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The Christmas brief: your best friend or your worst enemy?

The Christmas brief: your best friend or your worst enemy?

Posted by emma.critchley | 01 December

The time has come, we are officially allowed to start counting down to Christmas which, at TLC means cracking open our advent calendars and replacing our usual playlist for something more festive. Nonetheless Christmas has been in our faces for weeks and the hot topic in the marketing press has been the television adverts. So we decided to have a discussion of our own, and sat down with TLC’s in house creative team to get their opinions on the adverts this year.

We started by tucking into the Marks & Spencer, The Art of Christmas ad. "I don't think I've seen Marks and Spencer this year" says Art Director Helen Connolly, but as it starts to play, "Oh yes. I have…" Followed by a quick "Oh no" This year we've been bombarded with a nightmarishly amount of products, and does very little in telling us any sort of story at all. Perhaps an attempt at differentiating themselves, making the brand younger, but is that what we want from a brand we have all grown up with? What happened to the “Magic and Sparkle” of the luxury and quality in which they've stood for all these years? And about that song! “The most overplayed song of 2015” claims Helen which, not only has no relevance to Christmas or the DNA of Marks and Spencer, it’s sung by an American. 

When you have built a brand like Marks and Spencer, it is so important to make sure the brand values are at the forefront of everything you do, "This could have been a Debenhams ad." Last year we followed the fairies, the year before Alice fell down the rabbit hole, Marks and Spencer have always taken a product led approach, but this year they scrapped story telling altogether. 

In their defence Art Director Annie Gudeva points out "They haven’t tried to pretend to be something they’re not. They’ve simply reminded us that Christmas is a commercial entity focused around buying more ‘stuff’ and no matter how idyllic we think we want to feel, for most it is about finding the perfect party outfit and toys for the kids." Despite our disappointment our Creative Director Rob Scott comes to their defence. “It must be extremely difficult trying to think of something original for what is the most cliché event of the year”

We couldn’t resist getting our creative teams opinion for what has been the most talked about ad of the year. Since Adam&EveDDB took over the John Lewis they have gone from strength to strength. Giving us a story with a beginning, middle and end with a perfectly casted girl, a perfect British song and great timing of the lyrics. Ok so Aurora should have been British, and there have been jokes and spoofs but, this is an advert people are talking about and will remember beyond the festive season. It's not just an advert for the store, it encapsulates the importance of charitable giving through their low key partnership with Age UK and gives you a reason to want to be associated with the brand and fill your home with Man on the Moon products. 

But who are we going to buy from? Havas Media did some research and found that 'Meaningful Brands' see their marketing KPIs outperform less meaningful brands by 100%. Last year, 'Monty the penguin', gave the brand a reported 13% uplift in sales taking them through the £100m week barrier. It would be interesting to see how this compared with Marks and Spencer.

What makes John Lewis stand out is the maximisation of the campaign. It’s not just an advert, it’s an app, a physical product, it’s in store, it’s online; it’s an event. It’s the same with Sainsbury’s. They’ve told us a story and now everywhere has sold out of ‘Mog’ cuddly toys.

The Christmas advertising brief can be the making or breaking of a brand. In some respects it’s a doubled edged sword. The teams tasked with this brief must feel a combination of absolutely joy vs absolute fear. If you’re John Lewis and Adam&Eve the pressure is on, all eyes are on you to create a campaign even better than last year. If you’re anyone else how do you come up with a concept and budget? Rob rounds things up by telling us how he would tackle it, “For me real humour is in things going wrong because there is such a planted sentiment that at Christmas everything must be brilliant. Sainsbury’s and Currys PC World have nailed it. Christmas is never perfect, and what these two brands have done is inject the human element everyone can relate to.”