Market Trends

Telling an Ad Story At Christmas

Written by
29 Dec, 2017
For children, Christmas is a magical concept. Leaving carrots out for Rudolph, mysterious coal footprints around the fireplace and stockings filled with presents on Christmas morning, all assemble the Father Christmas fairy tale. As we grow up, the festive season becomes a somewhat less magical experience and has been coined Stressmas, for its connotations of financial and organizational stress. In recent years retailers have been pushing creative ads that tell a story, rather than promote their products, in order to add an element of magic back into Christmas.

Why create story ads this Christmas?

Advertising at Christmas is an undeniably challenging feat, with marketers going down different promotional routes to boost their conversions and end the year profitably. It was John Lewis, the high-end chain retailer, that launched the storytelling approach to advertising at Christmas, despite the likes of Coca Cola producing time-honored cornerstone ads for the holiday season. The classic, 30 second long toy commercials where advertisers launch as many plastic products at us as possible, are effective in capturing childrens' attention but definitely not adults'. 

Over the past decade, John Lewis has transformed their festive adverts into annual media moments. With Oscar-winning directors and heartwarming covers by world famous artists, no expense is spared on their yearly “blockbusters”. Their world famous tear jerking campaigns have prompted others to follow suit with renowned retailers jumping on the “feel-good train”.

This year we’ve witnessed some crackers, each telling unique stories with relatable characters. 

1) Find your fairytale Christmas with Debenhams

Debenhams’, the British multinational retailer, operating as a department store in the UK and Ireland, released a two part Christmas story ad campaign this year, titled “You Shall”. Their marketing team molded the ad around the fairy tale of Cinderella but put a modern spin on it. The first part, a 30 second clip, was released on the 5th of November and finished on a cliffhanger, impelling their audience to wait and discover what happened a few days later.

In the first part we witness a love-at-first-sight moment between two passengers on a train, but before the besotted lovebirds get a moment to introduce themselves, the girl jumps up announcing her stop. As she rushes off, she drops a sparkling silver high-heeled shoe which kicks off the viral online search for the girl and the shoe.

debenhams.pngThe modern take on Cinderella is amusing and makes the fairy tale more relatable. Debenhams don't try and sell their audience anything other than a message. The ad concludes saying “Find your fairy tale Christmas” followed by the Debenhams logo and underneath #YouShall. This heartwarming modern day fairy tale may not remind us of the deals Debenhams are offering this Christmas but it will give us all the “festive, fuzzy feels” which, consequently give the brand more recognition.

2) Nothing Brings people together like a movie at Christmas

Sky Movies pulled on our heartstrings by focusing on the importance of stories in our lives rather than material objects. They depicted the joy a classic film brought to the lives of a mother and her daughter at Christmas. As they both grew older and their lives changed, the film remained the same. When the daughter surprises her mother by coming home for Christmas, it's as though the film (which is so conveniently playing) brought them back together. The ad concludes with a close up of the new little girl, the granddaughter, witnessing the magic of the film for the first time. Sky Movies managed to advertise exactly what they do but in an noncommercial way so we think only of the way the movies make us feel, not of how much it costs us to watch them.

3) Happy Giving!

H&M took storytelling to the next level with their 2017 Christmas ad campaign. Jesse Williams stars as the Dad in this 3 minute film, tasked with his telling his young daughter a bedtime story. He spots a chemistry set on the bookshelf and concocts a story based around his daughter's magical scientific ability to create a black hole leading to a parallel universe. The charming tale touches on innocence and bravery. Williams weaves a heroic story around his courageous daughter who takes on Father Christmas' Present Stealing Evil Brother, to ensure all the children get their presents back for Christmas. The ad was released on Giving Tuesday to tie in with it's message of giving, noting at the end that the H&M foundation would make a donation to Unicef this year.

While this ad doesn't quite make us shed a tear, it does leave us with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The bravery of a little girl wanting to right a wrong situation tugs on our heartstrings and makes its audience want to give rather than receive this Christmas.


To Conclude...

So what does it take to tell an ad story at Christmas? A nail-biting plot? An unexpected heroine? A tragic love story? 

From these three cracking examples, the main comparison we can make is their unanimous sense of relatability. Each one makes us feel something; whether that's the desire to fall in love with a handsome stranger on the train, our love of a classic movie or the innocence and bravery of our children. The ability to connect with an ad is what makes us remember it, and Debenhams, Sky Movies and H&M have all managed to imprint their ads in our minds.

Why not have a read of some of the most successful Christmas ads of all time in our holiday ebook? 

Discover the Christmas eBook  Download now

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