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Christmas Holiday Advertising Festive Season

The holiday ad creative playbook for brands and agencies



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September 4, 2023 | 7 min read

The past few years have been a wild ride for consumerism (and everything, really)

As brands start planning for the festive season, they face a new challenge: inflation is finally starting to drop, wages have grown and consumers' sky-high energy bills are coming down, but the cost of living crisis has taken its toll, and consumers are still being cautious about their spending. Two thirds of consumers are spending less on non-essentials, and more than half report shopping around more before committing to a purchase.

All this puts brands in an interesting position. There's hope on the horizon that things are improving, but brands must put some extra finesse into their advertising strategy to convince consumers this festive season.

Festive advertising gameplan: the 5 stages of holiday shopping

To put together a game plan that brings home the bacon (or the Christmas ham), advertisers can tailor their plan to the five stages of the holiday shopping timeline.

October: Discovery (and early shopping)

This is when consumers are dipping their toes into the mindset shift of holiday shopping, as well as when the early birds start getting their worm. It's a great time to start introducing them to your brand and what you have to offer.

Every year, it gets harder and harder to earn your audience's attention — let alone keep it. As your brand competes for limited holiday season spend, you'll need to be more creative and engaging than ever, and it all starts in the discovery phase. Harness your team's creative prowess in creating branded campaigns that generate engagement early in the season before things start ramping up.

November: Consideration (and early shopping)

Consumers are starting to take their options more seriously, with more research and evaluation. They're also keeping their eyes peeled for great deals in the upcoming Cyber Five stage, where sales are what everyone is talking about. Now is the time to drive home value.

Cyber Five: Discount purchasing

This is the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. In a cost of living crisis, consumers will be ready to take advantage of great deals, but will be shopping around more than ever – so make sure your brand's offers are competitive.

With shrinking wallets comes a growing focus on value, special offers and longevity. Consumers will be less prone to spend on lavish gifts and impulse purchases and more focused on meeting core needs and investing in products that are good value and made to last. Heritage brands with a reputation for quality especially stand to benefit from this, but must invest in campaigns to remain top of mind: Mattel, with its blockbuster Barbie movie and associated marketing efforts, is a perfect example – one that looks set to pay off this Christmas.

December: Urgent purchasing

Now, the late birds are scrambling to get their worms. This is the time to appeal to the last-minute shoppers by focusing on clear descriptions, value propositions and promoting urgency by communicating shipping times and stock levels.

And remember: nobody is going to jump through hoops to buy your product. Every extra click, every extra dollar, and every extra question is an opportunity to lose the customer. Make sure your deals and promotions shine through, and that your offerings are accessible and available. For example, include as many buying options as possible, so the customer can be in and out with minimal friction.

Q5: Return and refresh

Most marketers overlook so-called "Q5", or the month or so after Christmas and Boxing Day, but it presents a huge opportunity for savvy brands. This is when you'll see things like returns and gift card use, but it's also an opportunity to appeal to New Year's Resolutions, offer clearance sales, and take advantage of reduced competition for advertising space.

The 6 strategies you need to capture consumer spend this festive season

Now that you know the five stages of shopping, let's look at six specific advertising strategies you can use during each stage.

1. Seeing is believing

Customers need to see your value to believe it. Put testimonials, user-generated content and reviews front and center to build trust and prove your offerings are the real deal. Social proof will help your customers feel more confident in making their purchase without fear of buyer's remorse. In this example, the ad uses first-person language and quotes to show a glowing peer review.

2. Early access

Snag customers early by offering exclusive deals ahead of your competition. You can start as soon as you're ready to launch your holiday campaigns. This allows you to support new or existing customers who are feeling financial pressure, while thanking early customers for their loyalty. This example shows an “always-on" sale to pique customer interest right off the bat.

3. Super social demand

Try to generate as much traction as you can through social selling and positioning yourself as the hot brand of the season. Whenever you can, place a special emphasis on customer demand, especially mentioning any sell-outs for the classic humble brag. Nobody can resist their curiosity about a product that was so popular it sold out.

4. Don't leave out the most cost-conscious shoppers

Some shoppers will only be paying attention to their essentials this year, so be sure to include them in your campaigns. Position your offerings as a necessity and focus on the long-term benefits, which allows you to drive home their value for the cost. This example positions the smart ring as an item that's so valuable it just might become a family heirloom.

5. Deeper than ever discounts

It's all about the deals. Stay competitive by slashing prices and promoting your benefits. In your creative, make sure to mention other perks and conveniences like a fast shopping experience, simplified checkout process, and extra choices for payment and shipping. This example teases a never-before-seen sale, as well as the simplicity of making the purchase.

6. Dig into digits

Consumers respond to numbers, so use them. Some examples include: numerical ratings (five stars), numbered lists (10 best gifts), percentages (25% off), statistics (four out of five people), storytelling (sold out five times), availability (only three left), and promos (buy one get one free).

Get the playbook for scroll-stopping creative

Taboola has put together a 2023 Holiday Creative Playbook for advertisers looking to maximize their holiday season. It's brimming with advertiser performance statistics and actionable tips to make sure your creative catches and keeps attention and brings home that Christmas turkey.

Here are some things you'll find:

  • Specific tips for applying the six creative strategies throughout the five timeline stages, like ad title and image suggestion
  • Industry-specific creative tips, including beauty, tech, health, fashion, home and garden, food and beverage, travel, automotive, and finance
  • Examples of successful holiday campaigns
  • Q4 2023 predictions about what you can expect and where you can focus your efforts

Grab your copy of the 2023 Holiday Creative Playbook here, and jingle all the way to your Q4 goals (we couldn't resist).

Christmas Holiday Advertising Festive Season


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