Comment: An ad isn't just for Christmas, it's for life

If you were asked what your most memorable Christmas advert was, what would it be?

For me, the answer is simple: Coca Cola's ‘The Holidays Are Coming’. I love Coca Cola and have done since I was about 12, when I saw for the first time the ‘First Time’ advert. I could relate to it, it made me feel good, happy and it struck an emotional chord. From that moment, I was hooked on the Coca Cola brand and have been a loyal follower ever since. As we all know, Coke does marketing well. It plays on emotions, on making people feel good and at the centre of that feeling of happiness is a coke.

To me, retailers and brands who can create that same emotional feeling from their Christmas advert as I felt for the Coke advert will wholeheartedly win the battle for the best Christmas advert every time. This year, when we saw the airing of the Christmas ads on Saturday night prime time TV a couple of weeks ago, the undoubted ‘winner’ was John Lewis’s The Bear and The Hare. Everyone took to their social media accounts raving about the Bear and the Hare and John Lewis was ready and waiting to engage.

John Lewis knew they were creating something special this year and they also knew that they should harness the power of social media to extend their reach much further than just TV. For in today’s social world, an effective Christmas campaign cannot and should not be limited to just TV. A tightly integrated social media marketing campaign is essential. John Lewis treated their loyal social followers to an early screening of the advert on YouTube (9.5 million views to date), they created two Twitter accounts for the characters @JohnLewisBear and @JohnLewisHare, who each now have over 11,500 followers and who are tweeting and engaging with their followers on a daily basis. They are also regularly posting details of all kinds of Bear and Hare events, competitions and downloads on Facebook. John Lewis has definitely done a sterling job this year.

But, it’s not just John Lewis that has ensured they launch a fully integrated Christmas campaign. Marks & Spencer's (M&S) magic and sparkle advert is close on the John Lewis heels, racking up 930,000 YouTube views, 71,000 Facebook interactions on launch post  and 48,000 Twitter mentions.

So what is it about this year’s Christmas campaigns that are using social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, that is making them more successful than others? To me, it is the storytelling and the emotions they generate within us all. As we all gear up for the madness of Christmas, these highly integrated advertising and social media campaigns allow us to escape and indulge for 90 seconds on TV in the magic of Christmas and to cosy up in the nostalgia of Christmases gone by. The John Lewis, M&S and Coke adverts all draw on our childhood experiences and by either taking us on a trip down memory lane and back to the days when we used to watch magical fairy tales and cartoons.

And through a well-planned and implemented social media strategy, retailers and brands can take that feeling and keep it going. By engaging with their loyal supporters and followers, they can create even more magic and bring the advert to life through Twitter accounts for John Lewis's Bear and Hare, through inviting followers to suggest names for the cute, fluffy dog featured in the M&S advert and a recently launched ‘Pass the Parcel’ Facebook campaign, and through Coca Cola inviting people to share a coke with Santa on Facebook. But it’s not even stopping there. These brands are creating real life events whereby followers can engage with the Bear and Hare characters or the Coca Cola Christmas Truck – all whilst encouraging the consumers to take photos and share through Facebook and Twitter.

But what does this all mean in real terms? Will it actually increase sales revenues? Well it remains to be seen whether John Lewis will reap the millions of pounds it has spent on this year’s Christmas campaign but to me, it’s more than that. To me, a truly successful Christmas campaign is one that makes me feel good and excited for Christmas and one that I will remember. I am sure that John Lewis's Bear and Hare advert will be talked about for many years to come and with their carefully thought out and integrated social media marketing strategy, the story of the Bear and Hare characters could continue well into spring, summer and beyond.

So, what can other retailers learn from this year's most successful Christmas adverts? I would say make it memorable, pull on the heart strings, touch on emotions and without doubt think social!

Jo Coxhill is a freelance marketer and founder of Vision 29, which provides marketing strategy, planning and implementation to B2B and B2C companies.

If you would like to speak to Jo about an up-coming project, please contact her at or by calling 07432 130979.

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