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Marketing Ecommerce Christmas

Cadbury, Coke and National Lottery reruns prove you don't need new Christmas ads


By Andrew Tindall | Global Director

November 22, 2023 | 8 min read

System1’s Andrew Tindall returns a week after de-Turkey-ifying Amazon’s ‘Joyride’ with another hot take - what if you don’t even need to make a new Christmas ad? Sheer blasphemy.

Christmas reruns are working with audiences

Marketers are obsessed with knowing the best Christmas ad of the year. I know, I’m one of the obsessives. Some even care about the opinion ‘Top 10 lists’ hastily thrown together by creative directors. But, we should be far more concerned with working out what festive ads actual consumers loved last year... so we can rerun them and, in doing so, hit that sweet spot between efficiency and effectiveness.

So, with that preamble out the way, I’m now going to convince you that Cadbury and The National Lottery made modern-day marketing history this week. They’ve done something that most have assumed was reserved only for Coca-Cola. They’ve also done what world-class marketers need to do – bridge the gap between the very best marketing theory and real-world practice.

They have both rerun last year’s Christmas ad.

Shock. Horror. Applause.

The Theory

The only people who get bored of great ads are those who made them.

System1 has been going on, and on, about this for a while. With the IPA, we’ve shown that you can explain a large majority of market share changes by measuring the emotional reaction to advertising from a group of nationally representative consumers. We give ads a Star Rating that accurately predicts their commercial impact. In fact, just last month, I shared that the wizards at Whyte & Mackay had a 5-Star Woodsman Whisky ad featuring magical beavers. I assume they’re magical, as they helped double its off-trade market share.

Wearout is probably the most misused phrase in marketing; I’m convinced it means different things to different people. But hey – it sounds cool and means we can make ads annually. System1 test wear out in two ways. First, we looked at the Star Rating of 50,000 ads compared with how long ago they launched. If wearout was true, we’d see older ads performing worse. This doesn’t happen.

Testing from System1

We then retested 100 ads in four phases over two years, before and after covid 19. Despite the “extraordinary/unprecedented times,” ads performed similarly. We did notice two things.

Ads including sporting events wore out, and ads including brand characters (Fluent Devices) improved with time.


The Practice

It is all pretty groundbreaking stuff. Marketers have been loving it… while making new ads every year... apart from Coca-Cola.

The Coke Truck ‘Holidays Are Coming’ ad, up until this point, has been the one stand-out case study of wearout simply not existing. It’s actually worn IN to the point of becoming a holiday barometer. We call it the Coke Index.

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Each year, it scores 5-Stars. When people aren’t feeling the mince pies, and charades or watching their uncle drink too much (I’m the uncle), it scores a low 5. When moods are good, and we are ready to close off the year on a high, it scores a 5.9.

Coca Cola

I don’t want to do Scotland and Ireland an injustice, either. I wouldn’t dare. A similar phenomenon has occurred with Guinness’s holiday ad in Ireland. And the same with AG Bar’s genius rendition of ‘Iron Bru Snowman’ in Scotland. But my point is there’s just been one example in each market where a brand is so linked to the festive occasion that they can get away with this.

This is why Cadbury and The National Lottery just made modern-day marketing history. Cadbury started its gifting platform last year. A solid marketing idea that plays off reciprocity and social proof, and they extended into TV and OOH. It was 5-Stars last year, and it’s 5-Stars this year. We even saw ad brand linkage (Fluency) grow by 3% as the ads enjoyed some wear in.

The National Lottery provides another rare example as most would believe you could only run the same ad if it was “big idea” focussed and not telling a story. Everyone’s seen that story before; why would they care? Please try this exercise with me.

Repeat after me: “I’m not the consumer. I get bored of ads before they do. Their opinion matters. Mine does not.”

The National Lottery’s ad shows us that masterful craft and storytelling don’t wear thin. It attracts people’s broad-beam attention. It entertains for commercial gain. Most importantly, it’s effective. It scored 5-Stars again this year.

What does it all mean? Should the advertising industry shut up shop and stop making festive ads? No. This all should help convince marketers further of the power of creativity and paying creative teams to create work that lasts.

Maybe you create your own characters to tell different culturally fresh stories every year, like Aldi and M&S Food’s incredibly effective work. Or you find a creative team that manages to make a real piece of magic that runs for years. Either way, consistency is key. It will save you a few pounds while making you a few more.

Now you agree. Cadbury and The National Lottery have entered the annuls of modern marketing history. Connecting theory and practice. Efficiency and effectiveness. Like all great leaps, someone must go first. One small step for marketers, one giant leap for effectiveness.

Marketing Ecommerce Christmas

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