Starship and M&S Clothing and Home “I would do anything for love” by Meatloaf. Amazon’s ad is pure nostalgia with three older ladies sledging down a hillside, part way through the ad we see the ladies transformed into their younger selves reminding them of the joy they have sledging together.
It is not Christmas without some loveable friends! Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot is back, this year he is not being pursued by the evil Pascal the Parsnip, but inspired by the new Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Movie, Kevin wins a ticket to visit a Christmas Factory Aldi and gains the key “cheese” to the factory and encourages everyone to “Share the Love this Christmas.” Of course, over the years John Lewis has given us many friends and this year it is the turn of Snapper the Venus Fly Trap! The seed grows into a naughty plant so Snapper gets sent outside and misses the family. The ad ends with the family starting a new tradition of opening their presents with Snapper. Lidl’s ad has a dedicated racoon who desperately tries to reunite a little boy with his cuddly toy and whilst the racoon is banished to the outside. The family pet dog becomes friends with the racoon after a rocky start to their relationship.
As it is Christmas, it is time for stars of the celebrity variety! Keep your eyes open as there are an array of stars across all the ads including Graham Norton at the Waitrose dinner party, Dawn French as a fairy for M&S food, Zawe Ashton, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Tan France and Hannah Waddingham in M&S Clothing and Home and Alison Hammond for Debenhams and of course Mr. Christmas himself – Michael Bublé for Asda! Are you wondering who the mittens are in the M&S food ad – well they are none other than Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney!
For some Christmas will be a very painful time and given the wide audience reach of the Christmas ads, a number of retailers are supporting various charities. This highlights issues to customers who may not be aware of them and encourages customers to make donations to the relevant charities. FatFace’s animation of Stevie the Sheep and collaboration with Shelter reminds everyone of the current housing crisis and that in 2022 over 271,000 families faced homelessness. Lidl has a toy bank to allow all children to share the magic this Christmas and Aldi is supporting local communities in partnership with Neighbourly.
In summary, enjoy the ads, celebrate in your own way with your friends and family and maybe make some new traditions!
Links for support:
Lidl’s Toy Bank: https://www.lidl.co.uk/c/toy-bank/s10032371
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham.