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A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

November 15, 2019 | 6 min read

It’s been another week of Christmas ad debuts as advertisers brace themselves for the season. Spots from Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Marks & Spencer Clothing and Food have all aired this week, looking to spread cheer and drive festive sales.

A week in Christmas ads: Wallace & Gromit help underdog Joules top festive campaign crop

Joules enlisted Wallace & Gromit to front a charming Christmas ad marking its 30th anniversary

In the lead up to the big day, The Drum will be crunching the numbers to reveal which newly unveiled seasonal spots have resonated most with audiences each week.

With John Lewis’ highly-anticipated dragon-fronted spot having just missed the cut-off for inclusion in this week’s rankings (tune in to find out how that’s performed next week), unlikely underdog Joules has topped the Christmas ad chart for the past seven days thanks to Wallace & Gromit.

The UK retailer has enlisted the much-loved animated characters to front a charming Christmas ad marking its 30th anniversary and showcasing its online prowess.

As each piece of seasonal creative rolls out, market research firm System1 is gauging viewers’ emotional responses to campaigns, as well as testing how quickly and strongly they recognise which brand an ad is promoting.

Audiences were asked to determine how they felt about an ad and how powerful that emotion was by giving it an IPA-verified ‘star rating’, with System1 saying this indicates long-term growth potential. Short-term sales growth is predicted via a ‘spike rating’ which takes into consideration how quickly and strongly people identify which brand a video is promoting. 5.9 is the highest score across both categories.

Joules triumphed with a 5.4 star rating and a 1.5 spike rating. Disney also made it into the upper five, alongside Save the Children, Guide Dogs and Lidl – with all the big retail spenders (M&S, Sainsbury’s and Boots) failing to clinch the top spots.

"It's been a strong crop of ads so far – one of the most interesting trends for us is how well marketers are hitting the sweet spot where the work is clearly branded and exciting for the short-term but also makes people feel great, which will help long-term branding,” said System 1’s chief marketing officer Jon Evans.

“It's not a trade-off between long- and short-term impact,” he added, pointing to Sainsbury's (which ranked at number seven) as a great example: “It had a very solid emotional response and branding that's brilliantly done without taking away from the story."

The worst performing ad this week for both long-term nfluence was Dogs Trust’s emotional return to its ‘A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas’ film. Despite its acoustic Sam Smith soundtrack, use of CGI and sad ending, it ultimately failed to resonate with audiences, garnering a star rating of one.

Scroll down to see the top five ads ranked on first view by both long and short-term potential.

1. Joules: ‘Christmas At The Click Of A Button’

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules' festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

2. Disney: ‘A Disney Christmas 2019’

Disney came in second with star and spike scores hitting five and 1.41 respectively.

Playing on the story of The Night Before Christmas, the ad brings to life some familiar characters – including Buzz Lightyear, BB-8 and Mickey, Minnie and Frozen’s witty snowman Olaf.

Like Joules, strong characters drove Disney to five-star success in lieu of story-driven creative.

3. Guide Dogs: ‘Henry’

A downtrodden retriever puppy who wishes to be one of Santa’s reindeer but winds up at ‘Guide Dog School’ instead – it’s hard to find something that’s not to love about Guide Dog’s 2019 Christmas effort and audiences agree.

People awarded the creative a strong star score of 4.5 and a short-term spike rating of 1.22, with System1 highlighting that it was likely based on the film’s happy ending.

4. Save the Children: ‘Christmas Jumper Day 2019’

This impossibly cute ad from Save the Children, promoting its annual Christmas jumper day which takes place on 13 December, saw charities come good once more in this week’s top rankings.

Indicating the ability to drive lasting brand affinity as well as short-term donations, the spot features a small but determined motivational speaker called Coach Christmas who wants to get office workers, mechanics, the elderly and even babies, involved in the charity’s efforts.

Viewers awarded it a star rating of 4.5 and a spike score of 1.48.

5. Lidl: ‘A Christmas You Can Believe In’

Lidl is keeping it real this year with a Christmas ad from Karmarama that shies away from festive fantasy, and it’s paid off emotionally with a four-star rated ad.

The budget grocer squeaked past Sainsbury’s high-concept and high-budget Victorian epic “Nicholas The Sweep”, but a sky-high spike score suggests Sainsbury’s (which came two places behind Lidl) lavish birthday celebration should pay off for it in the short-term.

Visit The Drum next week to find out how newly launched Christmas ads from John Lewis, and more, compare.

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