Modern Marketing Ad Spend Brand Purpose

November’s most effective US ads, from Macy’s, Walmart and Hobby Lobby

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By Audrey Kemp | Junior Reporter

November 30, 2022 | 7 min read

The holiday season underscores giving and celebration for myriad cultures and faiths around the globe. Many are reflected in System1’s top five US ads of November, which are selected by the firm’s proprietary rating system. Here are the ads that performed best and why, according to Jon Evans, chief customer officer at System1.

title card that says "christmas is what you make it"

Hobby Lobby celebrates creativity during the holiday season / Credit: Hobby Lobby

5. USPS: ‘Holiday Ready’

Star rating: 3.7

Our all-holidays top five kicks off with the US Postal Service. It is not a regular creator of emotional ads, but the holiday season is when the USPS shines and it’s understandable it wants to remind us all of that. The ad focuses on the sheer scale of the Postal Service’s job in making sure every American gets the gifts they’ve ordered at Christmas. It also works as a celebration of how the holidays are something everyone has in common.

4. Etsy: ‘To The Travelers’

Star rating: 3.9

Like the USPS, Etsy’s campaign makes the size of America its basis for an ad, recognizing that travel is a huge part of the holidays for so many. It focuses on little moments, such as packing the perfect, well-chosen gift into your suitcase. Like Etsy’s previous holiday ads, this one has diverse casting (a rare starring role for a South Asian American family) and takes a montage approach to build up its overall emotional picture.

3. Walmart: ‘All The Ways We Holiday’

Star rating: 4.4

Walmart’s holiday commercial is another montage – this time a collage of scenes showing off the diverse ways Americans go about their holidays. Multiple faiths and backgrounds get a moment on screen, as do a bunch of things ordinary folk love about the festive season. It’s not the first time brands have taken this approach, but when it’s done well, it can’t fail to warm hearts. Walmart’s high penetration means it has some genuine credibility when it makes a case for being a part of almost everyone’s Christmas.

2. Macy’s: ‘Speechless’

Star rating: 4.7

Macy’s has an impressive holiday ad pedigree and often chooses to tell magical, emotional stories. Their 2022 offering is just as emotional, but takes a more unusual approach – focusing on a single moment of gifting and letting it play out. How does just one moment create an emotional journey for the audience?

Simple – the ad, ‘Speechless,’ plays on the ambiguity of the moment: does the woman receiving the gift hate it or love it? Spoiler: she loves it, and Christmas is saved.

As Orlando Wood points out in his books Lemon and Look Out, non-verbal communication between people – especially with meaningful glances and expressions – is a terrific way to build emotion and get attention. Macy’s proves that with an ad that’s almost nothing but glances and expressions. It’s an unusually intimate holiday ad and a strong, four-star success.

1. Hobby Lobby: ‘Christmas Commercial 2022’

Star rating: 5.3

Several US brands leave their holiday commercials until December, so our only five-star ad so far this year comes from retailer Hobby Lobby, another brand with a strong tradition of telling Christmas stories. Their 2022 commercial tells a wordless yet emotional story about two young girls who set up stands selling hot drinks at a Christmas tree farm. In an act of generosity, one of the business rivals pivots to marshmallows that can go with the other’s hot drinks, and the two become firm friends.

Hobby Lobby’s capitalist parable pulls off the unusual feat of making a business case study into a sweetly seasonal story, and earns five stars. But how does the brand fit in? Well, that festive signage and stand decoration have to come from somewhere.

Methodology

System1 tests ads on measures that predict long-term brand growth (star rating) and short-term sales growth (spike rating) – each between 1 and 5 stars. These measures are validated using the independent IPA database and also against real sales data at a category level. The star rating captures the emotional response to an ad. Only 1% of ads on the system score 5 stars. A 1-star ad will have zero effect on brand growth, while a 5-star ad will have an exceptional impact (up to three points of market share gain, depending on investment). Often the work that receives the highest ratings comes as a surprise to everyone.

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