Christmas ad campaigns launch in ‘make or break’ time for brands

James Murphy has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He is behind five Christmas advertising campaigns launching this week that could make or break the festive season for the brands involved, reports The Guardian.

“It’s a big week for us,” said Murphy.

The ad man is the co-founder and chief executive of agency adam&eveDDB, which has produced John Lewis’s Christmas adverts since 2009.

During this period, the department store has set the benchmark for festive marketing campaigns – attracting tens of millions of views online, turning bears, hares and penguins into cuddly toys and generating two number one singles in the UK music charts.

Murphy claimed this year’s campaign could overtake 2011’s The Long Wait – which saw a young boy excited about giving his parents a present – as his favourite.

“It is a lovely, very simple story,” he said of the advert, which features a young girl transporting a present to a lonely man on the moon. “I am the father of a young daughter, so I love it.

“My favourite is The Long Wait, but I think it might be about to be pipped by this one.”However, #OnTheMoon is not the only campaign being launched by Murphy this week. He is also overseeing festive marketing drives by Waitrose, Mulberry, Harvey Nichols and, in stark contrast, an advert by Australian cat food brand Temptations.

“We have 48 clients, so there is a great diversity,” he said. “You can have broad, populist, everyday grocery brands like Unilever, and then things like Harvey Nichols, which may be a more niche audience.”

Christmas can account for almost half of a retailer’s sales, which makes this a vital time of year for Murphy and his clients. So what is the key to a successful Christmas advert?

“Something that makes people excited that it is Christmas. Ultimately, what we are doing with our Christmas campaigns is to get noticed and be remembered. Research suggests people go to four or five places when they go shopping – we want to be one of the places they go to.”

The idea for a Christmas ad is agreed months in advance. In the case of John Lewis, Murphy said the retailer and the agency settle on a concept by March. The process starts immediately after the preceding Christmas, when the retailer sets a brief for the advert and the agency then produces a shortlist of three or four ideas. The idea for The Long Wait came from a single sentence in a script for a different story. This was spotted by a creative director at adam&eve, who suggested focusing on the concept of a child being excited about giving a present rather than receiving one.

“We have got a brief that doesn’t change,” Murphy said of his work with John Lewis. “It is the same brief every year about thoughtful gifting. It is based on the truth of John Lewis that they have 300,000 products, which is one of the widest assortments for any retailer. It is about finding a way of telling that story in a fresh way every year.”

However, next year Murphy faces a more daunting marketing challenge than ensuring the high street has a prosperous Christmas. He will be attempting to keep Britain in the European Union.

Adam&eve has been hired by the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to lead their advertising drive to keep the country in the EU in the forthcoming referendum.

Murphy, who is also chairman of the industry trade body, the Advertising Association, feels strongly about the topic.

“We do work for that campaign because we are wholeheartedly behind that campaign,” he said. “We are a business that grew 26% last year and over half that growth came from continental Europe. I think there are clearly benefits to businesses of staying in the EU, but also benefits to people in the country of staying in.