Can Brands Bring Festive Cheer At The End Of A Bad Year?

Jenifer Macfarlan, Account Manager


I think we can all agree that this year, the thought of watching warm and fuzzy Christmas adverts is a welcomed one. Christmas trees are going up early and we’re all looking for Christmas magic to spark some joy.

As most significant Christmas campaigns are planned over a year in advance, it’s interesting to see how retailers have adapted their advertising strategies to deal with the most ‘unprecedented’ Christmas ever. Who’s hit the nail on the head and who’s missed the mark?

This year there appears to be two main approaches: humour and the idea of family.

Tesco brought plenty of banter to the table picking up on key COVID moments throughout the year and making light of the situation. Lidl will also be putting a few smiles on faces with their TV advert poking fun at their rivals with “cutesy carrots” and “emotional gravy”.

Coca Cola and McDonalds are pulling on heartstrings with a focus on family; through a moving father daughter relationship and single parent reminding us not to lose our inner child.

First up, my winner: Sainsbury’s nostalgic Christmas memories’ series of three adverts; “Gravy Songs”, “Perfect Portions” & “Big Sarnie”. Using multiple adverts takes advantage of the increase in impacts and viewing figures across digital and TV while we are all stuck at home.

Each advert represents a different family’s Christmas story, taking us back in time with home video style footage. The adverts show the common connection of food at Christmas. Launching with “Gravy Song”, which featured a black family, created some negative backlash.

However for most this heightened interest in what they were going to do next when the rest of the series was released. Sainsbury’s have managed to strike the balance by creating the feeling of happiness through Christmas memories while doing something meaningful and making sure their adverts represent a more diverse audience.

Now, for this years ‘loser’: The John Lewis advert. Although it was very nearly cancelled, this year John Lewis has steered away from their usual tearjerker and instead ramped up the feelgood factor. “Give a Little Love” definitely ticks all the wholesome boxes as it shows us how acts of kindness, large and small, can multiply and positively impact the world.

However when compared to previous years it could be argued that this year is lacking something memorable – where is that hero character for us all to fall in love with? In an already tough year for the retailer, I think we’ll soon discover this ad hasn’t had as big an impact on consumers (and therefore, sales) as it usually would.

Agencies and clients will have debated what approach to take this year; whether to play it safe or go all out. Those who have been agile enough to make reference to the year we have had, the importance of family and kindness have won the Christmas race in my eyes.

Those who have failed to adapt and understand that we all wanted, maybe even needed, something extra special have missed the mark, leaving me wanting more.