‘Tis the season for more than just chestnuts roasting on an open fire; it’s the battle for the sought-after Christmas advert top spot. As brands gear up annually to tug at heartstrings and open wallets, the fight is more intense than ever. Deconstructing this yuletide clash reveals strategic elements that go beyond festive cheer.

Firstly, emotional resonance is often the not-so secret weapon. Successful festive adverts tap into universal sentiments, creating a connection that transcends product promotion. Think tear-jerking narratives, heart-warming visuals, and a dash of nostalgia. John Lewis, known for their emotional storytelling, has epitomized this strategy in their iconic campaigns over the past two decades.

Timing is equally crucial. Launching early means an extended campaign period, maximising exposure. However, releasing too soon risks audience fatigue. The delicate balance between anticipation and over-saturation is a key element in securing the top spot.

Social media is the modern battlefield. The ads don’t just stay on TV screens; they invade our feeds, sparking conversations and sharing. A successful campaign extends beyond the TV slot, leveraging the power of hashtags and user-generated content to amplify its reach.

Let’s take a look at some of this year’s five best Christmas adverts.

ASDA – Pop the Bublé

ASDA’s “Pop the Bublé” campaign takes a humorous approach by poking fun at the renowned singer Michael Bublé. The ad’s comical premise, where a store employee pops a “Bublé” bubble to usher in the Christmas season, is entertaining and memorable. The clever part is that it takes an organic meme (the singer defrosting in time for Christmas due to his popularity at this time of year) and now gives ASDA ownership over an already establish term and phrase. This will mean in future anyone searching or using the popular joke will likely see results for ASDA online. Very savvy. The one downside is that the humour might not resonate with everyone, and some may find it a bit over-the-top or predictable. However, the inventive approach and strategy undeniably sets it apart.

Lidl – A Magical Christmas

Lidl’s “A Magical Christmas” advert for 2023 is a beautifully shot, visually stunning fusion of real life and CGI. As well as ticking the box of a cute mascot (coincidentally or uncoincidentally featuring a Racoon – a popular animal this year after the box office success of Guardian of the Galaxy Volume 3) it subtly showcases the offerings Lidl has for Christmas, emphasising empathy and affordability. The storytelling perhaps doesn’t hit the strong emotional high-notes that other adverts featuring animals and children have done in the past, but homing in on doing thigs for others at Christmas with a pinch of comedy to boot is a safe-bet for success.

Aldi – Kevin and the Christmas Factory

Aldi’s “Kevin and the Christmas Factory” advert for 2023 is a whimsical and heart-warming journey into the magical world of Christmas. The use of the beloved character Kevin the Carrot is a smart move, as it resonates with audiences who’ve come to associate him with Aldi’s festive offerings year after year. The ad’s enchanting animation and storytelling capture the essence of the holiday season beautifully. At just 30 seconds, it leaves us wanting more of Kevin’s adventures. Maybe more is to come as the season progresses, but as it stands, expanding the story could enhance engagement and make a bigger emotional impact.

Morrisons – Singing Oven Gloves

Set to Starship’s classic ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, oven gloves singing through Christmas dinner being made (each with unique characteristics and even a crazy cat-looking version) works on multiple levels. On the one hand, it is a short, fun concept built on familiarity and a popular tune, but on the other, it also focuses in on a key component of the Christmas meal that is often overlooked and has not been oversaturated by others. The trusty oven glove becomes a metaphor for empowering people at home in delivering Christmas feasts for their families. Similar enough to be easily understood but fresh enough to have its own memorable elements, it’s an alternative to the heartstring-pulling adverts and a sure-fire favourite for many.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t78eboxmkM

John Lewis & Partners – The Perfect Christmas Tree

John Lewis & Partners’ 2023 Christmas advert, “The Perfect Christmas Tree,” is a visually enchanting and emotionally evocative advert featuring a new mascot, Snappy. The narrative follows a family’s heart-warming quest for the ideal tree, capturing the festive spirit with exceptional cinematography and a poignant soundtrack of Andrea Bocelli. The most impressive element of John Lewis adverts is the all-out approach to marketing the advert itself as a product and not just a tool for selling existing merchandise (which was strategically re-aligned after criticism from the 2018 ‘The Boy and the Piano’ Christmas advert featuring Elton John’s love for pianos when John Lewis sold very expensive keyboards and no pianos). The day the advert launched, pop up displays featuring toys, clothes and storybooks from the advert were released. Less an advert and more a short-film, even if the sentiment is reminiscent of previous John Lewis campaigns, Snappy has already succeeded in sustaining the brand’s reputation for emotional resonance and visual brilliance.

This is just a small snapshot of some of the popular adverts we have seen so far (Graham Norton’s party visit for Waitrose and elderly women sharing reminiscent Christmas gifts from Amazon could easily have been featured in our list amongst others).

Ultimately, the Christmas advert top spot is a bit like Christmas itself, down to personal tastes. What is clear is that a fusion of emotional resonance, strategic timing and social media prowess will see brands that master this delicate balance not just sell products but becoming an integral part of the holiday tradition.