The annual Christmas ads - do they really reflect the brand or are they simply an expensive competition?


In the run up to Christmas, advertising’s fiercest battle gets underway (we’re not American so we’re discounting the Super Bowl). The big brands put out their best heart-warmers, tear-jerkers, and crowd-pleasers, and the competition gets fiercer every year. But in the contest to make the holiday season’s best ad, do these brands end up forgetting their branding?

The Christmas ads have managed to weave themselves into our Christmas traditions. We all have our Christmas movie, our Christmas soundtrack, and we all wait with anticipation for John Lewis to release their advert. They’ve become a source of festive entertainment for customers and a way for companies to boost their 4th quarter profits. But some of the adverts being released are failing to reflect the brand, and while it might not matter too much in the short-term, it’s a missed opportunity.

Take Sainsbury’s Greatest Gift. A great animated piece, it reminds us that the best gift we can give is the time that we spend with our families (although try telling your family that all you’re getting them this year is yourself – they won’t be very impressed). But as for reflecting the Sainsbury’s brand, it doesn’t do the best job. Without the Sainsbury’s logo at the end, it could’ve been anyone’s ad or even just a short film for the BBC. 

Other brands are also missing the mark. While Tesco’s ads do feel like Tesco ads, the ‘Bring it on’ slogan seems more suited to Nike. House of Fraser has gone with an advert projecting the young, cool image they attempted last year. This might be the direction they want their brand to go in, but they aren’t there yet and so the whole thing comes off as trying too hard.

Advertising isn’t the only Christmas campaign option as Lidl have proven this year. They’ve gone with their current format for their ad, taking a lady to a farm to show her where their turkeys come from. It’s on brand although not the most exciting advert. But where they’ve been smart is with their social media strategy. While other brands simply hope their adverts will get people talking about them online, Lidl have launched the Social Price Drop campaign to ensure they will. Every week, Lidl selects a product and announces the item and its price on Twitter. The more people tweet about the product or use the #LidlSurprises hashtag, the lower the price drops. The campaign reflects Lidl’s brand, it builds up a social community, and it’s something new. A #LidlSurprise indeed.

However, you could argue some of the Christmas ads do reflect their brands in an indirect way. Putting on a huge production and paying for primetime slots is a show of force. The companies come off as influential, solidifying their positions as big high street brands. And there’s no denying that the huge spend on Christmas adverts is often worth it – brands see a huge return on investment during the season.

It’s not the end of the world if an advert doesn’t reflect the brand. But it’s important to remember how powerful advertising is in brand building, especially during Christmas when you have audiences willingly paying attention. So keep the festive ads coming but don’t forget: a brand is for life, not just for Christmas.

Annabelle MayorComment