It is that time of year again when retailers go head-to-head in the Christmas advertising arena and this year they are not holding back, with advertising expenditure set to reach £5.6 billion (£300 million more than last year). This may seem strange in a post-Brexit landscape in which retailers have had to review their advertising budgets, so why are brands spending so much on two to three minute clips?

Five shiny glossy red ball with a bow on a beautiful Christmas background. Hang on a tape among snowflakes. Christmas toys. vector illustration

Since the debut of John Lewis‘ Christmas advert in 2011 (“The Long Wait”), Christmas advertising campaigns have become a cultural phenomenon and typically feature a heart-warming story. This year we can experience the Tale of Thomas Burberry (rumoured to have cost more than £10 million to produce), fly around the world with the Waitrose robin and get an insight into what Christmas is like for M&S’ Mrs Claus and Apple’s Frankenstein.

Christmas adverts can also be linked to a special event or anniversary. In 2014, we saw Sainsbury’s use the classic First World War story of the Christmas Day truce for its “Christmas is for Sharing” advert.  This year’s Burberry advert takes us through the key moments of the brand’s history, such as Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 in which Burberry was a supplier.

What is becoming increasingly evident is that retailers cannot just rely on an effective and emotive narrative; they now have to create an entire Christmas experience and target shoppers through other means. A successful campaign involves striking a balance between triggering an emotional response or, even better, a social media frenzy, and introducing product placements and brand references.

John Lewis is an example of a retailer which simply reveals itself at the end of the advert, which ordinarily would not make for an effective campaign. However, due to its substantial social media presence and the generated interest around its adverts, this does not adversely impact John Lewis’ brand. According to John Lewis, since 2012, their sales have actually increased by more than 35%, thanks to the success of their Christmas advertising.

Christmas online shopping top view. Female buyer with laptop, copy space on screen. Woman buys presents in internet with gold credit card, drinks coffee among gift boxes. Winter holidays sales

While Christmas campaigns still mainly follow the traditional route of television adverts, figures show that almost 50% of advertising expenditure this year, which is roughly £2.7 billion, will be spent on digital media. Given the ubiquity of social media in today’s society, it is no surprise that advertising budgets have increased to cope with this, and it is interesting to see the different tactics retailers have pursued to boost their brand. One such tactic is to introduce a teaser trailer and then use social media to increase the advert’s visibility. Last year, John Lewis spent around £1 million to create their ManOnTheMoon advert and a further £6 million to advertise the ManOnTheMoon online and through televised adverts. John Lewis initially revealed a 10 second teaser of the advert on television, before beginning a “#ManOnTheMoon” trend to raise the advert’s profile. Three hours after the teaser was shown, the “ManOnTheMoon” hashtag was trending with 40,000 tweets. Similarly, this year Burberry assembled an all-star cast to tell its story and, with numerous Tweeters demanding that the advert be followed up with a feature-length film, the fashion brand, like John Lewis, could achieve longer term benefits if it decides to continue the story into 2017.

The Christmas campaign is clearly no longer comprised of a simple televised advert, but instead is evolving into an entire Christmas experience. It is no longer enough for retailers to rely on a good story or catchy theme song, as retailers are increasingly under pressure to create effective online and physical campaigns. Having an interactive and fun campaign allows customers to get more involved and interested in the story and, ultimately, the retailer. Given that Christmas revenues have the potential to account for a significant proportion of a retailer’s sales, getting the Christmas campaign right is crucial for a retailer’s success over Christmas.

Fashionista would like to wish readers a very Merry Christmas and will be back in the New Year

By: Fashionista
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