It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for retailers and brands. The festive season is here and that means the annual barrage of tinsel-soaked advertising is upon us.
'Tis the season for brands of every shape and size to bring tidings of comfort and joy, while gently nudging us into the stores to spend more money in the spirit of everyone's favourite commercial holiday.
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the advertising and it’s a special time of year as brand’s roll battle to entertain and engage consumers.
The annual barrage of tinsel-soaked advertising is upon us.
Last Christmas we talked about how Christmas advertising has become a major branded entertainment event, comparable to the Super Bowl. Much like the Super Bowl, Christmas advertising plays to some simple rules: make the audience feel warmth and joy and fill them with the joy of giving ... and the hope of receiving.
We are all too familiar with the wallpaper of the clichéd ads that are dripping with Santa, snow and ringing bells, so for brands looking to stand out from the sparkly clutter, branded entertainment, specifically online films, is the medium of choice to stamp their logo on the season.
While no brand can ‘own’ Christmas, John Lewis and Coca-Cola have done an excellent job of aligning their brands with the season through their annual campaigns. The John Lewis Christmas ad is now a highly anticipated event both in the UK and around the globe and this year’s effort did not disappoint (more below) while Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertising is also an institution - although the brand has misfired in a number of markets this year.
For the rest of the pack, it's a battle for recognition as brands jostle to create something meaningful or memorable.
Singing ads remain a clear favourite as brands play on fun, joyful carols, or moody emotional renditions and this year was no exception. Barnes & Noble enlisted Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett to croon a Christmas treat while Microsoft got all warm and fuzzy with a choir of staff wearing branded beanies attempting to make peace with Apple. Aldi UK was on song with a charming advert depicting all of our favourite things at Christmas, while its rival UK supermarket ASDA rocked out with a song by the latest X Factor UK winner #becauseitschristmas.
Singing ads remain a clear favourite as brands play on fun, joyful carols, or moody emotional renditions.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa and this year he featured heavily. He was a victim of cyber crime in Norton’s Bah Humbug, He got stuck in the chimney in KFC’s Colonel Santa, and he delivered the children of Brazil sugary treats in the middle of the night in Coca-Cola’s festive ad "Uma Ponte para Noel" ("A Bridge for Santa")
It was handbags at the ready as fashion brands unleashed some different takes on Christmas advertising. First, Coach punched Santa in the face and then Mulberry compared its products to the baby Jesus with an unconventional take on the nativity.
This year also delivered a wave of anti-Christmas ads with Aldi Australia’s stress inducing ‘Now This is Christmas’, and Kit Kat went for an empty screen with the “nothing Christmas” ad to give people a break from Christmas. And while not strictly an anti-Christmas ad, Aldi UK released a second advert poking fun at John Lewis with a spoof of the department store’s Christmas ad.
Clearly the spirit of Christmas was in full swing, and overcome with a feeling of good will to all men, Branded Arts Review has compiled a list of the ten best-branded entertainment projects for Christmas 2015.
10. Bulgari - The Sparkling Bulgari Roman Holiday
Proving Christmas branded entertainment doesn’t have to be an ad or online film, Luxury jewellery brand Bulgari created a beautiful festive experience and installation. ‘The Sparkling Bulgari Roman Holiday’, which is being hosted in Hong Kong, aims to recreate the magic of an Italian Christmas with trees, hot chocolate, confetti and sparkly jewels. The centerpiece is an impressive light installation of the brand’s iconic Bulgari Serpenti necklace. The Serpenti Luminaire is 14 metres tall and features more than 50,000 LED lights. This is a beautiful experience that creates a little Christmas magic and will no doubt help to sell some sparkly gifts.
9. Mercedes Benz - Elf Driving
Mercedes-Benz is ringing in the holidays with what the company is calling its “most exciting and innovative vehicle yet: the world’s first elf-driving automobile.” A fun and completely unexpected Christmas film from the luxury car brand. Given the brand is reported to be leading the industry with the self-driving technology, the film pokes fun at itself and the industry with this ground-breaking announcement films – all the while keeping the tone light and festive. Sure these sorts of parody films have been done to death online, however, this is a cute idea, well made and guaranteed to deliver some warmth to the brand this Christmas.
8. Burberry – The Burberry Festive Film
Burberry has created a beautiful, if slightly baffling, Christmas film which celebrates 15 years of Billy Elliot. While I’m not entirely sure what Billy Elliot has to do with Christmas, I’m not sure I care. The very un-Christmassy film features a host of British celebrities such as Elton John, Julie Walters and Naomi Campbell bouncing around in Burberry gear. The film serves as a tribute to all that is British, which obviously Billy Elliot is, as is Burberry. It is simple but effective and a superb example of the power of a great piece of music. Burberry nails it once again
7. Warburtons – The Giant Crumpet Show
UK bread brand Warburtons has nailed the silly part of 'silly season' with a fabulous and nostalgic Christmas ad. The Muppets appear in full ensemble with gags and songs to boot. While the main gist appears to be that someone worked out you could replace the word 'Muppet' with 'Crumpet', I’m not sure the audience will care. It’s fun, silly and effective. I wanted to sit down and watch the Muppet’s with a giant crumpet. Job, done.
6. Stella Artois – Under the Stars
Stella Artois took to the night skies in a unique collaboration with John Legend who composed and recorded an exclusive track as part of the brand’s Christmas campaign. Legend worked with an astrophysicist to create the ‘celestial duet’, called Under the Stars, which uses the sounds created by the vibrations of stars. Stella is giving the track away as a gift this holiday season as part of the brand’s Give Beautifully campaign. This is a magical project that goes much deeper than an ad. In creating an original piece of music for audiences, Stella has found a superb way to engage with people and give a beautiful gift for Christmas. Listen to the full track here.
5. Sainsbury's - Mog’s Christmas Calamity
After its controversial Christmas film last year, Sainsbury's have played it very safe this time round with a lovely animated family film. The UK supermarket brand teamed up with Children’s author Judith Kerr to create a film of Mog The Forgetful Cat. The film, Mog’s Christmas Calamity sees the return of the character (who actually passed away some time ago in the book Goodbye, Mog) in a new Christmas tale. Sainsbury's is looking to entertain the young ones while tapping into the nostalgia of older viewers who grew up with Kerr’s books. It’s light-hearted and heavy of the warm and fuzzies and a great little film. It's a solid effort for the brand.
4. Apple – Someday at Christmas
Apple has delivered one of the best Christmas gifts possible, and it isn’t longer battery life in the iPhone, with the release of its Christmas ad. The ad features Stevie Wonder performing his 1967 classic holiday hit ‘Someday at Christmas’ along with Andra Day, candles and Christmas trees. I repeat Stevie Wonder performing ‘Someday at Christmas’. It’s magical, wonder-ful (see what I did there?) and brimming with Christmas spirit. Put your cynicism about Apple to one side for a moment and just enjoy the music, it’s Christmas after all.
3. Edeka – “Heimkommen”
It’s depressing, manipulative and it might just be one of the best Christmas ads you’ll ever see, or the worst, depending on your take of it. This polarising ad by German supermarket chain Edeka tells the story of a family’s journey home at Christmas time. It is far from the usual Christmas homecoming ad and it gets points for being truly unexpected and surprising. I think the idea is dark, evil and utterly brilliant and it certainly stands out from all the other Christmas ads. It has been panned and praised in equal measures because of the emotional journey it takes the viewer on, and the lashings of guilt it heaps on top. Which I think makes it the perfect Christmas ad, because it wouldn’t be Christmas without a family reunion served up with a side order of guilt, right? Merry Christmas.
2. John Lewis – The Man on the Moon
Beaten out of the top spot but very tough competition, this year’s superb Christmas creation by UK department store John Lewis, would have been a deserving winner in any other year. The season’s most anticipated film did not disappoint with a heartwarming film about a little girl and the Man on The Moon. It’s an emotional and magical story about loneliness and the spirit of giving at Christmas. John Lewis went one further this year, donating proceeds from campaign-themed sales to Age UK to drive awareness and support for Britain’s older people who can be particularly isolated at Christmas time. A beautiful piece of work and with over 20 million views another superb hit for John Lewis. Read more about John Lewis Christmas strategy here.
1. Spanish National Lottery - Justino
This Pixar-style animated commercial will warm your heart and bring tears to your eyes. The online film follows Justino, a night watchman at a mannequin factory who overcomes his lonely job by placing the figurines in funny positions to amuse his daytime colleagues. Much like Man on The Moon, this film’s power comes from the loneliness and isolation we see our character overcome and the underlying message of love and sharing. The Spanish Christmas lottery (Loteria de Navidad) is a unique lottery and its Christmas advert has become an anticipated event, much like John Lewis. Forget that it’s for the lottery and ultimately gambling and also ignore that the story is somewhat predictable, this is a beautiful heartwarming piece of film that will warm the cockles of your heart. The perfect message for Christmas.