UK Christmas Ads We’re Loving This Year

Often described as the ‘golden quarter,’ the run-up to Christmas is when retailers make the bulk of their profits. And while consumers are expected to buy ‘fewer and cheaper’ items this festive season due to the cost of living crisis, total spending in the UK will rise by 3.4% to almost £110bn in the final three months of 2023. So it’s no wonder that marketers have dusted off their baubles, stocked up on mince pies and fully embraced the Christmas spirit.

Competition is rife as brands try to squeeze the last pennies out of frazzled Brits determined to have some festive fun. So here are some UK Christmas ads we’re loving this year.

The World Needs More Santas – Coca Cola

Coca-Cola has launched its 2023 Christmas ad, which focuses on “kindness” rather than being product-centric. ‘The World Needs More Santas’ hinges on the idea that through acts of kindness, anyone can embrace their inner Santa. With stunning vocals on “Anyone Could Be Santa,” performed by Celeste we felt so Christmassy watching this ad.

Coca Cola has a long association with Christmas and Santa Claus. Its iconic ad ‘Wonderful Dream (Holidays are Coming)’, featuring Coca-Cola Christmas trucks, first aired in 1995. Despite being decades old, the ad consistently performs well against more modern ads from other brands in testing. Let’s not forget that Coca Cola is also responsible for the iconic red Santa Claus suit!

Christmas Star Rating 9/10

John Lewis – Snapper: The Perfect Tree

It’s been the battle of the tears in years gone by, with brands competing to make people sob in a bid to up sales. But John Lewis has gone more for the ‘shock’ factor this year, introducing Snapper: The Perfect Tree. When little Alfie unknowingly plants a Venus Fly Trap instead of a regular Christmas Tree, he falls in love with the carnivorous plant and new traditions grow. Snapper might find himself outside when he almost eats the family dog, but he’s soon included in the festive traditions, tearing off gift wrappers and perfectly distributing John Lewis goods to all in sight. How delightful.

We love this advert because:

  • It features the wonderful vocals of Andrea Bocelli. What better way to make a statement in a crammed marketing space than with a unique song by one of the world’s best opera singers? The song is an original composition, made just for the campaign and is called ‘Festa’ which translates as ‘party’ or ‘celebration’ in Italian.
  • The campaign, which is a first from creatives Saatchi & Saatchi, features a whole range of Snapper merchandise to boost Christmas profit. Genius. Consumers are also being asked to share how they’re using the new Snapper Plush Toy on Instagram using @johnlewis for the chance to feature on their website. This is a lovely bit of social media integration and is great for campaign promotion and overall brand awareness.

Christmas Star Rating: 9/10

A Magical Christmas with Lidl

Lidl has well and truly achieved the ‘ahhh’ factor this year with its lovable Christmas ad that reminds reviewers of the power of small gestures. The hotly anticipated ad features a kind-hearted and empathetic racoon who goes above and beyond to unite a young boy with a lost teddy bear. From climbing road signs and riding the tube to sailing on a log across a river, there’s nothing the black and white protagonist won’t do to reach the family home and put a toy under the Christmas tree.

We love this advert because:

  • It corresponds perfectly with the return of Lidl’s Toybank, a nationwide donation drive that last year saw over 80,000 toys donated to children who may not have otherwise received a gift. The ad ends with a very clear message: “Gift a toy to Lidl’s Toybank and share the magic.” Peter de Roos, Chief Commercial Officer at Lidl GB, said: “Our hope is that by bringing back the toy donation points we are making it easier, for those customers who can, to donate directly to local good causes by giving them a small way to make a real difference and help those that need it the most.”
  • Lidl has also embraced an original soundtrack. This year, their magical style is given an extra dash of Christmas sparkle courtesy of Grammy-nominated composer Charlie Holiday and music supervision company Track and Fields. Guide The Way Back Home is an exclusive new song, composed and sung by Holiday.
  • Both the adorable raccoon and the little lost-and-found monkey from the advert are available to purchase as a plush cuddly toy in store – the perfect example of offline and online marketing working together in unison. All sale proceeds will be donated to Neighbourly, a giving platform that allows businesses to donate time, money and surplus products to the community. Well done Lidl.

Christmas Star Rating: 10/10

Tesco – Helping You #BecomeMoreChristmas

If you want a warm, fuzzy feeling this festive season, don’t miss Tesco’s new ad – Helping You #BecomeMoreChristmas. Set to the soundtrack of OMC’s ‘How Bizarre,’ the ad, created by BBH, shows a family gradually transforming into living festive objects like Christmas trees and a snowman as they get into the festive spirit. The more they interact with Tesco and get in the mood for the festive season, the more elaborate their costumes become. While the family’s teenage son is reluctant to embrace the Christmas spirit at first, he can’t fight it any longer when his dad gives him the homemade star he loved as a child.

Fun Facts

  • Tesco launched its ad during the premiere of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, notably later than its competitors. This ensured optimum visibility and also helped Tesco stand out from the crowd.
  • The ad is built on consumer research. For example, the Tesco 2023 Christmas Report found that nearly a third of UK adults (31%) said they find the build-up to Christmas more exciting than the day itself. That influenced the ad to show the repeat visits to Tesco stores that a family might make in the run-up to Christmas.
  • This was a marked improvement from Tesco’s deeply unpopular Santa and the covid pass ad. The advert, titled “This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us”, prompted more than 5,000 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which determines whether marketing campaigns have broken the UK advertising code.

Christmas Star Rating: 7/10

Aldi – Kevin and the Christmas Factory

Aldi has released a Willy Wonka Christmas ad for 2023 featuring the much-loved Kevin the Carrot. Created by advertising agency McCann, the ad opens with five lucky winners – including Kevin – waiting to enter William Conker’s gravy-filled wonderland. Other visitors to the factory include Greedy Gluttonous Grape, Sulky Sour Rhubarb and Mischievous Kiwi who fall at various hurdles leaving only Kevin standing.

Having passed the test, Kevin is presented with the ‘cheese’ to the factory’ and asks, “Can I share my good fortune with everyone?” The advert closes with the message: “Seasonal goodwill was truly in the air as Christmas is a time that’s sweeter when you share.”

We love this ad because:

  • It embraces continuity. People love brand familiarity and this will be the eighth year that Kevin and his friends have starred in the German discounter’s festive campaign.
  • Kevin the Carrot is joined by a Limited Edition William Conker plush toy available to buy in-store and online. This is sure to boost festive sales for the supermarket brand. With corporate social responsibility in mind, Aldi will also donate proceeds from the sale of Kevin the Carrot product to Teenage Cancer Trust. Well done Aldi.
  • It embraces nostalgic marketing. Many of Aldi’s customers would have grown up with Roald Dahl stories and the magical tale of Willy Wonka. It’s therefore delightful to see a well-known story, brought to life in a creative and imaginative way. Nostalgic marketing has been shown to draw in consumers and helps them to form a stronger bond with brands.

Christmas Star Rating: 9/10

And a special mention goes to Charlie’s Bar

A budget Christmas advert (700 pounds and a friendly dog) by a pub in Northern Ireland has gone viral – with the manager describing the reaction as beyond her “wildest dreams”.

Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, unveiled the ad which features an elderly man walking alone after placing flowers on a grave. Ignored by all around him, the tone of the video seems bleak and lonely. Until he enters Charlie’s Bar. Upon entering the bar, he’s joined by a friendly dog closely followed by the dog’s owners. The theme of the ad is ‘There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met’ (W. B. Yeats). We’re not crying. You’re crying!

Christmas Star Rating: 10/10

And the Lump of Coal This Year Goes To…

There are some absolute brilliant ads for Christmas 2023. But this year’s failure goes to Marks & Spencer for their ‘This-mas, not That-mas’ campaign. The advert features famous faces such as Tan France and Hannah Waddingham saying no to the festive traditions they dislike such as party hats and Elf on the Shelf.

While it’s clear the ad was meant to be rather humorous, with Waddingham eying up the shredder for Elfie – a nod to all the parents who despise this tradition, it hasn’t gone down well with viewers. The gist from online comments is that a bunch of rich folks throwing up board games in protest and burning Christmas cards is simply pretentious and out of touch. In fact, Marks & Spencer is no longer running ads featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor torching a pile of Christmas cards on TV or YouTube after a backlash. Some people just simply didn’t get it either. Ouch. When you have to explain your ad on social media, that really is a big red flag.

What’s even worse is that the retailer was forced to apologise after viewers believed the brand to be taking a political stance regarding the war in Gaza. In a statement released by the retailers, a spokesperson for the brand said:

Today we shared an outtake image from our Christmas Clothing and Home advert, which was recorded in August. It showed festive coloured red, green and silver party hats in a fire grate. While the intent was to playfully show that some people just don’t enjoy wearing paper Christmas hats over the festive season, we have removed the post following feedback and we apologise for any unintentional hurt caused.

The claim was that the hat colours were too similar to that of the Palestinian flag in a move that’s been branded ‘disgraceful’ and disrespectful.’

EEEK.

What have been your favourite Christmas ads so far this year? Tweet us @_contentworks and let us know.

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