Apparently all it takes to develop a reputation as a Grinch or Scrooge around this time of year is to announce your disapproval of Will Ferrell’s “Elf” movie.
But I might not have helped my case by negatively critiquing every Christmas advert that has been released this year.
But this is not based on some anti-festive sentiment. It’s based on years of repetition from advertisers who have gotten lazy with their planning.
Not singling John Lewis out, but this year Moz the Monster is the worst offender; a complicated, confused narrative to deliver yet another must-have Christmas cuddly toy – complete with “the world’s first farting and snoring window display” in London.
I don’t get it – and I’m not the only one. You don’t have to exist in our media bubble to express confusion over the latest million-pound Christmas investment, or a host of other brands’ imitations.
And imitations are exactly what they are. What John Lewis started superbly a decade ago was sweet, heartfelt and crucially it was different. Moreover, it seemed very John Lewis. But with every year came a new attempt to make the nation cry and inevitably a law of diminishing returns. And every year brought more brands jumping on the bandwagon, jealous of how John Lewis had come to ‘own’ Christmas advertising. Some of them even did it better, but the clutter that comes from multiple mini-movies is too much now.
Have a look at the big hitters’ efforts this year – what’s their point of differentiation? Attribution is more and more difficult. Which one is Paddington in, again? Is he John Lewis or Debenhams? Ewan McGregor shops in M&S I think?
Media planners should be striving to deliver innovation with every campaign but it seems a few of the bigger brands have missed the memo.
A big, emotional TV campaign is the same answer to the same question posed a decade ago. But TV no longer offers as many opportunities for huge audiences and live viewing has dropped 14% since 2010. And while digital media now plays a huge part in these campaigns, the emotional impact is just not the same. It’s also over all too quickly as audiences seek them out on day #1.
I’m not saying TV’s the wrong answer – but when everyone else is doing the same thing, it becomes wallpaper. And if you’re going to do TV, then try something different! Have a look at Sainsbury’s this year and how they are standing out by steering clear of overly produced story-led ads.
Or what about a different lead medium entirely? The same kind of investment in out of home could dominate the channel with cool formats, dressing cities with Christmas cheer.
It’s time for John Lewis and others to realise they’re all going down the same route. Do something different next year and they’ll reap the rewards. That’s what I’ll be asking Santa for at least…