Jumping dogs… ice-skating yetis… even adventurous little carrots… whoever the stars, Christmas ads are a highly anticipated (and big budget) fixture of the festive period.
We know what makes Modal Britain tick, so we’re going to take a look at our favourite festive campaigns from 2016 – the ones that best represented and targeted the modern mass market, tapping into the 3 characteristics that set this audience apart: beliefs, betterment and belonging.
Our Top 3
Tesco Ireland – Here’s to the Hosts
Over on the Emerald Isle, Tesco focused on the unsung heroes of Christmas – the hosts – from grandparents and mums to the chef at a local rugby club. TV spots featured real people reading out a letter of thanks to their very own special host, often resulting in an emotional tear-jerker.
In one skit, a woman announced her pregnancy by telling her mum that she wouldn’t be able to eat her famous sherry trifle this year – and like many of the ads, the host in question will have had no idea that their loved ones were involved until the ads were shown on TV. A final set of ads released from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day saw recipients reading and reacting to the letters.
The campaign also included an interactive digital billboard in Dublin city centre, powered by the wider public through social media. Tesco stores even handed over their loudspeakers for shoppers to spontaneously thank their special hosts.
We love how this campaign used traditional channels in unconventional and unexpected ways, giving real people a platform to voice their thoughts & opinions. It tapped into a powerful sense of belonging, which our research shows is a key trait in emotionally appealing to our Modal Britain audience over here in the UK. No matter how people celebrate on the big day, it’s always with loved ones and that’s ultimately what matters most.
Co-op – Reverse Advent
We love this Christmas initiative from the Co-op. As it continues to go back to its roots of being the brand at the heart of local communities (seen in their ads here), their Reverse Advent campaign encouraged people to give something back. 650 cardboard boxes were sent out to employees and Co-op members, who would then place an item (such as non-perishable food or clothing) in to the box every day. When the box was full, they donated it to someone in need in their local area – whether that was a homeless person, food bank or animal shelter.
It’s great to see the Co-op walking the walk as well as talking the talk when it comes to making a difference in local communities. They’re making it easy for Modal Britain (and staff – a nice touch to show what the Co-op is made of and that it’s not a faceless brand) to tap in to their inherent belief in doing something good for those in need and that making a small gesture can make a huge difference to someone else.
Amazon – Vicar and Imam
In a year that saw audiences divided (Leave or Remain? Trump or Hillary? Ed Balls or Honey G?), Amazon hoped to facilitate positive connections in their seasonal offering. The ad saw a vicar and an imam meet for a cuppa (surely the one thing that really can unite us all?), joking about the pain they feel in their knees, as they both must regularly kneel to pray. As they part ways, both think of the perfect present for the other – a set of kneepads – ordered and delivered the next day by Amazon Prime, of course.
It can be tricky for a behemoth of a brand to come across as genuinely human, creating true emotion instead of a false sense of goodness (or worse – coming across as saccharine sweet). However, it’s the story of how the ad was created that shows the length the online giant went to, to ensure that it was as authentic and meaningful as possible. The stars are ‘real people’, not actors – the vicar is Rev Gary Gradley from North-West London and the imam is Zubeir Hassam, principal of the Muslim School Oadby in Leicester. The film makers even took advice from the Church of England and the Muslim Council of Great Britain on the inter-faith storyline to ensure that it was handled sensitively.
Modal Britain have been brought up with strong inherited values, a set of beliefs by which they live their life, and this ad speaks directly to their guiding principle of a sense of fairness for all. Overall, this ad was a true breath of fresh air, offering a positive moment that moved away from a ‘Broken Britain’, looking towards a more unified 2017.
Burger King - Whopper Exchange
Because Christmas isn’t always as perfect as the songs make out to be, the fast food chain offered customers a chance to trade in their unwanted presents (read: scratchy, over-sized jumper from Aunt Mabel) in return for a juicy Whopper burger. A comical take on a Christmas morning moment we’ve all experienced (keeping a smile on your face whilst feeling pretty disappointed/confused/insulted), ultimately driving customers in to store. Turning a negative into a positive? That plays well to Modal Britain’s idea of betterment, of making the very best out of any situation.
John Lewis and LEGO building company Bright Bricks
To mark the 10th anniversary of John Lewis’ Christmas ads (obviously now the ultimate cornerstone of Christmas ad campaigns – sorry Coca Cola), the retailer teamed up with the official LEGO building company Bright Bricks to recreate 5 of the ads all in glorious plastic. The models went on display in the toy department of the Oxford Street John Lewis - a little bit of retail theatre that brings to life the iconic campaigns in a whole new way. Such stunts only work because of the modern mass market’s shared cultural sensibilities, in which John Lewis’ Christmas campaigns belong to Modal Britain’s shared sense of what makes Christmas, Christmas in 21st Century Britain. Not too much pressure for next year then John Lewis!
WWF – Tiger in Suburbia
Whilst John Lewis may have moved away from a tear-jerking ad in 2016, WWF decided to go straight for the heart strings. A family wakes one morning to find an injured tiger in their home & they work together to nurse him back to health, including washing and dressing his wounded paw, reading to him and even giving him an adorable, homemade get well soon card. Viewers were then encouraged to become ‘tiger protectors’ themselves by donating £5 a month & children could receive a personalised storybook. The ad was a literal interpretation of tigers needing help from humans, as WWF reported that wild tiger numbers have dropped by more than 95% in the last 100 years. It was a poignant campaign backed up by a powerful insight, inspiring audiences to spend their money a little differently and much more effectively over Christmas, appealing to Modal Britain’s belief in doing good.
Our Christmas Turkey
House of Fraser - Christmas Is Coming For You
We’re sorry House of Fraser, but the menacing music, spooky sets and ominous ‘Christmas Is Coming For You’ line was all just a bit too sinister for us.