Christmas adverts - an exercise in PR?

For many, Christmas adverts mark the start of the holiday season. Produced as high-budget winter warmers, there's no denying that Christmas adverts are part of the holiday hype. But as the countdown to the big day comes to a close, we are given some time to reflect on the evolution of these festive blockbusters and ask: what is the goal of Christmas advertisements?

The spirit of social media
Despite the core objective of advertising being to drive sales, the two most popular Christmas adverts of 2015 did not showcase the best winter deals or try to sell material goods. John Lewis' 'Man on the Moon' and Sainsbury's 'Mog's Christmas Calamity' adverts evoked the Christmas spirit to remind viewers that Christmas is for sharing and acts of goodwill. Building on this message, both retailers' partnerships with major charities (Age UK and Save the Children respectively) featured heavily in their wider campaigns.

The Christmas advert has become less of an advert and more of a conversation starter. Both retailers launched sustained social media campaigns, inviting viewers to get involved in the discussion of surrounding the advertisements. Most 2015 Christmas campaigns ran with hashtags that garnered a huge number of impressions and engagements. One such example of hashtag hype was John Lewis' teaser of their Christmas advert, which aired with the hashtag #OnTheMoon and a release date, prompting widespread speculation online.

While there was a focus on Twitter and Facebook, some retailers turned to other social media channels to promote their Christmas message. Asda targetted a younger demographic through micro-blogging site Tumblr, and retailers with big budget commercials have uploaded them onto YouTube through a branded channel. The discussion of Christmas adverts across a number of platforms reinforces the message of both campaigns: bringing the community together to back a good cause.

An early Christmas PResent
Engagement and impressions are the goal of this new generation of Christmas adverts, with success initially measured by views and shares online. While the goodwill conveyed by these adverts is hopefully sincere, we must remember that retailers aim not only to tug at our heartstrings but at our purse strings as well. Retailers will naturally hope that high campaign engagement will translate into higher Christmas sales, as well as fostering goodwill in consumers towards them for the longer term.

Although it is too early to evaluate the results of these emotionally charged advertisements on consumers' wallets, judging by the views of Man on the Moon (Nearly 23 million) and Mog's Christmas Calamity (Nearly 26 million) on YouTube, the reach of these adverts has been far extended by social media and editorial coverage.

Both the Sainsbury's and John Lewis adverts were designed to generate positive PR over immediate business benefits. Each focused on a feel-good message that consumers could associate with the brand before following up with posts on social media to garner engagement. The adverts' messages were boosted by a great deal of editorial coverage and discussed widely on talk shows and as water cooler conversation. Ultimately, the PR created by these advertisements is arguably much more valuable to retailers than an advert just created to boost Christmas sales figures.

Categories: Opinion PR Marketing