2016's Top Ten Most Powerful Christmas Ads

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Whilst it might not have gathered as much media coverage as other campaigns, Lidl's Christmas Turkey has been found to be 2016's most powerful Christmas TV spot according to research carried out by Kantar Millward Brown. It tested 19 of this year's most talked-about ads with consumer audiences using its AdExpress performance measurement tool, with respondents scoring each ad on 12 factors that are proven to drive sales and build long-term brand engagement. The Christmas Turkey spot, which features a sceptical social media commentator spending a day with a Lidl turkey farmer, achieved the highest score in 9 of the 12 areas, making it the all-round strongest performer. Consumers found it highly involving, and felt it was the most relevant, believable, well-branded, different and informative ad. Most importantly, it scored top in “persuasion,” making it the ad most likely to motivate viewers to buy from the brand.

Viewers found the more popular John Lewis's Buster the Boxer the most “enjoyable” ad, as well as the third most persuasive. It generates high levels of love for the brand, and gives the impression that John Lewis is trend-setting and different from other brands. Facial coding (which analyses people's expressions as they watch) showed a very strong positive emotional response, meaning Buster is likely to drive long term affinity with the brand as well as short-term sales. Boots improved on its 2015 performance with The Gift of Beauty; a more relevant ad that stands out from the crowd and is second only to Lidl in terms of “persuasion.” The retailer connects strongly with customers by using real people, and a niche and important group amongst them, to communicate a different message in a different way. Amazon Prime's The Priest and the Imam also performed well across the board, with viewers finding it inventive and involving. Argos's visually arresting and memorable ice-skating Christmas Yetis was the second most involving ad, and stood out by focusing on one clear message about same day delivery. Viewers responded positively, scoring it highly on “providing new information' and 'delivering the main things I need.” M&S brought drama and excitement to Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus, creating an ad that, while not necessarily telling viewers anything new, reinforces existing positive perceptions.

The 10 Christmas ads assessed by Kantar to be most effective in terms of increasing all-important short-term sales, with consumers scoring them highest on “persuasion,” are:

1. Lidl - Christmas Turkey by TBWA\London

2. Boots - The Gift of Beauty by Mother

3. John Lewis - Buster the Boxer by Adam&EveDDB

4. M&S - Christmas with Love From Mrs Claus by RKCR/Y&R

5. Aldi - Kevin the Carrot by McCann London

5. Amazon - The Priest and the Imam by Joint

7. Morrison's - Morrison's Makes It by Publicis London

8. Argos - Christmas Yetis by CHI&Partners

9. Very - Get More Out of Giving by St Luke's

10. Waitrose - Home for Christmas by Adam&EveDDB

Jane Bloomfield, Head of UK Marketing at Kantar Millward Brown, said: “After an eventful year 2016's Christmas advertising serves to entertain and lighten the mood, with many returning to a traditional style. However, Lidl's ad makes an impact by communicating a very single-minded, relevant and compelling story with no bells and jingles. It successfully challenges perceptions about product quality, and makes us feel good about choosing Lidl for our Christmas shop, which sets it up well to repeat the sales increases it reported last year. This ad is definitely no turkey! John Lewis's Christmas advertising is the gift that keeps on giving. Last year's Man on the Moon created an emotional connection, but perhaps left us feeling a little melancholy. This year's ad is significantly more upbeat, with a lovely story, flow and pacing that keeps consumers 'hooked' throughout and reaffirms the love that many hold for the brand. The use of music, animals, family and familiar Christmas challenges creates feelings of relevance and helps consumers connect.”

Kantar TNS analysed social media conversations generated by the Christmas campaigns, paying attention to the amount of sharing and whether conversation patterns showed people identifying with the story. John Lewis achieved more than four times the Twitter mentions of its nearest rival and this reach built quickly, with 50% of all tweets happening by the day after the ad was released. In terms of conversations, there is strong evidence of autonomous sharing across networks, with communities taking ownership rather than simply retweeting brand content. M&S has increased its social mentions from under 2,000 in 2015 to almost 20,000 in 2016. However, its conversation footprint illustrates the sharing of a broadcasting message rather than the organic/sustained engagement achieved by John Lewis. The importance of Christmas films being shared on social media is growing, providing a crucial advantage for brands.

In the consumer survey, Lidl's Christmas Turkey scored highest on “involvement” (mean score 6.84; 'norm' 4.55), “branding” (4.15/3.91), “sets trends” (3.56/3.12), “persuasion” (3.44/2.98), “new information” (3.82/3.21), “different information” (3.81/3.07), “relevant information” (3.62/3.16), “believable” (3.94/3.63) and “different from other brands” (3.53/3.19). For some of the ads, Kantar Millward Brown's research has included facial coding, which analyses people's facial expressions as they watch to get a true emotional response, before they have a chance to post-rationalise how they felt. This showed that John Lewis's ad was gripping from start to finish, slowly building an emotional connection with Buster. It performs in the top 10% of all UK ads in its ability to generate smiles and emotion, and to create affinity with the brand.

The Three Vital Elements of Christmas Advertising

Analysis of the ads tested highlighted three vital elements for developing Christmas creative that stands out and engages consumers and, ultimately, drives sales and builds loyalty:-

Be down-to-earth, authentic and ethical: Lidl has successfully challenged perceptions of quality by avoiding Christmas 'fantasy' in favour of a believable and 'real' creative style which tackles brand perceptions head-on and makes us feel morally justified in our choice to use the brand.

Build longer-term emotional affinity through creative storytelling: John Lewis and M&S take viewers on a resonating emotional journey that will likely pay longer-term dividends for their brands beyond the festive season. By not focusing on a blunt here-and-now call to action, they have generated an affinity with their brands which will make them easily spring to mind when future purchase needs arise, not just at Christmas.

Identify your customers' needs and be single-minded in your communication strategy: Argos has identified and tapped into contemporary consumer Christmas shopping needs. With the increasing pressures on time presented by modern life, Argos's finger-on-the-pulse promise of 'now' servicing resonates and appeals to us in an enjoyable, engaging and persuasive way.

Using its AdExpress performance measurement tool, Kantar tested 2016 Christmas advertisements from 19 brands and retailers against these 12 key factors: Branding, Involvement, Enjoyment, Made me love (brand), Sets the trends, Persuasion, New information, Different information, Relevant information, Believable information, Different from others, Delivers main things I need. 11 of the factors are scored on a scale of 1-5, while “involvement” is scored on a scale of 1-10. In addition, facial coding analysis was conducted on ads by John Lewis, Sainsbury's and M&S.


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