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A Week in Christmas ads: John Lewis' Edgar is its biggest hit since 'Monty the Penguin'


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

November 22, 2019 | 6 min read

The past seven days have seen ads from Tesco, McDonald’s and – of course – John Lewis air in living rooms across the UK as Christmas draws ever closer.


John Lewis triumphed with the highest star rating awarded to any brand so far this year / John Lewis & Partners

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.

It won’t come as a surprise that John Lewis and Waitrose’s first combined effort, a sweet fairytale-eque ad starring Edgar the excitable dragon topped this week’s Christmas ad rankings.

The retailer fought off 2019 debuts from McDonald’s, KFC, Tesco and more to take the number one spot – with viewer responses showing the creative, set in 'a land far-far away', to be capable of driving both a short-term sales spike and long-term brand equity.

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.

John Lewis triumphed with the highest star rating awarded to any brand so far this year with a score 5.8. It’s spike score, meanwhile, was an impressive 1.51. According to System1’s data, the ad is the highest scoring for the troubled British retailer since its 2014 film ‘Monty the Penguin’.

Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer System1 and the author of the IPA’s recent Lemon report said it was wonderful to see so many “right-brain” features appear in this year’s John Lewis ad.

“It has a sense of time and place, characters, betweenness, knowing looks, music and scenes unfolding,” he added.

The worst performing ad this week was luxury handbag brand Loewe, with its enigmatic ‘An Otter’s Tale’ Christmas ad garnering a star rating of 1.1 stars.

A return to form with all the classic John Lewis ingredients – a loveable character, a clear story and a strong tune - with a Waitrose Christmas feast thrown into the mix.

1. John Lewis & Partners/Waitrose & Partners: ‘Excitable Edgar’

The heartwarming story of a little girl, Ava, and her friendship with an excitable young dragon who struggles to control his flame breathing (much to the chagrin of the townsfolk) has helped John Lewis and Waitrose secure the highest star rating of any Christmas ad this year at 4.8.

A spike score of 1.51 underscores the ability for a short-term sales uplift, as well as long-term brand impact.

2. Tesco: ‘Delivering Christmas’

Tesco’s nostalgic Back to the Future-esque magical mystery tour of the UK, which sees an unassuming Tesco delivery driver embark on an unexpected, whirlwind journey, has also been a hit among viewers.

Created by BBH and focused on customer service and value, the proposition scored a solid 5 in the star rating category with a spike rating of 1.7.

3. McDonalds: ‘Reindeer Ready 2019’

McDonalds built on its ‘Reindeer Ready’ concept for 2019 and built an animated story around it – a strategy that is already paying off.

The sweet spot tells the story of a young girl called Ellie and her imaginary friend Archie. It scored 4.8 in the star category and clocked up a spike rating of 1.38 and is forecast to result in an immediate order uptick for the fast-food giant.

4. Costa Coffee: ‘Wish Upon A Costa’

Coca-Cola-owned coffee giant Costa with another animated tale. Even though the retailer’s cutesy animated short, which sees a series of animals pair up and celebrate Christmas together, hasn’t had as much fan fare as John Lewis or McDonald’s it’s still a winner for audiences.

Signing off with the tagline ‘Wish Upon A Costa’ the creative wasn’t far behind McDonald’s with its star rating sitting at 4.7. It’s spike score was actually slightly higher at 1.71.

5. Ralph Lauren: ‘Every Moment is a Gift

According to System 1, it’s “very unusual” to see a perfume ad perform so well.

However, with star score of 4.1 and a spike rating of 1.53 Ralph Lauren has bucked the trend with an ad featuring a dapper bow-tie clad teddy bear with an extensive aftershave collection.

Visit The Drum next week to find out how newly launched Christmas ads from M&S, Stella and more compare.

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