FEATURE17 November 2014

The ads of Christmas past, present and yet to come


Wherever you look, Christmas ads are dominating the media channels. A study from global research agency, Harris Interactive, reviews consumer expectations of the season’s campaigns – and considers which brands have taken us by surprise this year.

With the exception of Tesco, the most anticipated brands also had the most memorable adverts from last Christmas – Coca-Cola and John Lewis were remembered by almost 70% of consumers, and M&S by half the adult population ( 51%). While Morrisons and Iceland also ranked highly for recall, less than one in 10 consumers were looking forward to their campaigns.  

John Lewis leads the pack

This brand scored the highest across almost all the emotional criteria. Consumers expected it would provide the most entertaining, original, intelligent, inspiring, sentimental, powerful and heartbreaking campaign, with by far the best story and a great message – the pressure of expectation mounts every year for the retailer which makes it harder than ever for Sam and Monty the Penguin to live up to the hype.

Coca-Cola tows the line

Coca-Cola ads – loved by the younger generations – came second in the anticipation stakes, with second highest marks for being entertaining, original, amusing, sentimental, powerful and family fun, and top marks for excitement. This was certainly expected to be the most Christmassy advert of all in 2014.

M&S breaks the mould

In third place, M&S was anticipated to perform well on all the emotional criteria – especially by the middle-aged and older group – but most notably was expected to make the best use of celebrities this year. Instead, its Christmas fairy campaign has headed in a different direction – no celebs but plenty of emotion.


Amusement factor

Argos – the fourth most anticipated campaign – was expected to deliver on humour. But with no Alien family this year, it has instead headed for a minimalist Advent approach.

At number eight, the family brand Disney was expected to deliver well on family fun and amusement, and to provide a heartwarming story.

Popular Contenders

Other big brands – Boots and Tesco – were also popular contenders; and despite Tesco’s recent troubles, one in 10 consumers were looking forward to its Christmas campaign. Will the Wigan store’s Christmas hat be a winning moment for the supermarket chain?

The Oddballs

Iceland and Royal Mail Christmas adverts were anticipated to deliver the most boring and most awkward campaigns – whether Peter Andre manages to change perceptions remains to be seen. Meanwhile the Doritos ad was expected to be the craziest of all.

Digital and Social Media

In the digital advertising arena, we see other candidates come to the fore with Apple and Amazon expected to dominate – especially among the younger age group. But they’re not expected to be the most socially shared – this accolade is reserved for our top three most anticipated brands – John Lewis, Coca-Cola and M&S.

Interestingly, Sainsbury’s didn’t feature prominently despite some high profile Christmas advertising last year (Kevin Macdonald’s documentary-style Christmas in a Day). The retailer has gone with a more controversial theme this year with its WW1 ad. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 240 complaints about the ad within two days of it airing on TV.

Harris Interactive conducted this research online between 24th – 30th September 2014 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 GB adults aged 16+. The 34 brands included in this study were compiled from lists of top performing Christmas adverts from 2012 and 2013.