Which retailer adverts rang consumers’ Christmas bells?

The most impactful retailer adverts in the build-up to Christmas 2017 have strong visual cues, strong creativity and good storytelling, while detailing a clear benefit to the consumer, according to market research firm Kantar Millward Brown.

Using a system that asked consumers to review ads from 17 leading brands and retailers, the agency totted up scores based on key factors proven to motivate people to buy and build long-term brand relationships. Amazon and Argos topped the chart this year.

Amazon’s ‘Give’ ad scored highly with viewers in seven of the 12 measures, with respondents highlighting its difference from the other ads they saw. There was also a feeling that the brand came through distinctly in the ad, and that it was created in a way that made them want to take action based on what they had viewed.

Argos’sReady for Take Off’ offering, which focused on the Sainsbury’s-owned company’s same-day delivery service, recorded a top score for ‘involvement’ – meaning viewers connected strongly with the story and saw the idea as fresh.

Commenting on the two top ads, Jane Bloomfield, head of UK Marketing at Kantar Millward Brown, says: “Instead of hammering their message home, they weave brand messages into a story that is genuinely involving and enjoyable.

“Ads that engage emotionally perform better than those that deliver an explicit message; the best of this year’s crop managed both. A great story can seed ideas, associations and feelings that are triggered during the purchase process, even long after the ad was last seen.”

Aldi’s ‘Kevin the Carrot 2017’ ad, which saw the return of last year’s protagonist, scored well – with consumers indicating they enjoyed it more than any other ad. It was also the most ‘loved’ ad of all.

Elsewhere, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer (M&S) were picked out as good examples of festive marketing by Kantar Millward Brown. The agency said that ‘Free From’ ad by Morrisons tells a clear story and puts the brand in focus, while highlighting a relevant  product-centric message.

M&S’s Paddington Bear-themed ad scored second highest on ‘enjoyment’, and Kantar Millward Brown said the brand was instantly recognisable in the campaign.

Olly Rzysko, a retail consultant and, until recently Primark’s head of digital communications, says context is such an important element of advertising today, which means sitting in a room judging ads does not necessarily offer a fair reflection of impact.

“If you’re cuddled up on the sofa with your family and Moz or Kevin appear on an advert it is a very different experience, one of emotion, one of joy and one that sparks conversation and smiles,” he notes.

“At a time when TV viewing is dropping and changing rapidly you have to question what the advert is for? Where is it going to be shown? In what format, on what network or on what kind of device? This is a space ripe for change next year.”

He commends Amazon’s ad, especially the videos the company is using to target different segments covering multiple areas of the festive season, such as last-minute gifts, parties, and Black Friday – as opposed to going for “one Big Bang advert”. He also calls M&S’s move to piggy back off the Paddington film “a smart move”.

Aside from Aldi, brands could be doing much more from a social media and digital perspective. Rzysko says there are arguably too few ‘Moz the Monster’ ad mentions on John Lewis’s Instagram feed after mid-November, considering the rising importance of this social channel. He describes Amazon’s lack of Instagram usage as confusing.

“Aldi has delivered a beautifully curated Instagram feed. Kevin the Carrot is ever-present across their tweets and it’s fun. He appears consistently across the Facebook page and they now have customers sharing their own creations.

“It’s not a hugely expensive approach but one that creates a positivity emotional relationship with a shop that will be incredibly busy in December.”

Rzysko adds: “What surprises me about a lot of the brands listed [in the Kantar Milward Brown research] is the lack of their campaign content appearing in organic posts across social media.

“The tradition of advertising being an art form has almost been treated as disposable beyond 1 December. Adverts are viewed on mobile, and we need to think about the context in which these ads are received. Retail is still working to align with this shift.”

A lot of focus has been placed on how much some retailers are spending on their Christmas campaigns, with John Lewis reportedly splashing out £7 million to create and market its ‘Moz the Monster’ effort. But there is no denying ads are still considered by the industry a key part of the holiday build-up.

For Andrew Higginson, chairman of Morrisons, the extended focus on retailer Christmas ads that has occurred in recent years is “a bit of fun”, and it has become a feature of the festive season that customers clearly enjoy.

“We’ve gone down a much more traditional route that really emphasises what Morrisons stands for, rather than having any particular literary connection, such as the Snowman or Paddington, etc,” he explains.

“There probably is a case of some companies getting carried away and bringing in top-line directors, but at the end of the day it comes down to what you sell, how good your products are, and whether customers get the service they want in store. But a little bit of fun around the Christmas ads doesn’t do any harm.”