Year after year brands and retailers go head to head to come up with the best Christmas Ad. Let’s face it they are crucial during the festive season to drum up excitement, drive footfall to stores and consumers love them. The big question is do they really influence shoppers to buy? According to research conducted by Kantar it says UK consumers spend around £30bn in the ‘golden quarter’ leading up to Christmas. This year the team at The Shopper Agency took to the high street to see Christmas in retail through the lens of the shopper and how Christmas ads have impacted the overall experience. Here’s our breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly. Enjoy!
Arguably the most anticipated Christmas campaign of the season and this year John Lewis delivered it with the announcement of their partnership with Waitrose. It appears that this ad campaign is a bit, well, ‘Marmite’. Some folks are loving it, others slating poor little Edgar. However, here at TSA HQ, we feel it brings a warm and fuzzy Christmas vibe, reminding us of the Christmas guests you don’t really want to host and the sharing of glorious food with your nearest and dearest.
Yet the in-store experience felt underwhelming. We were met with a brilliant window display, which filled us with hope for an Edgar experience inside. Perhaps a recreation of the rustic village, or Edgar’s little house…but no, much to our disappointment there was no sign of Edgar in-store. If a bit of glitter and fairy lights count as an in-store experience then John Lewis has nailed it. If we hadn’t have seen the advert we would not have known Edgar existed. John Lewis, we feel you need a little more fire in-store and little less glitter next time.
Amelia Mulley, Account Director
Kevin the carrot, leafy blinders and Robbie Williams with the Greatest Showman thrown in for good measure makes for a pretty good Christmas ad. Clever lyrics to Robbie Williams' ‘let me entertain you’ delivers the festive messages perfectly whilst creating the centre stage for the lovable characters to bring Aldi’s festive cheer to life. It’s emotive, fun and most of all gets your taste buds going, inspiring you to get creative and start your Christmas shop. In-store did not disappoint from the LED light window graphics to the character-themed security shrouds and in-store graphics which continued the Christmas message ‘put on an amazing show this Christmas’. We particularly liked the ‘Christmas stars of the show’ communications to call out key products. Christmas flowed from start to finish in-store and Aldi have done a great job of navigating the shopper to key areas in-store by merchandising festive products together to create a buzz and a sense of urgency. The special buy aisles were not the only place offering excitement, surprise and delight. Good job Aldi!
Hannah Abbasi, Retail Marketing Director
Lidl’s Christmas advert ‘Big on a Christmas you can believe in’ centres around the smallest of moments, like the first pop of the cork or the collective cheer when you manage to light up the Christmas pudding. It’s these moments that Lidl wants shoppers to celebrate. While these moments are relatable, the advert doesn’t tell a story of a magical Christmas that most viewers are expecting to see but focuses on the brand’s promise to be 'Big on Quality, Lidl on price'.
For the in-store experience, Lidl’s ‘Big on’ immerses shoppers as they walk down the aisles. All the Christmas food products, many of them from the advert, are clearly displayed under the brand's Christmas message. Shoppers can also pick up a magazine around ‘hosting, toasting and sipping something special’ at Christmas, which resonates with the theme of the advert and gives shoppers an assortment of spirits that are perfect to have over the festive season. All-in-all Lidl’s advert does tie in with the Christmas products that are on offer in-store, however, since the advert wasn’t all that inspiring we weren’t exactly expecting the same to transpire in-store.
Jessie Randhawa, Marketing Executive
“If only somebody could put loads of little shops into one big shop”. What a great premise for Boots’ Christmas offering. This years’ ad is more tongue in cheek than the more wholesome ads we’ve become accustomed to in previous years, but taps into the relatable theme of gifting nightmares at Christmas.
We were excited to see what the in-store experience would bring and we weren't disappointed. After seeing windows wrapped in the campaign ads, we headed to the gifting section to be greeted with the campaign messaging and a huge range of gifts for every type of giftee. The #GiftLikeYouGetThem, a take on the ATL hashtag, was present around the gifting area including sections such as "what to buy the person who loves working out almost as much as they love talking about it" and "what to buy the on-fleek-beauty-kween, whatever that means" - all prominent in the ad. It's clear that Boots have spent time on their gift categorisation, helping them to be the gifting destination for everybody.
Sarah Skeete, Group Account Director
Well done Ikea, the most un-Christmassy Christmas Ad this year, that still manages to pull on the festive heartstrings and appeal to the masses. It shouldn’t work but it does. A great mix of grime music, combined with humorous lyrics that encourage customers to spruce up their homes through quirky, talking ornaments. We were hoping for some prime ‘grime’ time in store but were left disappointed when there was no reference what so ever to the advert. The only nod to Christmas were sad-looking Christmas trees sporadically displayed in some of the room sets, the odd graphic here and there with a Christmas message and then the holiday destination at the end near the checkouts. Too late Ikea. We would have loved to have seen the holiday destination at the heart of the store with references to the advert, with key messages pulled out to encourage that festive make-over. Creating this destination at the end of the shopper journey feels like an afterthought and shoppers will feel rushed to shop the collection. Let’s face it once you get to the end there’s only one thing in sight. Hotdogs!
Martin Fawcett, Managing Director
After their banned Christmas TV advert last year Iceland bounced back in 2019 with a collaboration with Disney and Frozen 2 to help its shoppers bring the ‘Magic of Frozen’ home this Christmas. Teaming up with Frozen is a brilliant fit and will resonate back to families who regularly shop at Iceland.
From ‘Discover the Magic of Frozen’ window and sliding door signage to fully branded freezers, Iceland do a great job bringing some of that magic in-store. We are reminded about special items such as Turkey crowns “as seen on TV” with simple POS prompts. Frozen 2 barkers and floor graphics also offer shoppers the chance to WIN a holiday to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Los Angeles. We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered a specially branded freezer containing a whole host of Disney Frozen food products such as Olaf Ice Lollies, Enchanting Breaded Chicken Shapes and Olaf Shaped Noses - which we thought was a really nice touch. All in all, Iceland has done a really good job of bringing the essence of the TV ad instore - Good job Iceland.
Alan Dunphy, Designer
Marks and Spencer Clothing launched an ‘off the wall’ Christmas ad featuring their Christmas jumpers having the effect of making people dance. Other than the fact that the ad’s song is enough to set dogs barking, their main effort was to hero their Christmas Jumpers and this was reflected perfectly in the store layout. On entering Marks and Spencer, you’re hit with a great display of Christmas Jumpers which drives home the ad’s message. You can even buy the dog jumpers featured in the ad which we feel is a really nice touch. The store has an overly Christmassy feel with decorated trees dispersed around the store and ceiling-hung wreaths. M&S has really upped the ante on their stocking filler and Christmas decoration displays. They have really thought of catering for all ages and tastes and you’d be hard pushed not to find a little something suitable for anyone in the family.
Lauren Crowson, Head of Finance
Dialling up the good ol’ Northern charm, ASDA have really tugged on our heartstrings with their brother and sister duo, keeping the spirit of their Grandad and Christmas alive. Their message is a simple one: Christmas is not about material things, it’s about friends and family. In-store we realised the campaign had been left out in the cold. Everyday temporary point of sale now appears in red with ‘let’s make Christmas Extra special’ in white, accompanied by some pack shots. Not very ‘extra special’. The most imaginative POS items we encountered were some decorative 3D gift boxes. We feel ASDA has really missed a trick by not bringing the element of sharing and community spirit to life in-store. The ad resonates so deeply with viewers and ASDA could have harnessed this to capture Shopper engagement and make their Christmas shop an Extra Special memory in their Christmas experience this year.
Amelia Mulley, Account Director
Celebrating its 150 year anniversary, the advert goes back to where it all began in 1869. Located in a controversial dark and bleak Dickensian-style setting, the story begins with Nick, a young boy who is wrongly banished for stealing a clementine from Mary Ann Sainsbury’s store. In the true spirit of Christmas, he’s saved by Mrs. Sainsbury, who gifts him a bag of clementines and says “Well if you can’t do something special for someone at Christmas, when can you?” Prompting the boy to gift his chimney sweeping friends a clementine in their hanging stockings. Are Sainsbury’s saying they created Father Christmas?
While the story is heartfelt, if not a little bleak, the in-store journey was entirely different. It would’ve been great to see the retailer bringing to life the nineteenth-century atmosphere within their larger stores. The Christmas Shop could’ve been a dedicated street themed power aisle, instead, there was absolutely nothing to tie into the Christmas concept or the 150 year anniversary. There wasn’t even a nod towards the clementines - the basis of the advert. The only thing that related to the advert was a single hanging banner ‘Helping make Christmas special since 1869’. We have to admit we left the store feeling as lost as Nick did back in 1896.
Jessie Randhawa, Marketing Executive
Since the announcement that Waitrose were partnering with John Lewis, the expectation for Waitrose has only increased to deliver a Christmas experience as good as John Lewis’s reputation. There have certainly been mixed feelings toward the Christmas campaign hero, Excitable Edgar, but Waitrose absolutely resonated the Edgar theme throughout their store presentation. Shelf edge barkers alerted customers that you could buy your very own Excitable Edgar and the little stuffed toys could be found strategically placed by the tills. Waitrose’s store newspaper even headlined Edgar on the front page with a continuation of the theme throughout. Well done Waitrose for resonating the Christmas Ad campaign and creating a Christmassy atmosphere without losing the supermarket feel. (Scroll up to watch the Excitable Edgar advert!)
Lauren Crowson, Head of Finance
We would love to see brands and retailers spend as much time, money and effort in producing outstanding experiences in store as they do in producing their show stopping Ads to bring the joy of Christmas to life. Creating experiences in retail is key to engaging with your shoppers at the point of purchase. Tell your story, trigger that emotional response and provide memorable experiences for your shopper. More effort needs to be spent focusing on the person that matters the most... Your shopper, and less time on competing with one another to be crowned the King/ Queen of Christmas.