After a turbulent 2016, the latest round of Christmas adverts, in all their sentimental festive glory, provided some much-needed respite.
In an attempt to settle the fierce debate over which one was the best, research firm Kantar Millward Brown tested this year’s most talked-about ads with audiences who scored them on a host of factors to measure their impact.
After crunching the data, Kantar found Lidl’s Christmas turkey advert was the people’s favourite, a result which may surprise some, while M&S's ‘Love Mrs Claus’ ad scored highest on novelty, emotional impact and relevance. John Lewis, traditionally a strong performer with its festive television offerings slipped down the list to third.
Lidl’s Christmas Turkey – which features a sceptical social media commentator spending a day with a Lidl turkey farmer – achieved the highest score in 9 of the 12 areas, making it the all-round strongest performer. Consumers found it highly involving, and felt it was the most relevant, believable, well-branded, different and informative ad. Most importantly, it scored top in ‘persuasion’ – making it the ad most likely to motivate viewers to buy from the brand.
Jane Bloomfield Head of UK marketing at Kantar Millward Brown said: “Lidl’s ad makes an impact by communicating a very single-minded, relevant and compelling story with no bells and jingles. It successfully challenges perceptions about product quality, and makes us feel good about choosing Lidl for our Christmas shop, which sets it up well to repeat the sales increases it reported last year. This ad is definitely no turkey!”
Lidl’s ad ditched the “perfect” Christmas scene for a refreshingly real, down-to-earth feel. Psychotherapist Diana Parkinson said in the typical Christmas ad “Everyone looks really attractive, smiling, laughing and having a great time together, exchanging perfect gifts… even when the reality for many may be very different.” Lidl’s authenticity clearly struck a chord with people this year.
Boots improved on its 2015 performance with The Gift of Beauty – a more relevant ad that stood out from the crowd and is second only to Lidl in terms of persuasion, Kantar found. The retailer connects strongly with customers by using real people, and a niche and important group amongst them, to communicate a different message in a different way.
In the 60-second film real paramedics, nurses and firefighters finish their Christmas shifts and walk into a huge room that has been set up with dressing tables where make-up artists, hairdressers and stylists are waiting to pamper them.
Once they’ve been made up and pampered, they strut onto a dance floor to surprise their family and friends.
3. John Lewis
Viewers found John Lewis’s Buster the Boxer the most “enjoyable” ad, as well as the third most persuasive. It generated high levels of love for the brand, and gave the impression that John Lewis is trend-setting and different from other brands, Kantar said.
Facial coding – which analyses people’s expressions as they watch – showed a very strong positive emotional response, meaning Buster could develop long-term loyalty for John Lewis.
4. Marks & Spencer
M&S’ brought in the big guns for its latest Xmas offering, with director Tom Hooper who also sat in the chair for The King’s Speech, and Janet McTeer best known for her role Tumbleweeds and this year's Hollywood production Me Before You.
The two-minute clip tells the story of Jake, a young boy who’s spent the last year quarrelling with his sister Anna. Mrs Claus, who helps Santa with "last minute requests" is clearly the contemporary counterpart of her husband. She sends her husband off his sleigh before tracking Jake through an electronic map and is seen flying from Lapland across London in her helicopter, named R-DOLF, in a stylish red outfit.
Kantar’s research said the ad reinforced people’s positive perceptions about M&S using drama and excitement, but didn’t necessarily tell viewers anything new. It also had a much stronger impact on social media, increasing its mentions from under 2,000 in 2015 to almost 20,000 in 2016.
Kevin the Carrot became the unlikely star of a retelling of The Night Before Christmas. The tiny vegetable joined santa on his sleigh. Kevin goes on a quest to meet Santa as he comes down the chimney. He battles over a huge spread laid out on the table to complete his quest before resting his head on a mince pie.
Amazon’s ad pushed a message of inter-faith friendship at a divisive time in the UK and the US. Starring an imam and a vicar, Amazon said the central theme was "selflessness and thinking of other people". The advertisement tells a story of a Christian vicar and a Muslim imam who are lifelong friends but who aren’t as sprightly as they were in their youth.
One day the vicar has a moment of inspiration and decides to do something to make the imam’s life and work a little easier. What the vicar doesn’t know, is that the imam also has the same idea for the vicar.
Kantar said it performed well across the board, with viewers finding it inventive and involving.
Morrison's tugged at our heartstrings with the story of a determined young boy revising for an anticipated game of Trivial Pursuit with his Grandad on Christmas Day. The 40-second ad shows Morrisons staff throughout the store helping the boy revise questions ahead of the real game.
Argos went all-out with a bizarre ad featuring brightly-coloured ice-skating yetis. Kantar said it was “visually arresting and memorable”. Others simply said it was weird. Christmas Yetis was the second most involving ad, according to the research, and stood out by focusing on one clear message about same day delivery.
Online retail giant Very’s seasonal promotion was a heart-warming clip based around the theme "get more out of giving". It encouraged generosity, depicting a computer-generated woman heading home overloaded with presents. She hands out the gifts to random passers-by before being rewarded with her own present.
The popular Waitrose advert, Coming Home, followed a CGI robin as robin flying across mountains and seas to come to the UK where a young girl has left out a mince pie.
Waitrose marketing director Rupert Thomas said: "Sharing the best possible food and drink with family and friends is one of the great joys of the festive period and we hope that the determination of our robin resonates with viewers as they follow his journey back to where he belongs."