Christmas adverts on television have become as much a part of the festive season as carols and the turkey dinner. Although they have always been there, since the advent of the ITV network, they have become increasingly elaborate in recent years.
The major retailers try to outdo each other and create the most memorable Christmas ad of the year, using increased technology and usually an emotive storyline, keeping it traditional and tugging at the heart-strings.
It's understandable that each brand tries to make their ad the one we'll all think about, as Christmas is the busiest time for retailers. For many, it's their main chance of reaping back some of the profits they may have lost during an undeniably poor year.
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How well do Christmas ads work?
In 2017, UK businesses shelled out for the biggest ever advertising spend in the history of broadcasting, with their advertising campaigns for the final quarter of 2017 costing a combined total of £6 billion. This represents a year-on-year spending increase of 37% since 2010.
The average British household spent an extra £500 each on Christmas gifts alone in 2017 - a figure that has increased every year. This is without the traditional splurge on food and drink, with many families stockpiling their Christmas foods as soon as Bonfire Night is out of the way.
Businesses organising their final quarter spend are also taking into account annual events, such as November's Black Friday, when shoppers spent an astounding £10 billion in 2017. Last year's Christmas spend across the UK was around £5.9 billion.
Online shopping at Christmas has almost doubled in the past three years, according to a report published by the Bank of England's Knowledge Bank. This makes the sector the biggest beneficiary of any extra cash in people's pockets.
All things considered, it pays to draw in the shoppers with a memorable Christmas advertising campaign. According to research by the Advertising Association, around 47% of viewers have been moved to tears by a Christmas advert.
The most successful adverts play on people’s emotions and can interest them in buying the retailer's products, even those items that haven't appeared in the advert. A great advert sticks in people's minds and makes them want to take a look.
At this emotive time of year, when many people are gathered with their loved ones, they will revel in the feeling of connecting with the stories in the ads. The study by the Advertising Association reveals that 33% of people have looked forward to the release of a new Christmas advert more than the premiere of a new film!
One in six viewers has even changed their plans to watch a much-heralded new Christmas advert, while the relationship between television and social media grows ever-stronger. A prime example of this was the John Lewis Buster the Boxer ad in 2016.
It involved an emotive plot, depicting a dad staying up half the night on Christmas Eve to put together a giant trampoline in the garden for his little daughter as a surprise. Once completed, he goes back into the house.
Then, to the tune of One Day I'll Fly Away, performed by Vaults, two wild foxes appear from the bushes and start playing on the trampoline, followed by a badger, a squirrel and a hedgehog. They all play together, epitomising the spirit of unity that Christmas promotes.
Meanwhile, Buster, the family's pet Boxer dog, watches them enviously through the window, from the warmth of the house, whimpering to himself because he wants to join in. The next morning, the little girl, still in pyjamas, runs excitedly downstairs and into the garden to try out her new toy.
Before she can even clamber up, Buster beats her to it, flying through the air, ears flapping in slow motion as he barks and smiles excitedly, while bouncing on the trampoline! The ad ended with the tagline, "Gifts that everyone will love."
It became the most shared advert in history when it was released in November 2016. Within two hours, it had been mentioned more than 30,000 times on social media following its television debut, generating more than 20 million views online.
Ads for 2018
When there's been a particularly great ad, the brand must come up with something even better the following year to meet consumers' expectations. The John Lewis Christmas ad in 2017, featuring Moz the Monster, cost £7 million to make and was written by Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter Michel Gondry. Even so, it wasn't as popular as Buster the Boxer, who was clearly a very hard act to follow!
This year, John Lewis has returned to the more traditional, with an advert starring iconic singer, Sir Elton John. Released on 14th November, The Boy on the Piano features Sir Elton as a child, and shows how one inspired gift (a piano) changed his life. In the first two days of its release, it had attracted 4.4 million views on YouTube.
The M&S Christmas advert, Must Haves, features TV presenter Holly Willoughby demonstrating some of the "must haves" that make Christmas special. These include festive music, parties, family gatherings, gifts and great food.
However, the advert has received a negative public backlash. In particular, a scene showing people suffering from "gift envy" on Christmas morning has been slated. Recipients of presents are shown feeling jealous of the gifts received by other family members, who look smug. The ones suffering "gift envy" start pulling faces and screaming in anger. This is portrayed as a good thing, with "gift envy" listed as a "must have" this Christmas.
The advert hasn't impressed consumers and within two days of its launch on YouTube, it had received a disappointing 43,000 views. The viewers' comments were disabled, although M&S hasn't confirmed whether this was as a result of a negative response.
Sainsbury's Christmas ad, The Big Night, is a real winner, with its spectacular kids' nativity musical bringing the house down.
The Waitrose ad, entitled Mistletoe, shows a young couple about to kiss under the mistletoe, but then something else catches the woman's eye: the dinner. The kiss is cut short as she rushes off to the table, with the message that Christmas is about enjoying good food with the people you care about.
Aldi has resurrected its Kevin the carrot character for its 2018 Christmas ad. It features the kind-hearted carrot and his family, who survive Christmas without ending up on the dinner table. This year's plot sees him successfully battling the Wicked Parsnip, who has his children trapped in a cage - until Kevin springs to the rescue, with the stealth and daring of James Bond!
Perhaps the biggest shock this year was when Iceland's touching Christmas advert featuring a baby orangutan called Rang-tan, was banned for being "too political" by Clearcast - the body that vets all TV adverts before they can be broadcast.
The animated advert is aimed at promoting Iceland's ban on using palm oil in its own brand foods to help stop the destruction of the rainforests. The cartoon orangutan had gone to live in a little girl's bedroom after his own habitat was destroyed and his mother was killed. She complained about him trashing her room and wanted him to leave, but after he told her why he was there, she opened her heart and her home to him.
The advert, made in conjunction with Greenpeace and narrated by actress Emma Thompson, will never be screened on TV. However, in an ironic twist, the publicity surrounding the ban has led to it receiving far more views than it would have done had it been screened on TV.
Consumers have been outraged by the ban, protesting it isn't a political ad but is one that promotes saving the environment - a cause most people support. An online petition has been launched which has attracted 700,000 signatures to date, demanding that it's reinstated.
In eight days, 4.6 million people have viewed the advert on YouTube and shoppers have vowed to vote with their money and buy their Christmas foods at Iceland this year. Commenters have praised it as being "responsible, thoughtful and beautiful", with supporters commenting, "Iceland, you've won my heart," and adding, "I will shop there for Christmas food!"
The organisation behind the ban, Clearcast, has received a lot of negative publicity on its social media feeds and has seen its star rating drop to 1.6 on the Google ratings as a result of a flurry of negative reviews.
It will be interesting to see how the advert affects Iceland's Christmas sales when the figures are released in the New Year.
Christmas is a crucial period for businesses of all sizes. Harnessing the power of Christmas advertising, marketers have won some massive industry awards in recent years, and the positive impact on the businesses can be powerful and last well into the New Year and beyond.
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