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New analysis identifies top tips to supercharge your 2022 holiday ad campaigns

by Joseph Gualtiere

October 25, 2022

The holiday season seems to start earlier each year, and 2022 is no exception. According to one study, UK consumers begin their holiday shopping earlier than those in any other European country, or even the US. In fact, one survey published in August found that three in 10 shoppers had already begun their holiday shopping.

Now that buyers are battling supply chain issues and inflation, many are expected to hunt for deals, taking advantage of early Black Friday discounts, and getting their orders in before the holiday rush. According to YouGov, four in five Brits intend to do holiday shopping this year, but two-thirds say inflation will impact their experience.

So, even though most holiday campaigns have already been planned, how can advertisers optimize their ads and reach shoppers with timely and helpful messaging?

The Taboola Creative Shop, a global group of strategic experts specialized in helping advertisers craft high-performing campaigns, analyzed over 2,000 holiday ads that have run on the Taboola platform in the past four years, as well as current readership trends, to share data-backed insights to inform your 2022 holiday campaigns.

Past holiday campaigns reveal changes in consumer behavior

First, it's helpful to see which types of campaigns dominated the 2020 and 2021 holiday seasons. This way, you can understand which themes worked best in recent years — especially amid times of global unrest — and how holiday marketing trends might continue to evolve.

2020 holiday campaigns: An emphasis on education

In 2020, advertisers focused more on educating their audiences about how their products could help after a difficult and economically unpredictable year.

Covid-19 brought about the largest annual decline in retail sales volume on record for the UK, and shipping delays were a major concern for holiday shoppers. Successful marketers were sensitive to these concerns and addressed them head-on in their creatives.

2021 holiday campaigns: Products were the priority

By 2021, successful advertisers shifted to creating product-focused campaigns. Compared to 2020, they were more descriptive in their creative messaging — providing detailed product information, sharing promotions, pushing gifts, and amplifying what's new in the market.

This fits with Reuters' findings that UK shoppers started to increase their spending by October 2021 as the Covid-19 crisis receded.

Current readership trends highlight widespread financial stress

Heading into the 2022 holiday season, it's evident that the cost of living crisis is front-of-mind this year.

According to Taboola data, content about “cost of living" has generated over 51 million pageviews over a 90 day period, far surpassing other popular topics. For example, Kim Kardashian has received only 6 million pageviews over the same period.

Massive rises in the cost of energy have generated a 49% increase in pageviews to articles about energy bills, and popular money saving expert Martin Lewis has earned an increase of over 140% with his practical tips.

Despite this, the holiday season is on consumers' minds already. Interest in Black Friday has increased by over 1,000% over the past 90 days, and terms like presents (+77%) and Christmas (+293%) have also seen increases in readership.

As a result, we expect ads focused on savings and promotions to perform well in the 2022 holiday season.

6 creative themes to supercharge your holiday campaigns

Even if it's not the right time to go for the hard sell, you shouldn't fall back on vague or generic holiday messaging. There are still plenty of ways to supercharge your scheduled campaigns and build compelling and effective ads for the season.

The Taboola Creative Shop’s research pinpointed six creative themes used by successful holiday advertisers.

1. Testimonials and reviews

Build consumer trust by spotlighting ratings, testimonials, press reviews, and numerical data. According to Statista, 90% of UK shoppers checked online reviews before buying from a business.

2. Influential and noteworthy people

Feature newsworthy content, celebrities, influencers, and industry experts. This can help you build brand credibility and tap into engaged audiences.

3. Family and community

Highlight how your brand brings families and communities together for the holidays. Show consumers how you can keep them connected to those who matter most.

4. Promotions and value

Amplify your deals and offers early in the season, and share how you can provide long-term value. According to YouGov, 80% of concerned UK holiday shoppers will be buying products that are discounted or on sale.

5. Gifting and product benefits

Promote your top products as potential holiday gifts, and showcase the practical benefits of their unique or original features.

6. Availability, shopping, and ways to buy

Alleviate customer concerns and make shopping less stressful with flexible buying and shipping options. As YouGov reported, over half of concerned UK holiday shoppers say free returns and free delivery are important for them this season.

Your holiday marketing timeline for full-funnel results

Timing is everything — especially during the holidays. Even though consumers might start shopping in October, you shouldn't just recycle the same messaging until January and hope it drives conversions. Instead, it's important to plan,schedule, and update specific campaigns for each month and stage of the buyer journey.

To start, here's a quick overview of how high-converting holiday messaging has been spread out in the past, according to the past 4 years of Taboola performance data:

  • October: Holiday campaigns kicked off early with informative content that usually included reviews and testimonials
  • November: Audiences resonated with family and community themes, followed by gifting promotions and offer
  • December: Marketers doubled down on more direct messaging about product benefits, differentiators, and urgent purchasing.

Heading into 2022, the holiday creative timeline is more nuanced — helping you hone in on specific shopping opportunities and customer behaviors.

Based on The Creative Shop’s analysis, here's a breakdown of our suggested timeline for 2022 holiday campaigns.

Discovery: October 1st to 31st

Use this time to reach shoppers at the beginning of the buyer journey. Educate audiences with customer testimonials, influencer reviews, and calls to action (CTAs) like “learn more" and “sign up."

Consideration: November 1st to 25th

After Halloween ends, start sharing relevant gift ideas until Thanksgiving. Also, use your creatives to highlight family or community, and launch personalized gift guides for loved ones.

Purchase: Black Friday to Cyber Monday

Take advantage of “Cyber Five" — the days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday — when customers flock to e-commerce sites for sales and deals. At this time, scale up on special promotions and discounts, use product-first visuals, and incorporate CTAs like “get offer" or “book now."

Urgency: December 1st to 25th

Make a final push to reach those last-minute shoppers with bold, helpful, and straightforward messaging. Tell them why your product is unique, why it can make a great gift, how you can make their lives easier with convenient shipping options, ways to buy and pay, and updates on availability online.

Refresh: December 26th to January 15th

The season isn't over once the Christmas presents are unwrapped. Even after the holiday frenzy dies down, marketers can still promote clearance specials and retarget shoppers with more helpful recommendations. That's why we call this period of time “Q5."

This period serves as a time for advertisers to promote their best and new products, and should consider communicating “best of 2022” or “what’s new for 2023” messaging.

So before you dive into your 2023 strategy, use these few weeks to recap your best-selling products, clean out your inventory, and tease what to look out for in the new year.

Build data-backed holiday campaigns that match the moment

Yes, UK shoppers are worried about inflation heading into the 2022 holiday season. But that doesn't mean brands have to pull back on their marketing entirely. On the contrary, brands that take a data-driven approach to continuing to advertise and consistently update their campaigns using creative best practices will be the winners – both long-term, and this holiday season.

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