Christmas advertising in the UK sets the bar for what more brands should be doing year-round, according to Kantar: eight out of ten Christmas ads use a story, as opposed to just four in ten that use stories in the rest of the year.

Writing in the current issue of Admap (topic: smart approaches to occasion marketing), Daren Poole, Global Head of Creative, Insights Division at Kantar, explains there are no secrets to effective Christmas advertising, just best practice.

Many brands seem to appreciate that at Christmas best practice involves creating distinctiveness by investing in “a story with epic production values (and budgets) that sets out to capture the hearts and minds of people at home”.

Poole observes that ads that use stories do far better at generating enjoyment and emotional affinity than those that don’t: “enjoyment acts as a trigger to the brain to pay attention and emotional affinity positions the brand positively for future occasions when the consumer is making a brand choice.”

So why aren’t more brands taking the same approach across the rest of the year? A lack of “epic budgets” is one obvious reason but storytelling doesn’t always have to be of the blockbuster variety that the likes of John Lewis now deploy at Christmas.

The retailer’s annual ad has become one of the most anticipated, and while its ads typically score strongly in Kantar’s research, even John Lewis doesn’t always get it right.

Poole explains that in 2017’s Moz the Monster ad, emotional engagement (as measured by facial coding) “was lost throughout the latter part of the ad, suggesting that the story resolution wasn’t as strong as in previous years”. It was also apparent that consumers were having to concentrate quite hard on the storyline to understand what was going on.

A simpler approach can be just as effective, he suggests. Last year, a number of the most emotionally resonant ads weren’t epic production ads, but rather smaller scale, more realistic and accessible stories.

Brands like Boots, Morrisons, Tesco and M&S used simpler, more traditional ideas and ‘real’ scenarios, with families enjoying Christmas meals together and giving meaningful gifts.

“This strategy may have been driven by risk aversion in difficult economic and retail conditions, with an aim to maximise Christmas sales to ensure that shareholder value is maximised,” he said.

“But our research also showed that consumers found these stories more relevant than big ad stories in challenging times.”

For more details, read the full article: The secrets of UK Christmas advertising success. This issue of Admap on smart approaches to occasion marketing features a series of eight articles. WARC subscribers can access a deck which summarises the expert advice from contributors and key considerations on the topic.

Sourced from Admap