Christmas. A time of joy, hope and good will to all men. Except in the commercial world, where Christmas is an all out offensive to attract the biggest crowds with the biggest wallets and move as much stock as possible.
The Christmas sales bonanza is a big one and so the advertising and marketing festival that preceeds the holiday gets more competitive every year.
On the whole Christmas advertising is a predominantly clichéd affair, it’s all about Santa, elves, reindeers and gifts, all served up with a good dose of “Buy, Buy, Buy”. The ads can go either way and history tells us brands walk a fine line between the very good and the truly awful.
Christmas presents brands with a wonderful opportunity to connect with consumers in a way that they can’t do at any other time of year. It’s a time when brands can be genuine and tell a human story without a huge cynical backlash. It is therefore unsurprising that the Christmas ad has become something of an event, similar to the Super Bowl ad and in places such as the UK, it is something of an institution.
The rise of branded entertainment has given brands another opportunity to take their Christmas storytelling even further with the genre enabling brands to come to life and create warm engaging brand experiences and magical Christmas stories
In a year when branded arts and entertainment has gone from strength to strength, Branded Arts Review decided to take a look at the best of these works for our special festive ‘Best Of’ list.
The criteria for Branded Arts Review is to showcase projects which:
- Raise the bar creatively and demonstrate artistry and creative excellence
- Demonstrate a strong and cohesive strategic purpose and fit with the brand, its values and positioning
- Elevate the brand in consumers minds and create an emotional connection with the viewer
- Stand up as an authentic or legitimate piece of art or entertainment
The five works we’ve included represent our picks of the best Christmas branded arts projects. We have showcased campaigns that are rich in authentic storytelling, push creative boundaries and in many cases have already proven they can create emotional connections with audiences.
The strategy and artistry in these projects is impressive and notable, and more than anything they are entertaining and just plain lovely. Despite being commercial messages for major brands, these works embody the spirit and values of Christmas and seek to spread joy, cheer and just possibly might make us shed a tear and buy a product.
From the luxurious to the home made and everything in between, this is Branded Arts Review’s Best of Christmas for 2013.
Creative Company: Studio M
Canadian airline WestJet treated passengers to a major Christmas surprise for its branded entertainment film this holiday season. Passengers on two WestJet flights in Canada were asked to scan their boarding passes in front of a screen, which brought up a Santa asking what they wanted for Christmas. As passengers answered their responses were noted before a team of WestJet staff went shopping so that when passengers landed and waited at the baggage reclaimed they received more than their luggage with the airline gift-wrapping their dream presents.
“Inspired by the notion of real time giving, we wanted to surprise our guests with meaningful, personalized gifts when they least expected them,” said WestJet.
This 6 minute film which borrows its style from 'The Night Before Christmas' has gone viral in a major way with audiences all over the world moved by the airlines generosity. The film has had nearly 27 million views on YouTube in a matter of weeks. It's an interesting exercise in branding for an airline. Airlines are the brands and companies we love to hate the most, air travel is stressful and they are the brunt of our aggression and emotion when there are delays and problems. At this time of year air travel can be a nightmare, particularly in the northern hemisphere as the unpredictable weather and snow can wreck havoc on travellers.
It's clear that this film is a huge PR exercise for the brand which is seeking to create a positive emotional connection with the airline. If the huge amount of people praising this week are to be believed, it is working too.
I have to say personally, I didn’t quite get this one. WestJet is not the first brand to turn to performing random acts of giving, and other brands have done this in more meaningful ways giving priceless gifts to people who need it. This random act of rewarding passengers, the ones who were lucky enough to be on the flights with material items just didn't do it for me. But, I'm willing to concede that maybe I am missing something here given the huge number of people who love this work. For the last week my Facebook feed has been full of people who claim this film moved them to tears, and that even includes cynical advertising types. Thus proving sometimes a good cry is more effective than sex at selling an idea and a brand.
Creative Company: BBH London
Baileys have created a magical Christmas film featuring a reimagined version of the Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s festive ballet features what is possibly one of the most famous music scores and it is impossible to get through the festive season without foot tapping along to the melody.
Baileys have taken things one step further bringing the spectacle and magic of this much loved ballet and bringing it to life in a luscious indulgent film. The film sees three girls arrive at a festive party - the Candyland ball – where our heroine Clara catches the eye of the Nutcracker Prince and they begin to dance. However, tensions flair when the Mouse King enters the room and a brilliant choreographed dance battle erupts between the three main characters.
The film is a fast paced, magical feast delivering a contemporary take on the ballet along with a wonderful remix of the famous score. Choreographed by Benjamin Millipied, the choreographer behind Black Swan, and featuring Royal Ballet performers, this is branded arts at its most showy and sensational.
Original and different this ad is entertaining and a wonderful twist on the usual festive ads. For so many people Baileys comes out at Christmas so its fitting for the brand to align itself with another famous Christmas institution while avoiding the predictable festive cues.
Perfectly aimed at women and delivering two wonderful lines: Spend time with the girls this Christmas as well as the Baileys. Christmas with Spirit tagline. This film is powered by a savvy strategy and a beautiful execution. What stands it apart is the magic, drama and the unexpected nature of this Christmas ad. A unique twist for the festive ad, beautifully executed.
Creative Company: Harrods
For a luxurious Christmas, look no further than Harrods, London’s most glamorous department store. For Harrods it’s all about the iconic Knightsbridge store, therefore it’s Christmas display has to be a showstopper.
Harrods have not disappointed, inspired by a classic steam train: this is the Harrod’s Christmas Express. A glamorous “train” dripping with hundreds of thousands of fairy lights, which presents a showstopping display of the stores fashions, accessories, homewares and Christmas decorations.
Each window or carriage features a landscape window playing videos to give the impression of movement. The magical train itself travels from London to Paris, China, New York and the Swiss Alps with the accompanying soundtrack of the steam engine, all the while selling a 1920s glamour and a luxury Christmas.
A Harrods spokesman said: 'The Harrods Express is a captivating concept which enables us to take our customers on a compelling festive journey, where each "carriage" window beautifully showcases the store’s stunning and unrivalled offering of luxury fashion, accessories, homewares and special Christmas gifts.'
This is an exquisite display that unlocks the magic of Christmas in a very Harrods way. The strategy is simple: “sell Christmas: Harrods style”: this means creating the most glamorous and luxurious Christmas that you can imagine. The aim is clearly to draw people to the beautiful display and then encourage them instore to purchase a little piece of a Harrod’s Christmas. This is a beautiful and special display that is on brand and well executed.
Brand: John Lewis
Creative Company: Adam & Eve DDB
A Bear and a Hare celebrate Christmas in the woods, that’s the idea behind this years’ 7 million pound campaign from UK department store John Lewis. The film, which combines hand drawn animations from the Disney animators alongside real footage, was a huge change in style for the store. Evoking the style and charm of Watership Down and Wind in the Willows, the ad tells the story of Hare and his friend Bear, the only animal that never gets to celebrate Christmas because he hibernates every year. However, this year is different, This year Hare has a brilliant ide to give his friend a Christmas he'll never forget.
It’s full of all the Schultz and cheese of Christmas films however what gives the film the extra touch is the soundtrack, Lily Allen singing a gorgeous cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere only we go’ its very British and tugs just the right springs.
The film itself is lovely but what rockets this ad into the top five is the support around it, the film encourages viewers to continue the story and takes them to a site where they can engage more with the story. Of particular note here is the downloadable children’s story, ‘The Bear who had never seen Christmas’. The interactive ebook is full of games, features and activites. There’s also plush soft toys to buy, e-cards to be created and making of films. I think this is a marvellous way to go beyond an ad and create something magical and engaging that can live in a child’s imagination – and on their ipad all year round.
John Lewis have become the leaders in Christmas ads, the last three years have seen the brand expertly nail the formula of simple storytelling with an emotional twist and a powerful soundtrack – ideally a cover version of a song that can be downloaded from iTunes. 2012’s ‘The Journey’ , 2011’s 'The Long Wait' and 2010’s advert have all been huge hits for the retailer. This year already the ad has received more than 10 million views, making it the most successful of the John Lewis ads. What’s more Lily Allen’s cover has scored the lucrative UK Christmas number one hit, a much sought after accolade.
A lovely magical piece of storytelling, which extends into other platforms seemlessly and lets the stories live on beyond the film. A wonderful idea, well executed and beautifully made. Great work.
Creative Company: AMV BBDO
Sainsbury’s supermarket have created a 45 minute film which showcases how everyday Britons celebrate Christmas. ‘Christmas In a Day’ is a beautifully moving documentary-style film, directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald, the man behind Life in a Day – a cinematic experiment to create a documentary film about a day on earth. In his first foray Macdonald asked people from all around the world to upload video of their lives on July 24 2010 to YouTube and he then created a film.
Macdonald said: “When we made Life in a Day, we asked people around the globe to record their lives on a single ordinary day. When we were cutting that film, we talked about what it might be like if we chose a day that already had significance to people. The result is Christmas in a Day."
This time around, Macdonald partnered with Sainsbury’s, Scott Free Productions and Ridley Scott Associates to create a heartwarming, tear inducing, beautiful film showing ordinary people being really quite ordinary at Christmas time. The result is a magnificent film.
The film presents “one of the few moments in the calendar where the whole nation steps back from ordinary life”. To my mind this is a stroke of genius. The brand launched a three minute trailer which also served as its advertising taking a full ad break during British soap hit Coronation Street. The trailer alone was a major hit - touching, funny and emotive it pushed all the right buttons.
Sure there’s the expected backlash questioning why people want to watch a film from a supermarket, but this isn’t a film about a supermarket: this is a film about Brits and about how they celebrate Christmas. For Sainsbury’s this is about instilling the brand’s place in the audience’s world.
The film is a masterpiece and reveals how amateur crowd sourced footage can create wonderful storytelling when it is used by experts. This is an authentic and magical film, it is genuine and the power and emotion comes from the mixture of the mundane and the extraordinary. This is more than branded entertainment this is a glimpse of a nation on the most private day of the year. Pure magic and truly heartwarming work from Sainsburys to make it happen.
It's not hard to imagine families sitting down together to watch this on Christmas Day and finding joy and delight in the film, a priceless brand association for Sainsbury's.