Christmas. A time for peace and good will…and presents! The modern christmas message has become a steady stream of “buy, buy, buy!” as brands and marketers try to align their brands and products with your Christmas celebrations. Whether Christmas conjures images of reindeer and snow or BBQ’s and the beach, it’s a time for families and love and that makes it a huge emotional opportunity for brands.
With audiences subjected to waves and waves of cliche filled Christmas ads - cue: Santa, Tinsel, smiling children, content parents, sleeping elderly relatives… we’ve seen them all - brands are increasingly turning to branded entertainment in a bid to stand out and connect with people.
A great christmas campaign can really impact a brand’s fortunes. We’ve all heard the famous story of how Coca-Cola turned Santa's coat red even though the story is not true it has stuck firmly in popular culture and is exactly the sort of alignment all brands are seeking at Christmas. However, is it possible for a brand to own Christmas? Unlikely, but many brands have done a superb job at aligning themselves with the season. Coca-Cola is one and John Lewis is another brand to succeed in aligning with the festive season.
The John Lewis Christmas ad has become a fixture in the UK, and around the world (there’s even a dedicated Wikipedia page) and Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertising has long been an anticipated fixture of the season. As sure as there will be reruns of A Muppet Christmas Carol and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, there will be a swag of brands pedalling peace and christmas spirit.
Christmas remains the biggest time of the year for retail and as the hard, lean times continue it is more crucial than ever that brand shift products and boost sentiment. With the advertising offensive kicking off earlier and earlier each year there’s more branded entertainment to shift through. This year’s selection was extensive.
There were musical numbers: Coca-Cola went old school with the Jimmy Durant classic “Make Someone Happy”, H&M enlisted Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett for its Magical Holidays film, David Jones called on Tina Arena to cover a classic song in its 'John Lewis "inspired" film and Vodafone UK gave us the years most overplayed song with its Frozen Sing-A-long ad.
There were animated animals: Cartier took to the skies with playful panther cubs, Harrods delivered a children’s story of Santa and some mice, while McVities created a cute bomb with its animated animal choir.
There were celebrities: Kate Spade enlisted Anna Kendrick for a witty film, Samsung turned to Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd for their christmas cheer and Gap brought in the big guns with Sofia Coppola directing its Holiday ads.
There were brands who knew what women want for Christmas: Mulberry showed audiences how to 'Win Christmas’, Marks & Spencer delivered some magic and sparkle and Harvey Nichols followed up last year's award-winning Sorry, I spent it on myself' campaign with 'Could I be any clearer?'
And brands who went for the heartstrings: Apple tugged heavily at our hearts with its love-filled film, Waitrose told the story of shy girl overcoming obstacles and Boots made us all think about the special people who give up their Christmas to help others.
There were many worthy and high quality projects, but five stood out from the pack. Here are Branded Arts Review’s picks of The Best of Christmas 2014
No 5. Jack Daniels - 'Holiday Holograms'
Creative Company: Arnold Furnace
Jack Daniels wanted to bring distant friends and family closer through holographic technology. So they created a lovely film to tell the story of three aussie blokes, living abroad and helps them to catch up with their families and friends via the latest holographic technology. It is really surprising work from Jack Daniels, the film is emotive and heart warming and so unexpected from a brand that is usually more focused on the product’s production. The idea is great, the film is well done and it works really well. I’m not too sure what it says about the brand though, the idea that Jack Daniels brings families together is a bit of a stretch the idea that it brings mates together is easier to swallow. The element of surprise is what really elevates this piece of work. A job well done.
No 4. Burberry - ‘From London with Love’
Creative Company: Burberry
The Burberry festive film is inspired by the golden age of cinematic musicals. It tells the tale of a young couple falling in love, against a theatrical backdrop of London. The film features Ed Harcourts’ ‘The Way That I Live’ and stars Romeo Beckham. The film is filled with the Burberry plaid, beautiful dancing and lots of magic and sparkles. the film is stylish, luxurious, classy and so very fashionable. Burberry’s ‘From London with Love’ is gorgeous. The film is playful, magical and enchanting. It has all the whimsy of a fashion film but it manages to hold the viewer without veering off into indecipherable fashion fluff (like Chanel’s Reincarnation film by Karl Lagerfeld ) Once again Burberry proves it understands its audience and can deliver something distinct, unique and beautiful.
No 3. Expedia - ‘Santa Flies Coach’
Creative Company: 180LA
Santa has ditched the sleigh and he’s heading around the world by plane in Expedia’s Christmas film. The film follows Santa as he travels 19,602 miles over seven days (49.7 hours of flight time) from the North Pole to Alaska, Honolulu, Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Dublin, New York and finally Memphis, where he visits the St Jude’s Children Research Hospital to visit some special children. Santa is donating all the Expedia points he earned on this trip to the St Jude’s Hospital and the brand is encouraging customers to do the same. A lovely sentiment in sharing with others, although it wasn’t clear how the Expedia points will also donate The film is lovely, warm and brimming with christmas charm. The Santa is well cast and the film is great. Once he arrives at St Jude it is touching, emotive and really beautiful. A wonderful film.
No 2. Sainsbury’s - ‘Christmas 2014 Ad’
Creative Company: AMV BBDO
This is an extraordinary piece of film. A wonderful story, well told in an excellent production. Sainsbury’s have done an exceptional job of bringing to life a poignant story that shows how even in the darkest and toughest times there can be great humanity. However, at the risk of appearing Scrooge-like, I’m just not sure why this is a Christmas film and I have no idea what a supermarket brand is doing on the battlefields of Europe in the First World War. The film aims to highlight the ideas of sharing and promotes the supermarket’s partnership with The British Legion, however did this need to be a Christmas ad? It would have made more sense as a commemorative film for the 100 year anniversary. Clearly Sainsbury’s is keen to align the brand with patriotism, Britishness and promote the ideas of humanity and sharing. However as the logo pops into shot at the end of the film, I was left with a horrible taste in my mouth. It is hard not to feel that Sainsbury’s is manipulating a poignant event to flog groceries for Christmas. As the film ends, my mind moved to the thoughts of what happened next, to the battlefields, and the needless killing of a generation of young men who marched proudly toward death. Yes, it’s a powerful important message but is it an ad for Christmas? I know many people have been moved by this film and the story and I do not wish to suggest is it not an excellent piece of film, rather I feel it has been deeply undermined by presenting it as a Christmas Ad.
No 1. John Lewis - 'Monty'
Creative Company: Adam & Eve
John Lewis has nailed it again. The retailer’s Christmas films have become the most anticipated branded entertainment of the year and they never fail to disappoint. This year’s efforts brings us Monty, the penguin pal of a little boy. As always there is a great soundtrack (Tom Odell covering John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’) a wonderful twist and a beautiful heartwarming story. Much like the previous films ‘The Journey’, ‘The Long Wait’ and ‘The Bear and the Hare’ the film launches in a high rating program and has been viewed by huge audiences online - more than 20 million. Once again the film leads an integrated experience with in store experiences, plush Monty toys for sale in store and a host of other fun things for kids. John Lewis are the experts here, this is their formula, their strategy, and they continue to do a superb job of balancing the feel good heartwarming message without slipping into overdone schmaltz. Nothing but praise for this latest film. Brilliant work, once again.