The Alchemy of Ads: It’s Christmas Time!

6 min read
Nov 30, 2015
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Christmas Marketing

Welcome to the first episode of The Alchemy of Ads!

In today’s post, I am going to show you a couple of brilliant commercials that perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas. Some of them are funny, some of them - heartwarming, but at the same time all of them are perfect marketing creations.

Sainsbury’s and John Lewis: a Christmas competition

Although John Lewis is said to be the king of Christmas commercials, it looks like this year it’s Sainsbury’s going to win people’s hearts. Everything thanks to the revival of Mog, the clumsy cat, created by the author Judith Kerr.

Narrated by Emma Thompson, this beautifully made commercial was an instant hit on social media. It’s not surprising at all: the ad is lovely and the “Christmas is for sharing” message is an essence of the Christmas spirit.

Sainsbury’s smart marketing strategy is also something that needs to be mentioned.

First of all, they’ve used a very popular (and loved) children’s books character in their spot.
It gave them the advantage over the competition (and was the reason why all Mog’s toys were sold out).

Second advantage was that the Sainsbury’s supporting children’s literacy with the Save the Children foundation. Getting involved into charity actions is always a good idea, especially during the Christmas season.

Last but not least, both Sainsbury’s and John Lewis ads are made in an experimental way.

But before I get to that, let’s see John Lewis’ spot.

Both of these ads are made to show values important for both brands and build an emotional connection between customers and the brands.

Both companies are also not trying to use ads to push the products. They just don’t sell! Even the brands’ names are not revealed till the final frame.

And it looks like it’s the kind of advertising people love.

Sainsbury’s purchase score, which measures whether a respondent would consider buying a product from a brand, is now at its highest point for six months.

It’s hard to say what made it so successful: a simple message, amazing animation or the appearance of Mog. One thing is sure: it might be the Christmas ad of the year.

Traditional and delightful: Barnes & Noble

This Barnes & Noble ad shows us that the simplest ideas can be the best.

The general idea is based on a story of a woman who hides from the cold in a Barnes & Noble bookshop and comes across an old friend.

The message of the spot is simple: Barnes & Noble bookstore is something more than a place where you just buy books. It’s a place that brings people together.

The storyline is based on the true friendship between Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. This isn’t the first time the pair has collaborated – they released a “Cheek to cheek” album last year (and won a Grammy award).

This campaign is like a holiday card from Barnes & Noble to all of its customers,” said Amy Sacks, creative group head of Roberts + Langer DDB, which created the commercial. “We believe that the true warmth and the connection that Mr. Bennett and Lady Gaga share will be something viewers can feel.

This ad is brilliant: it refers to American tradition, commonly shared values and is a mashup of classic (Tony Bennett) and modern (Lady Gaga). It means that it has the potential to reach both, younger and older.

Since the commercial is only three-weeks old, it’s too early to say what’s its business impact. One sure thing is that Barnes & Noble needs something that will boost its sales. According to Statista, last year was the worst year for the company if it comes to the number of people who shopped in their bookshops.

Luckily, since the ad was published, Barnes & Noble are in the spotlight – the media loves it. It might be a big win for the company.

Risky but funny: Mulberry Miracle

Mulberry plays with the Christmas tradition in a quite unexpected way: they recreate the Nativity scene presenting their thousand-pound bag as the baby Jesus.

I’d say that this move was very bold, but Mulberry comes away unscratched.

Everything is good about this ad: it’s funny and smart, it’s nicely done and it presents their product as something ladies can’t resist.

But it’s not only the spot that makes the whole campaign. The campaign includes the spot, social activation and a website online competition.

I like the way the competition is done: you need to give your email and enter information what bag’s model was used in the spot. Those who don’t know that the bag used is called Bayswater (which is, by the way, the top-selling Mulberry’s bag), need to google through other popular brand’s bags to spot the right one.

This campaign is a nice move which might help the brand to increase sales. It looks like Mulberry needs it, especially that in 2014 it’s sales went down due to... Falling out of fashion!

Honorable mention

I just can’t stop writing this post and not mention my last year’s favourite campaign. It’s not Christmas-related, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

In 2014 a South Australian company, Hardys Wine, announced that its going to sponsor English Cricket team for three years. The idea was very controversial.


Because English and Australian teams are cricket rivals for over 130 years now. We could even say that this rivalry became a tradition!

This is the main reason why Hardys Wine’s spots are so brilliant: they make a funny and creative use of the stereotypical rivalry between England and Australia.

A good time for business

Many marketers underestimate the holiday season and don’t enter the “Christmas competition.” It’s a big mistake since consumers not only buy the most in November and December, they also expect that brands will compete for their attention.

According to Epsilon’s survey customers are hungry for the holidays and expect holiday-related campaigns.

22 percent of respondends claimed that they’re influenced by TV ads and also 22 percent - by email campaigns. It also looks like, in spite of living in the digital age, customers are influenced by newspaper ads. 19 percent of respondents admitted that they could buy a gift based on suggestions they’ve seen in a newspaper.

It means that if we want to benefit from the Christmas market share, we should start treating the holiday season more seriously and start striving for the customers' attention.

Don't miss the next episode of The Alchemy of Ads! See the best campaigns of 2015!