Christmas ads – love ’em or hate ‘em, they’re a PR triumph

For the Bah Humbugs amongst you the last week must have been difficult, as every major retailer – from John Lewis to Asda, Marks and Spencer to Tesco – launched their Christmas TV ads. There is no escaping them.


Over the last few years the Christmas ads have become big news, with excitement and anticipation building ahead of their launch dates, much discussion over the content when they land and extensive coverage in the national media and marketing press.


But when and why did Christmas ads become such a big deal? The simple answer is when they turned into huge PR campaigns.


John Lewis launched their first significant Christmas TV ad in 2007, spending £6m and using Prokofiev’s Morning Serenade from Romeo and Juliet as the soundtrack. The ad itself, and the money spent on it, became a huge talking point – and spawned an annual battle to be top of the ads.
Now they are no longer simply Christmas ads. Months of planning goes into them. There are A-list stars; adverts to advertise the adverts; merchandising and full blown PR campaigns to whip up excitement. The soundtracks are often released into the charts; you can buy the characters and soft toys instore – the list goes on. And then the media dissect each one, carry out polls and report what the public feels about them all. Seriously it’s a PR dream, well, if you get it right.


For many of us, the fun is seeing the ones that don’t quite work… admittedly because none of our clients release Christmas adverts.


This year Tesco has been criticised for being too PC by showing a Muslim family apparently celebrating a Christian festival; M&S had to issue a statement confirming that the burglar dressed as Santa in its advert does in fact say ‘Thank you, little bear’ to Paddington and not an altogether more sweary way of telling him to remove himself and Greggs had to apologise for causing offence by substituting Baby Jesus for a sausage roll in its advert.


If you’re in two minds about the hits and misses for 2017 The Metro has produced a very handy rundown of the 20 for this year – judge for yourself.


Sarah Giangregorio

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