Christmas advertising tells us it’s already here

A pile of wrapped up Christmas gifts

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Snapshot : Christmas advertising is the last chance of the year to build brands and drive sales. In this article we evaluate adverts from Coca-Cola, Myer and Pandora to see how clear, understandable, relevant, impactful and unique they are. All of which impact on whether they will actually drive sales. 

So, it’s that time of year. The sleigh bells are ringing. And we’re listening.

The supermarket aisles are packed with half price Ferrero Rocher. Or is that Rochers?

And of course, the regular Christmas advertising fiesta has begun, telling us that spending our way out of what’s been a terrible year for most people is the way to go. 

So, this week, to get into the festive spirit, we’ve decided to do a bit of Christmas advertising evaluation.

A pile of wrapped up Christmas gifts

We picked three adverts that have caught our attention in the last few weeks. Adverts that we will no doubt see repeatedly all the way up to the big day.

In the marketing world, a full advertising evaluation would include referring back to the brief, assessing the impact against business objectives, checking the message fits with the target audience needs, and so on. 

But, we didn’t work on these ads. We don’t have that information. So, we can’t do any of that.

But, what we can do is evaluate the advertising idea. Because the advertising we see is the representation of the advertising idea. 

And we can look at this as both consumers, and marketing experts at the same time. We can apply some basic evaluation criteria to work out if the advertising is any damn good. So, we’re going to look at each advert and assess it for clarity, understandability, relevance, impact and uniqueness. 

What we can also do, is work out what the advert will do for sales. 

After all, in the worlds of advertising guru, David Ogilvy, if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

While, none of these adverts are direct short-term promotions, they clearly each cost a lot to produce. So, we can try to work out whether we think they’ll generate a good return on the investment. 

Coca-Cola - The Letter

So, Coca-Cola’s effort this year, has attracted a lot of attention on social media and in the marketing press. 

Director Taika Waititi has a track record of some amazing work.

He puts a unique and emotional spin on stories about people. JoJo Rabbit, What we do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople are all big favourites with the Three-Brains team. 

Because, even though the characters are quirky – a young boy in WW2 whose imaginary best friend is Hitler, a gang of slightly rubbish vampires living in modern day (well, night) Wellington, and a loud-mouth juvenile delinquent who goes on the run with his foster dad – his movies manage to capture the way people interact with each other, in a very natural, very human, very real way. 

And that interestingly is what he brings to this advert.

There’s a definite quirkiness to this advert. Why the whale or the frog need to be in there, we’re not sure. How the letter appears to be waterproof is questionable. And why he didn’t just go buy a fricking stamp, is also best left unanswered, so as not to spoil the feeling of the advert.

So, if we saw this advertising idea before it aired, would it pass for a good advert? 

Is it clear and understandable? 

Well, yes. 

The story’s easy to work out.

Snow setting, and dad leaving family behind to go work away from home. Daughter passes on “The Letter” to Father Christmas. Father forgets to post letter, and decides to make journey to the North Pole to deliver it in person. Gets there to find it “closed for Christmas.” But, then it all turns out well in the end. No spoilers.

But, very clear. Very understandable

Is it relevant, impactful and unique? 

Well, impactful and unique, for sure. The ending you don’t see coming. It tugs at the heart strings in a way that anyone who has been apart from their family at Christmas will recognise. And the quirkiness gives it a unique edge. 

And relevant? Well, that one’s slightly harder to judge.

Judging for relevance, normally means you need to know the target audience and / or the occasion moment you want to highlight. 

And it’s interesting, because even through historically Coca-Cola has long associations with Christmas advertising, it’s not an especially Christmas relevant product. It’s thirst quenching ability fits more to hot summers, than cold winters. And unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is usually cold. 

Red and white, in plain sight

But, there’s a few other elements to this advert that are worth pointing out. Look at the use of colours for example. Coca-Cola’s brand colours are red and white. Santa’s “brand colours” are also red and white. No coincidence. as while Coca-Cola didn’t invent the idea of Santa wearing red, their advertising has a long history of shaping how Santas is perceived. 

And look at this advert. 

Look at the colour of the truck at the start. The daughter’s hat. The snowman’s scarf. All red  and white. Great use of colour design to boost the marketing impact. 

Clear signals in the first 20 seconds that this is Coca-Cola advert, before you actually see someone consuming the product. But then, you get a full minute of action montage as he goes on his journey, before the ending brings you very much back into Coca-Cola territory.

And that ending. 

We also came across versions of this advert which run in non-English countries. There’s little to no dialogue, so it works in many countries.  All they had to do was change the name and address on the letter to the local version. Papa Noel for example. Very clever, as we assume this advert is rolling out globally, and Coca-Cola must sometimes find it a struggle to create adverts that cross cultural boundaries. 

Which this one clearly does. 

But, will it drive sales? 

It will drive sales. 

We have no doubt about that. 

Firstly, because Coca-Cola will spend a lot of media dollars to support this ad. And, when you combine that with a good creative advert like this one, that always drives sales. But, where and how it’ll drive sales is the more interesting question. 

Firstly, this advert does a brand awareness job. It creates top of mind awareness. 

Everyone has clearly heard of Coca-Cola. But, if you don’t drink it regularly, it won’t be top of mind for you. This advert reminds all those potential, but not regular Coke drinkers that the brand is still around. And that, it might be worth having in the fridge for Christmas. 

By creating a piece of entertainment through great storytelling, it helps the brand still feel relevant and connected to people. It says that ‘hey, we still make great ads.’ A great use of storytelling in marketing

Taiki Watiti is very well respected, and Coke gets some of his credibility and kudos by working with him. It helps reinforce the perception that Coke is a slightly cool brand for younger people, by running a quirky advert with a quirky director.

It might not make us want to go out and buy a Coke right now. But we’re sure the Coca-Cola retail sales team talked about the advert to retailers ahead of the Christmas season. And used it as part of their overall sales message to get more gondola ends, and shelf displays and other sales promotion activities away in-store. 

And those will definitely drive sales. 

If we were to nitpick …

If we were to nitpick, and let’s face it, that’s the most fun thing about advertising evaluation, there’s two areas we’d pick nits on. 

Firstly, the central message that we should all be more present with each other – is maybe a little too subtle. We only got that was the intent from some of the marketing press coverage of the advert, and didn’t really pick it up directly from the advert.

And then, it’s almost two and a half minutes long. That’s a long time in advertising. Will most people watch it to the end, when most adverts typically last 6, 15 or 30 seconds?

Obviously, the advert also conveniently ignores some of the more negative press Coke gets about its impact on obesity and dental health. But to be fair, that’s really a job for the PR team at Coke to worry about, not the team who produced this advert. 

But these minor points aside, for us, it’s a winner. 

Myer - A Bigger Christmas

Australia’s biggest department store Myer traditionally does a Christmas advert each year. 

This year’s no exception.

A song-based one minute forty second advert reflecting on how many celebrations this year have been different (Covid’s not mentioned, but yes, we all get it) from previous years. Done Tim Minchin style. But, not by Tim Minchin. 

And the core advertising idea seems to be, we can use Christmas as a way to combine all those missed celebrations into one big mass celebration. There’s no big name directors here, so we can jump straight into the advertising idea. 

Is it clear and understandable?

Well, first off, if we were the client seeing this, we’d raise a big question about branding. Because, if this advert popped up on your TV, you need to watch all the way till the end frame to know that it’s for Myer. And would we watch it all the way through? Or, get bored and go off and make a cup of tea, never knowing who it was for? 

First impressions, it’s very darkly lit. 

The colour choice overall seems to focus on gold items with a black background. But a quick flick over to the Myer website, and you can see that their main colour choice is black on a white background. They don’t connect at all on colours. 

We think a lot of people will miss that this advert is for Myer. 

That’s not a good start. 

The recognition that 2020 has been a hugely disruptive year for most people is a decent enough place to start. The thought, that we should use Christmas as a positive end to the year to reconnect with our loved ones, also good. 

But something about the way this is executed in the ad doesn’t seem to quite work. 

There’s sooo much going on. It’s hard to understand what you’re meant to focus on. The wedding party violinists? Santa and the piñata? The Easter bunny on the Christmas sled? 

Our feeling is most people are drained and overwhelmed by what’s happened this year. And creating an advert that bombards you with something new every 3 seconds, ends up making you feel like this advert is a little bit too much hard work.

They could have simplified this a lot. 

Is it relevant, impactful and unique?

So, there are parts of this advert that seem relevant and unique. That’s a plus. 

The Christmas theme comes through, and it’s also very inclusive of other cultures and religious. Diwali, Barmitzvahs, and Chinese New Year all get a mention. It’s maybe a little tokenistic, but that’s way better than nothing, so plus points for all of that. 

But beyond that, it’s hard to talk about relevance, because it’s not clear who the target audience is, beyond a generic “Christmas shopper”.

What’s the real underlying insight here? What would make people connect with this advert? There’s nothing that makes you go, yes, I get that and relate to it. We’ve never sat in our swimmers playing the clarinet, for example …

And, is it impactful? Well, that’s going to be hard when the advert is hard to understand. You don’t know it’s for Myer until the end. It’s not really selling anything specific other than the store brand itself. It’s not highlighting a sales promotion, or giving you a clear reason to visit Myer over its competitors. 

For us, it’s well-intended. But, just trying a bit too hard.

Close, but no cigar in the Christmas advertising game.

 Will it drive sales?

Which leads us back to the number one question, will it drive sales? 

Well, maybe.

We don’t think it’ll harm sales. It’s generally quite inoffensive. But we do think with the lack of clear brand connection, and the unclear sales message, this’ll fly under the radar for most Christmas shoppers.

And that means a pretty negligible impact on sales would be our forecast. Sales, that Myer probably would have got anyway, without this advert. 

Pandora - Lovely day

(Editors Note : As at August 2021, this advert isn’t publicly available on YouTube, most likely due to song license restrictions. You’ll have to rely on our descriptions). 

And finally, we come to this advert from the jeweller, Pandora. There are so many of these stores in Australia, we actually thought it was an Australian company when we first came across them. But in actual fact, it’s a Danish company

Which possibly explains why this advert takes a very Northern Hemisphere view of Christmas.

Is it clear and understandable?

So, you see the brand name Pandora on the bag in the opening frame. He walks outside and there’s a Christmas tree and decorations. When the song goes “When I look at you…”, he looks at his phone and a picture of his partner is his screen saver.

It screams Christmas advertising. It screams gift buying. Not especially clever. But,  super clear and understandable. Buy your partner jewellery for Christmas from Pandora. Feel better about the world. 

Is it relevant, impactful and unique?

We guess the target audience for this is men, buying wives and partners gifts at Christmas. So, is this relevant? Certainly. 

Is it impactful, or unique? Those ones are a little harder to judge. Using the song Lovely Day is a nice touch. It’s a distinctive song.

And even though here, it’s a cover version, not the original, they do a good job of working it into the ad itself. Note the busker outside, and other people in the street singing the harmonies. 

(Editor’s note : We suspect they went with a cover version, because when you use original versions of songs, it’s usually much more expensive. You have to pay a license fee for the song, and one for the performer. When you use a cover version, you still pay for the song, but you can negotiate a much lower performer fee) 

And as for uniqueness, well, it does OK there, too. 

The singing from passers-by, the ice rink in the street, heck, even the Christmas hat on the cute dog all help make it a little different. And it doesn’t have to be totally unique to stand out, just unique enough for the target audience to recognise it. 

Will it drive sales?

We don’t think this will win any advertising awards. But, if we were the brand manager on this, we’d be pretty confident it’ll do a good job for Christmas sales. It’s a pretty, clear simple reminder that Pandora can do nice gifts, and your partner will like it. 

If we had one quibble with this advert, there’s a small element of the story that doesn’t’ make sense. If it’s a Christmas present, why doesn’t he wait till Christmas Day to give the present over? Instead of giving it to her right away? But, that’s just us being pedantic advertising critics. We don’t think anyone else would notice or care.

This one’s a definite pass. 

Christmas advertising

So, there we are, our quick dip into Christmas advertising.

Coke, probably edges it on the creative side. It’s just a nice little storytelling based ad. Myer was certainly well-intended, but needed someone to edit it down to only show the best bits, it was trying too hard. And Pandora, we suspect, might actually get the best ROI on their advertising. 

No awards, but that’s not what advertising is for, right?

Check out our guides to advertising and advertising evaluation to find out more on this topic. Or contact us, if we can help you identify how to make your advertising clearer, understandable and more relevant,  impactful and unique. 

Photo Credit

Wrapped gifts : Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

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