Since John Lewis’ Christmas advert in 2011 (“The Long Wait”), Christmas adverts have become an eagerly anticipated event. This year, advertisers will spend an estimated record £310 million on Christmas advertising. It is becoming increasing apparent, however, that it’s not just enough for retailers to release a successful television advert; retailers have to create an entire Christmas experience for customers.
‘Twas the night before Christmas
Christmas adverts tend to revolve around a clear story, which is a key component of their success. As the storyline develops, viewers are more likely to follow and respond to a clear narrative and associate such a positive feeling with the retailer. The challenge for retailers is to come up with a story that can appeal to the majority of viewers and trigger an emotional response, whilst subtly introducing product placements and brand references. A potential pitfall is that retailers get too involved in portraying the story, at the expense of referencing their brand. John Lewis is an example of a retailer which simply reveals themselves at the end of the advert, which ordinarily wouldn’t make for an effective campaign. However, due to its substantial social media presence and the generated interest around its adverts, this is unlikely to adversely impact on John Lewis’ brand and viewers. Sainsbury’s have also chosen to reveal their brand at the end of their “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” advert, and it will be interesting to see the impact of this on their sales.
Christmas adverts can also be linked to a special event or anniversary. Last year saw Sainsbury’s use the classic First World War story of the Christmas Day truce for its “Christmas is for Sharing” advert. Coca Cola and Toys R Us brought back their well known theme tunes and adverts in 2015 and 2009 respectively for significant anniversaries. This year’s Burberry advert is inspired by the 15th year anniversary of Billy Elliott, and sees an array of British celebrities, dressed in Burberry, jumping against a glamorous golden background.
What is becoming increasingly evident however 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.
“We Wish You An App(y) Christmas”
Whilst television adverts were traditionally used to reveal a Christmas campaign, retailers are now using online mediums to further enhance their Christmas advertising. A growing trend is introducing a teaser trailer and using social media to boost the intrigue around the advert. 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. John Lewis continued its social media presence, by creating an app which provides information on the moon and a moon based game. Complementing the social media Christmas campaign are moon themed products in store, such as pyjamas, mugs and telescopes.
Hashtags are an ideal way of raising the profile of a retailer and its Christmas campaign, by offering a quantifiable measurement of customer interest. Last year, Debenhams launched a multi-channel “Found It” Christmas campaign, which included an online gift guide and a “#foundit” selfie competition. This was reinforced by a combination of outdoor, digital and TV advertising carrying the “#foundit” message. Again, a teaser advert was used to introduce the campaign. The “Found It” campaign was so successful, creating 248,000 visitors to the campaign website and a 7.2 activation conversion rate, that Debenhams has used it this year, although with a more personalised approach. Now shoppers can celebrate finding it for “the gadget addict” or “the party princess”. Marks & Spencer also created a “followthefairies” hashtag for their campaign last year, which was used in alongside a “Two Fairies” Twitter account. The Twitter account and hashtag wanted to capture the feeling of the festive spirit, and publicised unbranded events held by Marks & Spencer throughout the country, such as treating people to cakes, biscuits and cosmetics and good deeds performed by people in the UK. The fact that Marks & Spencer were able to use the Twitter account to publicise unbranded events, and rely on the profile of the Two Fairies, shows the the power of a successful social media profile.
Alternatively, retailers can follow in the footsteps of Neiman Marcus, a luxury US department store, who last year developed iBeacons to alert customers about events, meet and greet with designers and special offers. Instead of receiving an influx of emails, customers were only messaged when they were in close proximity to stores. By using iBeacons, Neiman Marcus were able to drive shoppers into stores and create an entire Christmas experience, not just a destination for presents.
Another tactic is to sync the advert with the retailer’s homepage. Harvey Nichols have embraced the growing trend of the “Buy Now” buttons by introducing a “Shop Now” button at the end of their online Christmas advert. When clicked, the online viewer is directed to Harvey Nichols’ homepage where they can shop for presents, in order to “Avoid #GiftFace”. The advantage of the “Shop Now” button is that it allows retailers to measure the click through rate of viewers of their advert, and removes the additional step of shoppers independently visiting retailers’ websites.
Some retailers go further and create an extension of their campaign in their physical stores. Last year John Lewis and Microsoft created “Monty’s Magical Toy Machine”, a 3D interactive experience designed to let children bring their toys to life. Children placed their favourite toy into the machine, which photographed the toy 17 times, using three digital SLR cameras. The end result was a toy that appeared on screen as a moving interactive 3D image. John Lewis also launched Monty inspired products such as “Monty’s Goggles” which used technology to create a 360 degree virtual world, and “Monty’s Winter Garden”, on the roof of their Oxford Street shop, where visitors could learn more about Monty and Mabel, make Monty biscuits and sit in a cosy log cabin. This year, Sainsbury’s have launched a collection of Mog’s Christmas Calamity books and soft toys, which will be available in every Sainsbury’s supermarket and convenience store in the UK.
Burberry has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to create an interactive 3D campaign, not in their physical stores, but in Piccadilly Circus. The advert, building on the personalised clothing shown in its Christmas advert, allows shoppers to use their mobiles to create a CGI image of a Burberry scarf personalised with their initials. The image of the scarf appears live on the Piccadilly Circus Curve screen, and shoppers can manipulate the movement of their scarves by waving their mobile phones. Burberry then provides directions to its nearest store or a link to its website, for shoppers to purchase their newly designed monogrammed scarf.
Retailers shouldn’t be putting all their mince pies in one basket
The Christmas campaign is no longer comprised of a simple televised advert, but instead is evolving into an entire Christmas experience. It’s 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. Successful retailers are those who are able to change the nature of the shopping experience from one which is purely transactional into one which is an engaging experience and develops long term customer loyalty. Given that Christmas revenues have the potential to account for a significant proportion of a retailer’s sales, getting the Christmas campaign right should be top of every retailer’s Christmas wish list.