Caught in the Christmas Advertising Blizzard

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

We are in the grip of a Christmas advertising campaign frenzy. Everyone is chasing John Lewis in an attempt to make the most memorable advert that goes viral for some gimmicky reason. But it's far harder to achieve success than it looks.

One of the first off the mark this year was Kevin. A carrot, out to save his family from an evil parsnip. Using a pastiche of the ultimate memorable Christmas advertising campaign, the red Coca-Cola truck, Aldi introduced a new hero before Lidl entered the game.

It's time to buy them what they want

Since Aldi hit our screens we now have all the supermarket campaigns live and in our living rooms selling us far more food than we will ever need. The major chains and department stores are in "gift" mode. For some reason 2018 is the year of buying something the recipient will want and love. Hasn't every year been about that? Or did we all miss something?

Airing at slightly the wrong time causing a mini storm on social media, John Lewis dropped a superstar at his piano on us. But as we watched it turned out this wasn't any old piano, it was about his first piano. A gift to a small Reginald Dewight that ended up changing his future forever. Priceless you would think. Until you see so many other campaigns with the same message. You could almost believe that advertising agencies can't keep a secret.


The ultimate bit of naff rubbish appeared to be Waitrose bigging up the Elton John campaign from sister company John Lewis. Except they turned an almost gut churningly bad moment in to an attempt to sell us more food. The ultimate way to get more bang for your marketing budget buck for two companies now joined by more than just the hip, they now have matching logos and complimentary colours.

Running around trying to find the magic

2018 is the year of the retail melt down. Companies like Peacocks have entered the Christmas campaign foray to tempt people in to their stores and on to their website. Up against a catchy tune from The Jacksons used by the very business causing much of the retail misery, their playful mannequin campaign isn't quite the ear worm Amazon have created. I know which one I remember.

With so many retailers experiencing problems as they hit their peak trading time it looks like their marketing directors have played it safe. Debenhams certainly has. Buying something someone actually wants as a theme for their campaign isn't really pushing the boat out is it? Something bold and adventurous would have grabbed far more attention.

Go viral without spending a penny

TK Maxx have managed to achieve a totally free and out of the blue viral campaign but not with their year-long Christmas stocking campaign, but instead with a small, slightly strange, felt pink pig Christmas tree ornament. A Facebook page called TK Maxx Gallery of Horrors features some of the weird and less than wonderful products on offer in TK Maxx stores. The little pink pig has captured the imagination globally with thousands of people contributing to the page with their own pigs which have been called Alan. Even the manufacturer, Gisela Graham, a trade supplier of Christmas decorations has joined in on the company's social media pages. All good stuff at spreading the message and getting people in to the stores and all for free too.

Image courtesy of TK Maxx Shop of Horrors

Standing still but keeping ahead

With Elton John in bat for John Lewis and countless stores from Argos, Sainsburys, Waitrose and M&S amongst others, spending millions to try and increase sales, why is it that the basic foundation of a campaign that is more than 20 years old still looks impressive when it appears in the same advert break as some of the above? Coca-Cola present their brand with a slight annual tweak and nothing more. A red truck and lots of sparkly lights do the rest.

When did the adverts become more important than the programmes?

But with so many Christmas advertising campaigns this year its important to remember they are only adverts. With the rush to buy "Kevin the carrot" at Aldi this week its easy to see how adverts can overtake the very programmes they are shown in. Its a rare thing indeed for a Christmas must-have toy to start life as an advertising campaign character in a parody of the Coca-Cola advert. But it underlines the fact that there can only be one clear winner in the race for our Christmas pound and this year it wasn't Elton John!

Happy Christmas everyone...


I'm Stephen Moore FCIM, a Strategic Marketing Consultant and part-time Marketing Director living in beautiful Suffolk. I support businesses large and small in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and London. I have been writing about marketing developments for 20 years with articles in The Metro, City AM, Fresh Business Thinking, AllWork, The Marketer and Marketing Week.



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