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Christmas advertising tells us it’s already here

A pile of wrapped up Christmas gifts

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Why read this? : Many brands use Christmas advertising to drive their year-end sales. We look at this year’s examples from Coca-Cola, Myer and Pandora. We apply advertising evaluation criteria to show how clear, understandable, relevant, impactful and unique they are. Read this for ideas about how to do better Christmas advertising.

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’re doing a bit of Christmas advertising evaluation.

A pile of wrapped up Christmas gifts

We picked 3 adverts which caught our attention in the last few weeks. Adverts we’ll no doubt see repeatedly all the way up to the big day.

In marketing, a full advertising evaluation would include :-

However, we didn’t work on these ads. We don’t know their brief, business objectives or target audience. We can however evaluate the advertising idea. We can apply advertising evaluation criteria like clarity, understandability, relevance, impact and uniqueness to work out if the ideas work creatively. 

We can also share our view on what we think the advert will do for sales. After all, as advertising guru, David Ogilvy put it, if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative“. Each advert here was clearly expensive to make. We can try to work out if they’ll have a good ROI. 

Coca-Cola - The Letter

Coca-Cola’s Christmas advert has attracted a lot of attention on social and in the marketing press. 

Director Taika Waititi has a great track record.

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. 

We like the quirky characters. 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. But what we like most is how his movies capture the way people interact with each other, in a very natural and human way. 

And interestingly, that’s what he brings to this advert.

There’s a definite quirkiness here. 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 before it aired, would we think it a good idea? 

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 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 heartstrings in a way anyone who’s 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 have to know the target audience and / or the occasion you want to highlight. 

And it’s interesting, as even though Coca-Cola has historic associations with Christmas advertising, it’s not an especially Christmas-relevant product. Its 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 are a few other elements to this advert 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. Though Coca-Cola didn’t invent the idea of Santa wearing red, its advertising has a long history of shaping how Santa is perceived. 

This advert keeps that going. 

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 branding. 

Clear signals in the first 20 seconds that this is a Coca-Cola advert. Before you see someone consuming the product. But then, you get a full minute of action 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 for non-English speaking countries. There’s little to no dialogue, so it works globally. 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 this advert will show globally. And Coca-Cola has to create adverts which work across cultural boundaries. This one clearly does. 

But, will it drive sales? 

We’re 99% sure it’ll drive sales. That’s partly because Coca-Cola will spend a lot of media dollars to support it. And, when you combine that with a good creative idea like this one, that always drives sales. But, where and how it’ll drive sales is the more interesting question. 

First, this advert does a brand awareness job. It creates top-of-mind awareness. Everyone’s 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’s worth having in the fridge for Christmas. 

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

Taika Waititi is well respected, and Coke gets some of his credibility and kudos by working with him. A quirky advert from a quirky director helps reinforce the perception Coke is still a cool brand for younger people.

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 sales message to get more gondola ends, 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 are 2 areas we’d pick nits on. 

First, the central message that we should all be more present with each other – is a little too subtle. We only got that was the intent from the marketing press coverage. Not from the advert itself.

And then, it’s almost 2 and a half minutes long. That’s a long time in advertising. Will most people watch all of it, when most adverts are 30 seconds or less?

Obviously, the advert also conveniently ignores the more negative press Coke gets about its impact on obesity and dental health. But to be fair, that’s a job for the PR team at Coke to worry about. Not the team who made 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 Christmas advertising each year. 

This year’s no exception.

A song-based 1-minute 40-second advert reflecting on how many celebrations this year have been different from previous years. (Covid’s not mentioned, but yes, we all get it). 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 are no big-name directors here. So we can jump straight into the advertising idea. 

Is it clear and understandable?

Well first, there’s an obvious question about branding. Because you have to watch all the way to the end to know it’s for Myer. Would we watch it all the way through? Or, get bored and go off for cup of a tea, never knowing who it was for? Not sure. 

First impressions, it’s also very darkly lit. The overall colour choice seems to focus on gold items with a black background. But a quick visit to the Myer website, and you can see their main colour choice is black on a white background. The colours don’t connect. We think many people will miss that it’s Myer. 

That’s not a good start. 

Recognising that 2020 has been a disruptive year 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, is also good. 

But something about the way the ad does this doesn’t seem to quite work. There’s so much going on that you don’t know what 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 by what’s happened this year. They’re feeling overwhelmed. Creating an advert which bombards you with something new every 3 seconds makes it feel like hard work. They could have simplified this a lot. 

Is it relevant, impactful and unique?

However, some parts of this advert seem relevant and unique. That’s a plus. 

The Christmas theme comes through. It’s also very inclusive of other cultures and religions. 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 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 debatable when the advert’s hard to understand. You don’t know it’s for Myer until the end. It’s not 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, trying a bit too hard. Close, but no cigar in the Christmas advertising game.

Will it drive sales?

This leads us back to whether will it drive sales. Well, maybe.

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

And that means a pretty negligible impact on sales would be our guess. 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, that we thought it was an Australian company when we first came across them. But in fact, they’re Danish.

This 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 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, 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 as original versions are usually more expensive. You pay a license fee for the song and one for the performer. With 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 simple reminder Pandora can do nice gifts, and your partner will like it. 

One quibble with this advert. Part of the story doesn’t make sense. If it’s a Christmas present, why doesn’t he wait till Christmas Day to give her the present? 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. 

Conclusion - Christmas advertising

So, that’s it for 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 advertising and advertising evaluation guides to find out more. Or get in touch, if you need help making your advertising clearer, understandable and more relevant,  impactful and unique. 

Photo Credit

Wrapped gifts : Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

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