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.

Aldi Take the Lead Again!

One of the first off the mark this year was Kevin (again) from Aldi. A carrot, out to save his family in a Dickensian tale with an evil banana called 'Ebanana.' It's more of the same with a few new laughs thrown in.

A Family Focus on Christmas

As we hit the second Pandemic Christmas, retailers are creating campaigns that tug at the heart strings with a focus on getting together with family and friends. A significant switch from 2020.

After the 20 months we've all had I think this is a good thing to focus on. After all, it helps us feel better and triggers all those lovely memories we had when we were kids and every Christmas seemed to be a white one! Or at least that's how we remember them.

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 2021 is the year of buying luxury treats and getting something the recipient will want and love. Hasn't every year been about that? Or did we all miss something?

Creating less of a storm than previous efforts that have included Elton John, John Lewis dropped their 2021 Christmas offering with a theme of 'friendhip.' This heartfelt campaign with its 'on trend' messages is at odd's with John Lewis's behaviour regarding the theme song. Traditionally the retailer uses a big and popular song. 2021 is no different.

They've used 'Together in Electric Dreams' by Philip Oakey and Georgio Moroder. It's a version by 20 year old British singer, songwriter Lola Young. Unfortunatley the version is a similar and almost identical arrangement to one sent to John Lewis a few years ago by another artist offering their version for the Christmas advert. Never hearing back from John Lewis and then hearing the version by Young has resulted in a law suit. Clearly a little at odds with the campaign theme for 'The Unexpected Guest' of friendship, kindness and being nicer to each other.

Running Around Trying to Find the Magic Early

The retail melt down which started in 2018 and gained a pace during the pandemic seems to have resulted in most retailers jumping in early.

The online retailer Studio even adopted a hashtag #TeamEarly to get around being the first to air in September. Which makes us ask, will we see Christmas adverts during the Summer from next year? A little like Cadbury Cream Eggs arriving in stores pre-Christmas!

Safe Themes Versus Standing Out

This year has possibly been the hardest yet. With lots of retailers experiencing problems as they hit their peak trading time it looks like their marketing directors have played it safe. Nothing really jumps out this year.

Perhaps next Christmas we will see more campaigns about enjoying a more sustainable Christmas. There is very little about sustainability in the campaign messaging in 2021 and when you look at the retailer campaigns, it can be shocking to think of all that Christmas packaging that goes in to making that table of delicious food.

So, my prediction for 2022 Christmas campaigns will be a focus on a more sustainable festive period with one eye on the mountain of waste we all create!

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 usual Christmas campaign. Instead it's 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.

It all started a couple of years ago. 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

Standing Still but Keeping Ahead

With M&S leading the charge for blanket coverage of their 'food porn' campaigns and Percy Pig products and countless retailers and online brands like Argos, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Celebrations amongst others, spending millions to try and increase sales, why is it that the basic foundation of a campaign that started in 1995 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, an earworm tune and lots of sparkly lights do the rest. Having said that Coke have also issued a clever online advert for Christmas 2021 (see below) about the importance of thinking of others at Christmas. At over 2 minutes long I am not sure how many of us will make it to the punch line at the end! Stick with it. It's as sweet as the drink itself.

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" merch at Aldi its easy to see how adverts can overtake the very programmes they are shown in.

Turning your advertising campaign, which can cost millions, in to a money making operation in it's own right is a work of marketing genius. The real trick for any brand is not to bang the same drum too many times. What seems to work for Coke hasn't this year for John Lewis.

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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