We know how important creating and pitching the right message to an audience is. That said, who are these commercials targeting and what kind of emotions are they hoping to evoke?
Things to consider. Should ads be heavily product focused – simply sell, sell, sell? Should there be a clear affordability angle? Or should they concentrate mainly on the feel-good factors, be that fantasy or harking back to days of yore? If so, how much nostalgia of bygone times should be brought to the tale? Or is a healthy sprinkling of all of the above the recipe for a perfect Christmas message?
Let’s start with the sellers in the fray.
Marks and Spencer have a high energy ‘Jumpers’ ad, and unsurprisingly it features loads of jumpers for all folks. But being brutally honest, why did they focus on just one product? Once you commit to the selling theme and sidebar the emotional hook, then surely focusing on the one item makes it a little forgettable?
Lidl, on the other hand, just made it real across their entire store – a Christmas retelling we can really buy into (excuse the pun). Christmas for all. They incorporate simple touches of brilliance, such as the dinner guest in the deck chair and the laptop Facetime call dropping out. It sums up the happy reality of a cost-effective Christmas with both affordable consumerism and family at the center of the message in the here and now.
Next up we ponder the feel-good collection – the ones trying to make us feel all Christmas cosy inside. The following three contenders in our mix are all quite nostalgia heavy.
First is a commercial wrapped warmly in fantasy: Asda. There is a quiet nod to family departed, as Grandad is all around but in a way that makes the grandchildren bond and believe in the enchantment of Christmas and Grandad simultaneously. It exudes colour, reflective sentiment and fantastical elements that are joyous. The warm affection resonates, and the message here is Asda has the magic of Christmas that you are looking for. This is a happy departure from their ads of previous years.
John Lewis/Waitrose Partners
On to possibly the most widely anticipated festive commercial: John Lewis/Waitrose Partners. The 2019 theme focuses fondly on a Dragon (the soft toy low-hanging fruit product that they hope will adorn many a Christmas basket a la ‘Hare and Penguin’ of previous years). It takes us back to a distant past where a charming, unwieldy, fiery-nostrilled Dragon becomes a liability at the slightest hint of excitement, leading to a conflagration that leaves the town’s Christmas decorations reduced to cinders. It’s cute and it’s beautifully produced, but its caring message is long-winded and doesn’t necessarily reverberate as well as past endeavours.
Sainsbury’s, on the other hand, take us back to Christmas Eve in the auspicious year of 1869, the year of their humble beginning. It tells the tale of Nicholas the Sweep, a clear-eyed street urchin who inadvertently ends up falsely accused whilst his grubby, mean-spirited, thieving adult minder makes off with a small sack full of satsumas which he greedily hoards. Nicholas ultimately prevails, and in an effortless nod to the potential origin of Christmas that is still recognizable today, he shares the juicy satsumas with his urchin cohorts in their Christmas stockings. We are told it’s a true story. Whether it is or isn’t, the Satsuma theme easily segues through a Christmas narrative that most of us can relate to – and we all like a happy ending.
Last but not least, and successfully combining both feel-good and selling this season is Argos – especially if you like Drums! It has a kick-ass soundtrack and carries you along in a strong, warm, family-centric way that has you toe-tapping and smiling as the fantasy unfolds. The message is clear and has balance that suggests Argos sells things that make Christmas fun. It promises to fulfill your adult and childish fantasies, then wrap it all up in a blanket of excitement and love.
We have to surmise that we all like different types of messages – and not just at Christmas. We all interpret things slightly differently. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.’ Although it does feel like the ads this year have mostly played it safe, there is certainly something for everyone.