Christmas crackers: the ads and creative that wowed the marketing experts

The Christmas period is a time of massive importance for brands and retailers, and one of extreme competition highlighted by the deluge of advertising and other communications that hit consumers. Tesco’s marketing director last week compared this to a “wind tunnel” that has compelled the supermarket to think differently in terms of its own approach.

Now that the big retailers and consumer brands have unleashed their Christmas campaigns, we asked five industry experts to take their pick of the best from the ads and other marketing initiatives this festive period.

Sarah Todd, chief executive, Geometry Global London, chooses the John Lewis ad: “As a parent, I smiled at the reality of the last minute assembly. This was a clever human insight, though I hope I can dodge the inevitable questions about whether Father Christmas is actually Daddy. My major take-out is that this year’s campaign is truly geared up for selling John Lewis merchandise. The emphasis is more on what the retailer has that no-one else has than the consumer this time.

It’s a great example of an integrated, merchandise-led campaign and is yet another sign that retailers are returning to promoting their own unique products to drive footfall and also generate an early lead on Christmas sales, as we’ll all want to get in quickly with our Buster purchases, in case of out of stocks.”

Dan Machen, director of innovation at HeyHuman, saw things differently: “John Lewis failed to make my heart bounce, opting for a beautifully crafted, but lighter-hearted take on a bouncing boxer. Sainsbury’s forgot they were a supermarket and only Waitrose fluttered near emotional expectations with the ‘hero’s journey’ of a robin #HomeForChristmas.

So what impressed me was ‘Don’t Mind if I Baileys’. Its short, sharp, shock format felt befitting of 2016. I like the fact it subverts traditional female, or mum, roles at Xmas. Also with the ‘Pimms O’clock’ type line and emotive music, it’s recognisable, resonant, and relevant to the product. The essence of ‘Brain-Friendly Creative,’ (and beverages), amidst the noise and haste. If nothing else this year, maybe Baileys can make ‘Brexmas’ great again.”

Gabi Mosert, a creative at iris, was impressed by the Marks & Spencer Christmas campaign: “According to my timeline, people have lots of very strong opinions on the matter [of Christmas ads]. Five colourful yetis, some cheerful turkeys, and one highly-strung boxer, later, and I too have a favourite.

Hello Mrs. Claus. You absolute sort, you. Marks & Spencer’s 2016 Christmas ad sees a stylish, chopper-flying, filth-reading, mince-pie-gorging, Mrs. Claus, save the day for a little boy called Jake. It’s a safe idea but a nice one – and very refreshing to see Mrs. Claus as the hero, who’s neither dowdy nor slutty (imagine that).

Directed by Tom Hooper, Mrs. Clause is a testament to all the badass women who painstakingly produce nice Christmases for the rest of us. As positive and progressive Christmas ads go, this one delivers – with a bow on top.”

Anna Carpen, the executive creative director of 18 Feet & Rising, looked beyond the ads: “We all love a funny Snapchat filter – but come 26th December it will all be forgotten. That’s why the Kate Spade scallop bangle braceletcaught my eye. Track your fitness and sleep cycles whilst also flashing a bit of rose gold.

How on earth this wonderful piece of design doubles up as a selfie remote I will never know. Unless Santa surprises me this year. This piece of tech doesn’t look like a piece of tech. And that makes it all the more desirable. There’s nothing worse than the guy at the Christmas party bragging about his Google Glass. Okay, Snapchat Spectacles would be acceptable purely because of the novelty and the circular video thing. But imagine the delight when your colleague’s shiny gold bracelet starts giving you motivational words of wisdom. A Christmas treat that will last all year round.”

Shaun Moran, the creative director of Soul, was impressed by a social movement: “2016 will be remembered for two massive shock examples of people power (Brexit and Trump). That’s why my Christmas Cracker is #StopFundingHate campaign, the initiative started by Richard Wilson, encouraging brands to pull their advertising from the Daily Mail, The Sun and Daily Express.

It’s not particularly creative in its execution, but I like how it utilises the current popular trend for protesting (and how extremely effective protesting through social media is because it’s so easy – no placard making or marching in the rain). In fact, in its early stages, Lego and Co-op have each pledged to change their advertising policy. But what I really like about this, is that it enables me to give you a ‘positive’ example of people power and provides me with a glimmer of hope for 2017.”

Shaun Moran is founding partner and Creative Director of Soul.

You can read the full article published in The Guardian here.