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The most popular 2020 Christmas ads among UK shoppers

By Florence Staples | Research executive



The Drum Network article

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December 9, 2020 | 7 min read

The countdown to Christmas is on. Festive ads are flooding our TV screens as they do every year, but this year has been a year unlike any other. The challenge for the advertising industry to find the right tone with the public is bigger than ever before – which advert will come out top of the tree? After 8,000 interviews with shoppers using key metrics from Opinium’s advertising optimisation tool AdVantage, the Opinium Brand and Comms team can reveal the adverts which have performed best.

ad tracker

Opinion Christmas ad tracker

Opinium Christmas

Coca-Cola classic steals the show

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Coming in at number one is the nostalgic ‘Holidays are Coming’ from Coca-Cola. Although the first version of this ad aired way back in 1995, it seems as if its effectiveness has lasted the test of time. The enjoyment and attention for this ad was unmatched and it’s no surprise. After the year we’ve had, what the audience is looking for is some comforting normality, that coupled with a warming glow of happiness that this advert brings is what has placed it at the top of this year’s tree.

Coca-Cola Christmas

What would Christmas adverts be without their music? As well as being the best advert overall, ‘Holidays are Coming’ had the advantage of using a familiar tune, which landed them the accolade of Best Music this year. Repeating the ad year on year made it instantly recognisable and helped link the ad to the brand, signalling the countdown to Christmas and filling us all with excitement.

DFS cashes in on iconic duo that never fails to entertain

The loveable Wallace and Gromit return to DFS advertising with their ‘Cosy Carol’ earning highest enjoyment and second place overall. The use of such well-known fictional characters acts in the same nostalgic way as the repeated Coca-Cola ad, with the familiarity surrounding them reminding us of holidays of past and giving us an escape from the present. After the entertainment of the singing sheep, the final cosy living room scene shows the characters settling down in the warmth alongside a family on DFS sofas, which hits the nail on the head in terms of brand linkage.

Wallace & Gromit

The magic of simplicity and getting the tone right

Surprisingly, it is Papa John’s that sneaks in at third place, unexpectedly stripping back all the glitz and glamour of the usual festive ads to focus on what really matters this Christmas. The company’s ‘Giving More This Christmas’ campaign uses empty pizza boxes (more relatable this year than ever), to outline its donation to Crisis and The Trussell Trust in place of money spent on a more extravagant advert. Its distinction from other ads and understanding of the current situation are what gives this advert its well-deserved response. The straightforward message gets the tone just right, which is reflected in the high understanding scores.

Papa Johns Christmas

The nationwide shift towards supporting small businesses as we shop this Christmas is perfectly captured by the ‘The Magic of Small Things’ from Not On The High Street which has delivered a highly relevant ad and succeeded in being this year’s most motivating execution. Showcasing gifts from small businesses available on the site, the ad reflects the happiness we can find in the small things in life and supporting the hardest-hit businesses this year.

Not on the High Street

Unexpected comic relief from TK Maxx

Most British shoppers have told us that they were looking for Christmas ads to be lighthearted this year to bring a sense of Christmas normality to our screens. Coming in at number one as the Funniest ad this year is the stylish goat from TK Maxx with its ‘Lil’ Goat’ ad – a sweet yet unexpected escape from the Coronavirus-reality. Amongst the sea of Zoom call ads, this little goat strutting across an icy field in its gifted designer outfit stands out as different from other ads, despite the classic message that everyone ‘deserves’ a treat this Christmas. While the ad is simple, it is entirely unexpected, thus grabbing the attention of all.

TK Maxx

A familiar tug at the heartstrings

McDonald’s has captured our hearts this year, releasing an ad that showcases a familiar relationship between a mother and her ‘all grown up’ son who struggles to set his inner child free at Christmas. McDonald’s brings home the familiar Christmas emotions of children growing up too quickly, the struggle to return to the childlike joy of Christmas and the need to reconnect with those closest to us in a way that is attention-grabbing without needing to resort to an explicitly Covid-related story.

McDonalds Christmas

An unsurprising pick for this year’s most viral ad

As the one that everyone was waiting for, it may come as no surprise that John Lewis & Waitrose comes in as the most viral advert this year. The ‘Give a Little Love’ theme intended to represent the acts of kindness from people coming together this year is reflected in their top scores for relevance. With its reputation as the King of Christmas, the John Lewis & Waitrose ad received the highest endorsements for virality and shareability, becoming the ad that is the most likely to nudge people to share, like, comment or send it to a friend.

John Lewis & Waitrose

Who got it right?

The battle of the ads was on more than ever for Christmas 2020, in a challenge to get the tone just right. In a year that has turned most of our lives upside down, those brands who opted for comforting normality and familiarity ended up on top. This familiar Christmas nostalgia provided a welcome escape from reality, capturing our TV screens like a friendly Ghost of Christmas Past.

Have a great Christmas.

Florence Staples, research executive at Opinium.

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