What to learn from the Christmas adverts

John Lewis Christmas ad

In my opinion, adverts are truly hyped up much more than they should be at Christmas. To the point that people desperately wait to see the new releases and boastfully praise themselves for being one of the first to have seen a new ad – is it really worth it? I suppose that the hype is the general point and for the businesses behind the campaigns, this is exactly what they want, but we often generally tend to forget that these ads are in fact existent in order to boost sales.

Although John Lewis is arguably always awaited on for their Christmas advert, this year, M&S, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have also been amongst the number of popular favourites this year, with some struggling to appoint their ultimate top.

With the different types of approaches in which this year’s adverts have taken, to market or advertise your product, you can learn a number of things from all of them.

Firstly, in this case, we’re talking TV advertising, but with any type of advertising, visuals are key. It is known that videos are the best way to engage an audience and truly capture our interest. As humans, we naturally lose interest in something that is repetitive and visually unpleasing – like a standard wodge of text. By using bright imagery, striking visuals or something with a story or something that sets us in a place where we have to logically think about what is occurring is the best way to keep attention captured.

A lot of adverts tend to involve children or animals because marketers know that this is what engages the public and emotively moves us the most. Marketers love to build an emotional connection between a child or animal with the audience, which is then somehow threatened with a problem and resolved by the end of the advert. You’ll find this to be very common in a lot of television ads because it’s the easiest way for audiences to build an emotional relationship with the characters onscreen.

If adverts don’t do this, they normally characterise something that doesn’t exist as a living character – a bit like personification in a visual sense.

We see that in the John Lewis advert, they have used the most typical household pet – the dog as the main focus of the campaign.


Craig Inglis, Customer Director and Marketing Chief at John Lewis says: “We make just over £8 [profit] for every pound we spend so the Christmas ad campaigns are hugely profitable.

“The returns are long term as well; we see the continuing impact. The £7m we spend is dwarfed by our competitors. We punch well above our weight.”

The nature of the family tradition, revealing a present on Christmas Day, mixed with an element of fantasy by including all the other woodland animals to join in, in a way we would never possibly see before is something that captures our hearts. Although there is something very warming about this campaign and many find it to be truly amazing, I don’t believe it holds the crown.

My favourite has got to be the Marks and Spencer advert which is based around the tradition of Santa Claus – many of which have avoided this year.

However, instead of making Santa Claus the protagonist, it’s Mrs Claus who takes centre stage. This advert seemed to me almost like a mini movie as the graphics are so well executed. You’ll find that playing on a tradition is a very popular take for many adverts. Where you would expect Santa Claus to conventionally be the prime focus for this advert, by giving Mrs Claus a personality and character of which is open to much interpretation, it puts a spin on the traditional view that only Santa Claus delivers presents.

Therefore, audiences are familiar with particular characters, so there’s no need to introduce them, however they are usually presented in a way that you wouldn’t expect, which is exactly what happens here and the reason why I love it so much.

The Sainsbury’s advert followed the path a few adverts generally take. What’s worse than having a cheesy ad song stuck in your head the whole day? Sainsbury’s have taken this concept but the song created is actually quite good, in a non-annoying sense.

It’s also typically British referring to the typical commuter’s day into London, which many viewers would empathise with, not to mention the fact that James Corden is also on the vocals.

Having some sort of jingle or catchy tune is such a great way to grab an audience as they will literally struggle to get it out of their heads!

A dark horse this year has been the Heathrow advert – the two bears that are in fact grandparents to greeting children at the end. This is more of an advert where you have to think and you’re so engaged because you’re following these two bears on their journey and are awaiting to find out where they are going and why.

This is probably the most accurate Christmas advert in relation to being applicable to the brand as travel and Heathrow is pretty much featured throughout the whole ad. An unexpected ending is always great because, who wants to watch something they know the ending of? There would be no point.

The Waitrose Christmas advert is also very warming and prioritises the character of a traditional robin. This robin goes on a perilous journey, created through amazing graphics, to return back to find another robin at the end of the advert, in which a young child is awaiting their arrival. Again, using both animal and child, as well as a resolved story at the end has resulted in this advert being up with the favourites.


Aldi have created a follow up to their ‘Kevin the Carrot’ advert by using the fame of the John Lewis hit. They’ve staged Kevin sat, essentially watching the ad and working himself up to watch it, which is
cleverly humorous.


One thing that pretty much all of these adverts have done is use social media to help spread the word of their adverts and create a discussion. For example some have used hashtags: John Lewis, #BusterTheBoxer and Aldi, #KevinTheCarrot, which can be used on Twitter and Facebook. Sainsbury’s have got a filter on Snapchat where users can become  Dave, the singing character from the advert, themselves. Social media is vastly becoming one of the biggest forms of marketing and is such a vital element in helping products or a promotion thrive in discussion and popularity.

A definite feature within marketing is that a message is portrayed. It rounds the advert to a point of reason and ensures that audiences realise the aim of the advert.

The relevance of social media can be proved to be so important through the way in which Burberry hold second place in number of views on YouTube for their Christmas advert. Despite not actually being aired on television, the hype has been so prominent online that its drama-like ad has achieved as much recognition as those who have been rolling on our screens for weeks.

Here is a list of some of the most popular UK Christmas adverts so far in relation to YouTube views:

Ranking Company Number of YouTube Views
1 John Lewis Over 21.2 million
2 Burberry Over 13.8 million
3 Sainsbury’s Over 13.4 million
4 Marks & Spencer Over 7.3 million
5 Heathrow Airport Over 4.3 million
6 Waitrose Over 3.1 million
7 Very.co.uk Over 2.2 million
8 Aldi Over 1.7 million
9 Amazon Over 1.5 million
10 Boots Over 1.5 million
 Which is your favourite?