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Adland's Christmas assault begins in earnest

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With the Christmas season fast approaching (the John Lewis ad runs on the 10th and Sainsbury’s on the 14th, so be sure to mark those dates in your calendar), ad land is starting to rev its engines. We're only one week into November, but we've already seen a slew of spots hit the tube and the internet. The craving for Christmas is so fierce, in fact, that one media student's coursework video, which just so happens to resemble your typically soppy John Lewis spot, has recently taken YouTube by storm, with the work by one Nick Jablonka (above) racking up over 400,000 views in recent days. Still, whilst we wait for the big guns to kick off, here are a selection of the most recent Christmas campaigns to whet your appetites for the festive season.

Now – intu

As the owner of some of the UK’s largest and most popular shopping centres, intu is launching a new TV campaign under a new brand platform this Christmas. The “Your kind of shopping” Christmas campaign, created by Now, features painstakingly crafted bird puppets inspired by stage shows such as War Horse and The Lion King to personify seven different types of shoppers and shopper behaviours; from the “Last Minute Panic Shopper” in a flap to the sage “Wise Shopper.” The message of the campaign is that, no matter what type of shopper you are, intu understands you and can make your Christmas shopping experience better. The puppeteers in the film include specialist performers from Henson and War Horse and the puppets, film and photography were produced by Blinkink and directed by Joseph Mann, who together have also helped create loveable characters for the likes of Cravendale and Churchill. Having the puppeteers as part of the performance, a technique traditionally reserved for the stage, allows the film to feel more like a piece of theatre. It's genuinely impressive stuff, and is certainly a unique take on the classic archetype spot. The integrated campaign launches on TV today (Monday, November 7th) and will also run across digital, social, OOH and in-centre media. Now, which was appointed to the business in January this year, also worked alongside media agency Blue 449 for the campaign.

In a world of elves, bright lights, jingle bells and sad songs, we knew we had to do something a little different to ensure intu stood out at Christmas” Remco Graham, ECD at Now

WCRS – Sky Cinema

In what will be Sky Cinema’s first Christmas campaign since its successful relaunch (until recently it was known as Sky Movies), audiences will be taken through themed advent calendar doors, providing a glimpse at some of the movies that will premiere on Sky Cinema throughout the festive season. The enchanted campaign is fronted by a 40 second spot which debuted during Saturday’s X Factor show. The ad opens on a snowy Christmas town, lit by a glowing night sky. It then proceeds to take the audience on a journey through an advent calendar featuring scenes from the Jungle Book, The Revenant, Deadpool and Zootropolis. Two further 20 second spots also welcome us further into the world of Sky Cinema. The advent calendar idea is honestly not particularly original, but it works well, and allows for a large amount of campaign flexibility, which is always a good thing. Created by WCRS and directed by Noah Harris, who has previously directed work for Asus and Google, the intricate scenes featured in the advert have been specially created using both hand-drawn and CGI animations, as well as combining new and existing footage from filmmakers across the globe. Visual effects specialists nineteentwenty were tasked with creating the advent calendar and its magical wintery world. They created a seamless camera move combining new and existing footage from filmmakers across the globe. Media planning on the campaign, which will run throughout the season, was handled by MediaCom.

How do you like your advent calendar? Chocolates in cardboard or a cinematic blockbuster bursting out of every door suspended in a dazzling night sky above a snow covered village?” Leon Jaume, ECD at WCRS

adam&eveDDB – Harvey Nichols

This winter, Harvey Nichols is celebrating all things Italian with a new campaign called “Britalia” from adam&eveDDB. The global promotion sees the luxury retailer bring Italian style, beauty, food, drink, culture and lifestyle to its customers, and, as part of the promotion, Harvey Nichols is unleashing a tongue-in-cheek campaign to support it. Famous for its distinctive and award-winning campaigns, the campaign video eschews typical Christmas flavours in favour of something a little more dramatic and less twee. The launch film features a famous dramatic scene from a Luigi Pirandello play (“As You Desire Me”), humorously re-subtitled to suggest that the couple are cursing Harvey Nichols for taking the best of their fashion, leaving them with nothing to wear or to eat at Christmas. Some might argue it's kind of ruined if you actually happen to speak Italian, but it definitely raised a chuckle in my household. The campaign was based on research conducted by Harvey Nichols with Opinium, which demonstrated that many families in the UK have incorporated Italian products and traditions into their own Christmas. 25% of British adults reported that Panettone is a staple food to have at Christmas, 52% of those polled believe that Prosecco makes a good companion to Christmas Day festivities, one third turn to Italian reds and whites to enjoy alongside their turkey and 24% of Brits turn to Italian products when gifting foodie friends and family, and Italian fashion labels for the fashion aficionado in their life.

There could be no better time to celebrate Italy. All aspects of Italian culture are experiencing a renaissance and our recent sales data show that Italian products are the gifting items our customers turn to” Shadi Halliwell, Creative/Marketing Director at Harvey Nichols

18 Feet & Rising – House of Fraser

Department store House of Fraser is reminding the public that Christmas is sneaking up on them as it looks to position itself as the place to go to for gifts this festive season. Continuing its move away from traditional Christmas style spots, the slot sees a more subversive and stylish take on the season, with the “Christmas is Coming For You” campaign from 18 Feet & Rising. It was a strategy first adopted last year when it ran with a similar music-video style ad, choreographed by one of Justin Beiber's backing dancers. This year, it has been directed by Emil Nava and it is set to the track “Ready or Not” by award winning British artist Laura Mvula. Media for the campaign, which kicked off with a preview during the MOBO awards last Friday (November 4) is to be handled by Goodstuff.

With this years’ campaign, we wanted to capture the anticipation of the season and the overwhelming excitement it brings when it finally arrives” Nigel Oddy, House of Fraser CEO

CHI&Partners – Argos

Neon-bright, eight-foot-tall yetis ice skate through snowy streets to deliver gifts in this year's Christmas spot from Argos, the latest UK retailer to unveil its holiday campaign. Created by CHI&Partners and directed by Henry Scholfield through Caviar, the spot was shot on a purpose-built skating track in Warsaw, and stars five semi-professional ice skaters wearing the furry costumes (they include twice British Figure Skating Champion Peter Hallam.) Last year's Argos spot for the holidays featured professional skiers. The yetis collect, play with and deliver Argos' top products as they go, from Beats headphones, Virtual Reality headsets and Dyson vacuum cleaners to Fitbit, GoPro and Furby products, to the soundtrack of Danny Elfman's “What's This?” (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) adapted by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. As well as the TV spot, AllTogetherNow, CHI & Partners' sister agency within The &Partnership, will be creating a supporting social content campaign featuring the yetis, including a “Yeti Unboxing” series on YouTube. There will also be print work and the yetis may be making public appearances as part of a consumer PR campaign from W Communications.

What we love about this fun, fast-paced campaign is that it beautifully captures the spirit of excitement and anticipation surrounding Christmas” Stephen Vowles, Marketing Director at Argos

Finally, in related news, a new AA/Warc Expenditure report has highlighted key facts and figures relating to Christmas advertising from the Advertising Association. The AA/Warc Expenditure Report is the only source that uses actual advertising expenditure, rather than relying solely on estimated or modelled data, unless otherwise stated.

Some of the report's key findings:

  • Q4 advertising spend has increased 31 per cent in the last five years (£4.2bn in Q4 2010, to a projected £5.5bn in Q4 2016).

  • Most is spent on internet advertising, with a forecast of £2.6bn to be spent in Q4 this year

  • Mobile ad spend in Q4 is set to increase 27% year on year to £1038.2m.

  • £1.4bn is predicted to be spent on TV spots in the quarter; up 16% since Q4 2010

  • Advertising spend doesn’t just benefit the commercial media (Deloitte has shown that the £16bn spent on advertising in 2011 returned over £100bn to UK GDP) and supported over 550,000 jobs.

  • Within the next five years, advertising alone will have added 70,000 new jobs to the UK economy.

  • Eulogy expects £21bn to be spent on advertising in 2016, with a further 3.8% growth in 2017 to £22bn.

  • The UK advertising market is growing 2.8 times faster than the average European market; 7.3% in the UK vs. 2.6% in Europe in 2014 (using PPP).

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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