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The alternative approach to festive advertising

Dec 05, 2018

We’re all used to festive advertising campaigns tugging on our heartstrings, but when business after business is ramping up the emotion, it can lose its effect. This season, many companies are breaking the mould by taking a rather different approach – and we’re taking a look at some of the most memorable. 

The John Lewis advert is one of the most anticipated of the festive season, with even US consumers anxious to see how the retailer will win hearts this year. Such is its popularity, it inspires not just anticipation, but imitation. Days after the feature hit screens, the spoofs arrived – Lidl promoted their own cut-price piano; Pizza Hut tweeted their own bit of ivory tickling on Twitter; and partner company Waitrose sent up their fellow brand with a couple who fast-forwarded through the famous advert to enjoy their luxurious stollen sooner. Twitter meanwhile showed us the real John Lewis, creating a film about the lecturer of the same name based in Blacksburg Virginia, who every year is bombarded with tweets meant for the retailer – and dedicatedly replies to every one. Cleverly done, these ads have all ridden the John Lewis wave and played on consumers overexposure to the brand – to amusing effect.

While many advertisers are trying to make us cry this festive season, some have taken quite the opposite stance and pulled out all the stops to make us laugh – none more so than KFC. In a decidedly cinematic spot, we see a single, lonely chicken making its way across vast snow-covered landscapes, only to come face-to-face with a rather full of itself turkey. This chicken stands its ground to leave its rival running scared, serving to remind us that while turkey is for Christmas, chicken is for life. Aside from the premise, humour is heightened here with the grand, movie-esque track, the seriousness of the sound contrasting with the light-hearted content to comedic effect. And it’s resulted in a hit – the ad is one of the most talked about of the season, and has racked up over 235,000 views on Youtube to date.

Continuing the anti-sentimentality trend, Target have lived up to their name this year with a much more direct campaign that comes away from their narrative-driven spots of yore. 2017’s feature played more to the emotions with a pair of children who enlist the help of the most famous cartoon characters to transform a house for a needy family in time for the holidays. This year however, the renowned retailer has brought music to the forefront, showcasing Sia’s cover of the 1950’s hit round and round, along with bright, colourful footage of people enjoying a range of holiday themed products – finishing with the tagline, ‘Gather Round.’ Rather more celebratory, this approach focuses on the togetherness of the season – and importantly, allows for greater continuity between their 20 English Language and 18 Spanish Language spots than a story-based piece.

These are just a few choice picks from the huge selection of seasonal ads gracing our screens this year. But what they all prove, is that often, it’s just as effective to bring a smile to your audience as it is a tear.