Christmas 2020: Top 3 lessons brands can learn from the Christmas adverts this year

It’s that time of year again; the battle to become the most memorable, effective and tear-jerking Christmas advert on everyone’s screens. For all of us, the pandemic has had a huge impact on our daily lives, and with this in mind, big businesses have had to approach the Christmas ad challenge with extra caution this year. At Elephants Can’t Jump, this has had us all wondering which brand will come out on top (of the Christmas tree!) this year and why?

So, what does it take to create a good Christmas advert?

Communication activities which surround core brand values and brand storytelling are effective for installing effective associations for consumers

Kevin the carrot? Everyone knows him as the brand mascot for Aldi and Christmas 2020 sees the return of Kevin for his fifth consecutive year. The Aldi Christmas brand story (surrounding the concept of ‘family time’) continues as Kevin tries to make it home in time for Christmas, and consumers are loving this next chapter of his story. What we can learn from this is that attaching a brand mascot can provide positive direct associations, but also a good opportunity for in-store and online merchandise and retail activity. Having fought a middle-aged mother over the last Kevin the Carrot soft toy in my local Aldi last year, I must admit…  23-year-old me is still obsessed for the fifth year in a row… and no, I didn’t win over the middle-aged mother… sad times. 

A different look, style and feel can bring a fresh and new appeal… (and we are loving that it rhymes!)

John Lewis & Partners are renowned for their emotional Christmas ads featuring cute little animals, but this year they have switched things up this year with their ‘Give a Little Love’. John Lewis has used cover songs for the backing track, but this year for the first time they have created a brand-new song for the campaign with singer Celeste. The brand has also done away with using a heartwarming main character within the ad, focusing instead on human kindness and the circular nature of charitable giving. Lastly, what makes the advert unique this year is the various artistic styles. The two minute piece includes animation, CGI, claymation and cinematography when usually John Lewis opts for cinematography alone. Multiple artists were employed for producing the different styles, giving John Lewis the branding of ‘kindness’ within a year that needs it the most. What John Lewis have proved this year is that providing a fresh and new approach, style and human-centric message is highly effective in standing out from the rest.

Light-hearted comedy has proved effective when used strategically

While many successful Christmas adverts leave us sobbing into our mulled wine (Monty the penguin gets me every time…) adopting a comical strategy can prove incredibly successful. This year Tesco’s ‘No Naughty List’ did just this and made fun of the bizarre year we have had and the social faux pas of lockdown life.

According to behavioural scientist Richard Shotton, humour is an excellent mechanism for coping with stress and often employed when dealing with negative situations. A study by Millward Brown shows that the funnier the advert, the more impact it tends to make. For brands, using comedy within marketing strategies has proven more effective, especially throughout the current climate.

So what are the herd’s favourite ads this year?

Bob – Managing Director:

The Christmas Ad World Cup is upon us and it’s already stacking up to be a great tournament, especially given the tough conditions for all players. We are seeing a levelling of the playing field with the underdogs taking the top prizes, the old masters slipping a little and some newbies making their presence felt. 

For me, the tournament winner this year is Lidl – a Christmas ad you can believe in! Whilst Aldi’s carrots look a little tired this year, Lidl reminds us that grocers are about giving us quality food at a price we can afford, leaving us to create our own rituals and routines. Their ad also gently digs at the Christmas ads of other brands with wit and humour….(‘the carrots are for eating’, ‘there’s emotional gravy’ and a ‘moment where we want you to feel sad’). It leaves us with the question; how did they managed to react to this year’s ads and still get theirs out by mid-November?! But then this year has all been about agility, responsiveness, quick decision-making and keeping a smile on your face while doing that. 

Maddie – Senior Brand Builder:

Firstly, I think all of the ads I watched this year were great. Hats off to all the businesses for their own unique spin on what has been a tumultuous year that we are all just ready to put behind us! Also, if there was ever a year to pull on the heart strings it was this one! But one stole it for me…

Tesco’sNo Naughty List’ is a fantastic campaign and it’s what we all need after a year like 2020. It is a gentle acknowledgment that no one is perfect, but we are all trying our best. It perfectly taps into the ‘screw it and treat yourself’ mentality that so many of us adopted over lockdown and we saw firsthand in our COVID research groups. So, don’t sweat the small stuff and give yourself a pat on the back and a big mince pie for surviving what has been a pretty rough year. Also, I LOVE Britney Spears so any ad using her music is going to be a big win for me.

Jas – Assistant Brand Builder:

My favourite this year is the John Lewis ‘Give A Little Love’ advert. It has been inspired by small acts of kindness and love, which we are all in need of more than ever during this pandemic. The music is beautiful and the track was specially written by Celeste for the advert. John Lewis commissioned 8 different animators to create the advert- a symbol of solidarity with the struggling creative community. Everything about this advert is well thought through and is in keeping with the true spirit of Christmas!

Danni – Executive Brand Builder:

My favourite this year is the Amazon, ‘The Show Must Go On’ advert. I love this one mainly because it resonates with me – it’s a story I can closely relate to. I used to do ballet and loved it, and I know I would have felt the same if my ballet dance show was cancelled due to a pandemic! I think adverts which relate to the current situation, but also to a specific person’s interest, are highly effective and memorable. This advert has also been beautifully executed, with a stunning soundtrack and a great cast.

What is your favourite Christmas advert this year?

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