Coca-Cola has gone back to the future to encourage consumers to enjoy a cocktail of nostalgia, escapism and humour for its 2020 Christmas ad.Ranked the most 'powerful' advert of the season by Kantar, the winning formula is no secret, with sentimentality winning over UK viewers once again. Seeing off a strong challenge from Disney+, the brand beat off 20 competing ads for the title.3000 UK consumers were paired with LinkNow AI facial coding technology to reveal who made the greatest emotional impact, with the algorithms all pointing to Coca-Cola as eliciting the greatest response from audiences.
Coca-Cola puts the fizz in Christmas
Coca-Cola’s carbonated comms has turned again to the iconic ’Holidays are Coming’ trucks campaign.
Kantar considers the Christmas convoy as integral to the fabric of Christmas as Rudolph and fir trees.
Airing continuously since 1995, the campaign has been accompanied by a real-world truck tour at which company reps dispensed drinks to thirsty consumers, although this will not proceed this year for obvious reasons.
Cementing its place at the top table, Coca-Cola also took the second spot with ’The Letter’, a Wieden + Kennedy produced spot directed by Taika Waititi, that seeks to take the brand in a new direction by focusing on an oil rig worker determined to deliver a letter from his daughter to Father Christmas at all costs.
Coca-Cola’s closest competitor for the crown, Disney+, also harnessed the power of nostalgia to reap rewards in the present, by focusing on memories of classic movies to drive appreciation of newer films in ’Make This Christmas Wonderful’.
Commenting on Coca-Cola’s dominance, Lynne Deason, Kantar UK’s head of creative excellence, said: “Getting it right this Christmas was always going to be tough, as brands and creative agencies tentatively walked the tone of voice tightrope.“
“But this year’s Christmas ads show us that there are many ways to crack the Christmas advertising effectiveness nut. The top-performing ads use very different approaches, including nostalgia, escapism, humour and fantasy. Sadly though, it’s not all joyful; the least effective ads are upsetting people given the current crisis. Any attempt to reference coronavirus was always going to be tricky. Some brands have triumphed, while others, although very well-intentioned, have been misunderstood.”
Hitting the sweet spot with humour
Advertisers have had to decide whether to address Covid-19 in their communications directly, or stick to more upbeat messaging.
One common solution has been to embrace humour as an antidote to despondency, a technique pulled off by Tesco to great effect with its ‘No Naughty List‘ hitting the elusive funny bone to rank in the upper third of British ads for being enjoyable, provocative and engaging.
But Lidl's attempt to parody other brands in ‘A Christmas You Can Believe In‘ fell into the latter camp. Just 52% found the piece to be funny versus 67% for Tesco.
On sturdier ground is grocery doppelganger Aldi, with Kevin the Carrot, who continues to find favour with audiences alongside his new animal friends Turkey and Hedgehog, who reinforce the importance of being among those we love.
Amazon meanwhile adopts a different tack, refusing to shy away from the Covid-19 challenge in ‘The Show Must Go On‘. While this was considered appropriate by 50% of viewers (versus a study average of 33%) it was also found to be less effective by Kantar‘s research by failing to properly integrate the brand.
A renewed focus on diversity on-screen
Alongside nostalgia, diversity is another recurring theme among advertisers in 2020, with Amazon‘s ballet dancer among a succession of casting decisions designed to stamp out stereotypes and provide role models for others.
Deason concludes: ”Amazon decided to tread a tougher more personal path that tackles the impact of coronavirus and racial representation head-on. Given racism has been endemic in ballet for years, showing a black ballet dancer is a stroke of genius. It adds deeper meaning and strengthens the impact of the story of a talented, determined and inspiring young woman. The ad performs in the top 1% of all ads in the UK in terms of presenting a positive image that sets a good example for others, both male and female.”
John Lewis, M&S, Morrisons and Walkers also attempted positive messages of community spirit and togetherness but these were dismissed as token gestures by Kantar.
It singles out ‘Give a Little Love‘ by John Lewis for dropping the ball this year by failing to make clear its charity connections.
On the other hand Walkers ‘Sausage CaRoll‘ sausage roll ad was found to associate strongly with the Trussell Trust but was also overtly long and liable to elicit polarising responses.
Sainsbury‘s gained the dubious distinction of having the ‘weakest‘ ad of the year in ‘Perfect Portions‘, with its well-intentioned message found to be too easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. It was also criticised for being unrelatable, unrealistic and depressing.
Plenty‘s ‘#XMess‘ campaign was also found to be inappropriate, with Kantar pulling no punches in dismissing the ad as irritating, unpleasant and disturbing. Sticking the boot in further the report found the ad was unfunny and forgettable.