I love them and other people loathe them, but Christmas ads aim to deliver joy, excitement, and heartfelt connection and, in retail, ultimately a connection which means the customer chooses THEM for their Christmas shopping. This year sees a very mixed bag of productions from incredible films connecting people, places and memories, while others are very focused on the tough economic times ahead and how they can help make a wonderful Christmas for everyone. As always we heard the sounds of the past to connect with our heart space and we see old friends return to tell their tale.This is a year of keep close with your family and friends and community to ensure everyone has some brightness.
There will be no Christmas advertising BOOM this year
2022 is somewhat different in the degree of extravagance in the advertising produced internationally, and especially out of Europe. The US typically don’t produce the incredible creative quality that we see out of Europe and in particular the big UK retailers and closer to home Australia and NZ are a mixed bag. Nonetheless, there are a few common factors at play regardless of which part of the world the ad comes from:
The clear first is that it is tough economic times in Europe. Inflation is at an all-time high, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine continues to have wider implications (and it’s looking to be a very cold winter) and consumer confidence is at an all-time low. The cost of living crisis means the “golden-quarter” – the period where retailers make the lion’s share of their annual profits and sales will be impacted – and advertising spend needs to be adjusted accordingly, perhaps keeping a war-chest for the coming year.
Another reason for the reduction in marketing spend in anticipating the tough economic headwinds are to keep prices down.
From an international perspective, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off in November – December having an impact on the cost of media in Europe, especially as other advertisers like sports brands and gambling businesses chew up the airwaves. The consequence is that many retailers have pulled back and reduced their spend.
Also in parts of the world, like Europe where the football mad reign supreme, retailers are also getting the jitters over associating themselves with the World Cup based on Qatar’s human rights record.
We are seeing reports from around the world that spend is likely to be the smallest for the festive seasons in almost a decade (excluding the pandemic).
As a result there are new styles of campaigns and appearances of new personalities, including the world’s first AI-created retail personality, Mira, who has her own Instagram account thanks to John Lewis (she is a bit spooky if I am honest – I am yet to warm to her).
Bretail is thriving in the Antipodes
In NZ and Australia we are seeing a combination of the bigger retailers doing a great combination of bretail – a mix of brand and retail. While those who are possibly already doing it tough have just slipped straight in the value/price focus. This is a tricky tightrope as some retailers are already managing a tight supply chain and want to optimise profitability whilst not being completely tone-deaf on the difficulty being faced by consumers currently.
Internationally we still see some glitzy, big name productions, especially from the luxury brands (no surprise) which are indulgent brand storytelling. They are full of whimsy, big name celebrities, influencers, soundtracks and directors. But the biggest surprise for me was our very own Taika Waititi directing this year’s Amazon Christmas commercial.
What’s the winning formula in 2022?
The winning formula in my books is a blend of connecting with memories and moments of the heart – those goose-bump, tear-jerking storytelling reminders of the joy that can be delivered by connecting and sharing. Coupled with a relevant blockbuster soundtrack that transports us somewhere, is the cherry on top, and if you can wrap in some kind of philanthropic, ‘give-back’ or sustainability message you have the golden ticket to create a connection with customers that will live beyond the festive season.
It needs to make you look up and stop. It’s intriguing for a bunch of reasons - clever, funny, reflective, curious or simply a slice of life - but what it does is evoke something that connects emotionally.
It tells a story without trying too hard. It weaves a connection that is relatable and that captures your heart and ultimately, your wallet.
This year I have taken a different approach and listed my top 15 ads of the 2022 season. I was only going to do 10 but there were just so many other good ones that needed to be recognised due to their poignant message, fun execution or inspiring storytelling.
TIE 15 | Aldi (GER) - Make it your party
Very Mary Poppins inspired with a lovely link back to some “truths” we have all experienced at Christmas…with Aldi coming to the rescue through the magic of the blue bag.
TIE 15 | Aldi (AUS) – You can’t overcook Christmas
This is crazy nutsy OTT, but it does remind me of many a Christmas I had in my youth in OZ. A lovely link back to product at the end.
14. Penny Supermarket (GER) – The rift
The ad addresses the divisions that are increasingly running through our society, and implores viewers to encourage an open dialogue with their neighbours. Hard hitting and quite the incredible production sending a critical message.
13. Publix (USA) – A recipe that matters
Publix’s “A recipe for what matters” probably appeals to me more than usual as I creep closer towards my kids leaving home (insert silent sobbing). This isn’t technically Christmas asit tells the story of a familywith a Thanksgiving focus. The commercial has been viewed more than 7.4 million times on YouTube since going live two weeks ago. I’ve taken the liberty to include it under the definition of a Christmas as it has all the hallmark qualities – and the timing is close enough.
12. McDonald’s (UK) – The List
This heart-warming Christmas wraps an important message for families and acts as a reminder that Christmas isn't all about the big, expensive, or flashy gifts. It’s about the little moments (funnily enough in Maccas). It also highlights it’s easy to get carried away but it’s the little things that mean the most. And the soundtrack gets me every single time.
The advert kickstarts McDonald’s #ReindeerReady campaign, which features The Alternative Christmas List at its core. Available through the McDonald’s UK app, ‘The Alternative Christmas List’ provides six unique opportunities to enhance the run-up to Christmas through togetherness with family and friends.
11. The National Lottery (UK) – A Christmas Love Story
Yes I am counting the lottery as retail because it is Christmas. This is brilliant. A couple meet, modern mayhem ensures and the little details win in the end.
10. Barbour (UK) – One of a kindness
Building on the success of last year's campaign, Barbour have continued the tale of Paddington while also introducing a sustainability spin - by promoting the brands’ sustainable “Re-loved” programme. This programme sees Barbour’s jackets repaired and given a new lease of life. This is all out festive and in typical Paddington style fun-filled tale, brimming with British charm, and Paddington’s good intentions
In addition, Barbour has launched a limited-edition Barbour x Paddington Re-Loved jacket with a unique lining taken from an image in this year’s ad. Every jacket is up-cycled, and one of a kind.
9. O2 (UK) – Snowgran
This is a super ad which perfectly wraps up what the reason for the season is all about. At the heart of the campaign is a disconnected ‘Snowgran’ who on her walk home is noticed by O2’s robot, Bubl, and a young girl named Billie. Observing her seclusion, they give Snowgran an O2 Christmas SIM Card which helps her to reconnect with her family and friends for the festive season.
O2, the UK’s largest mobile network, has combined this Christmas spirit with real action as it commits to gifting an additional one million GB of data to those in need this festive season.
8. Aldi (UK): Kevin the Carrot | Let’s do it + Home Alone
Yes again, Kevin the carrot makes a return, in homage to the Christmas classic Home Alone. Just like Macauley Culkin did years ago, Kevin spends the holidays setting traps for the intruders lurking outside his house.As the ad progresses and his family return from Paris, the true identity of the home intruder was made known. You can guess who it was. This is a lovely execution but you have to watch 2 commercials to actually get the full story (which I didn’t know at the time of viewing part 2 first). Part 1 has great relevance to the World Cup and a wonderful soundtrack. Love it.
7. New World (NZ) - Let’s make Xmas magic
This is the first time in history that a NZ Christmas campaign has made my top 10 list and well done New World. This is a fabulous production for all the right reasons and is a brilliant example of BRETAIL. I love this ad and it puts a smile on my face every time I watch it. The iconic Christmas track ‘Carol of the bells’ has been transformed thanks to a magical New World spin.
The commercial follows a family in their kitchen preparing their Christmas feast showcasing the range of quality food options New World provides while also delivering a much needed value message given the current economic climate. Exceptional performance of the talent and very proud that it was made right here in NZ.
6. Lidl (UK) – What matters
This ad is super cute and the standout for me is the main characters deadpan expression throughout the commercial. The story follows Lidl Bear, a cute teddy who acquires a new jumper featuring the Lidl’s branding across it, after the bear's owner's dad accidentally shrunk his jumper. Then the Lidl Bear becomes a superstar when people become obsessed with the cute toy. A life of showbiz awaits and the bar gets whisked away in celebrity culture and becomes wrapped up in tabloid scandals. But as always there is a tug to the heartstrings and the “things that matter” wins in the end and he returns home.
The balance of the campaign is interesting as Lidl has chosen not to sell the bear in store, instead choosing to donate to charities.
5. Tesco (UK) – The Christmas Party
This makes the top list because of the way Tesco has weaved a whole lot of topical and relevant situations in the UK and taken the absolute piss out of them. Tesco has declared itself The Christmas Party in reference to the political goings on and economic turbulence in the US and is going to be responsible for giving everyone the Christmas they deserve. Very laugh and smirk worthy.
4. Kauflands (CZECH) - The love of holidays knows no bounds
This ad is an epic. I’d love to have this ad brief fully translated for me but the fact that I don’t speak Czech and yet it touched my heart means something very special. Incredible cinematography, characters, relationships, music and outcome. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it and I’ve done that about 5 times already.
3. Michael Hill (AUS) –Make someone happy
I’m playing this while writing and the tears are just rolling. It touches my heart every time and the music and storytelling definitely has something to do with it. This is a continuation of the 2021 campaign about the love story between Archie and Alice. A story of enduring love at Christmas – who doesn’t relate to that. This is timeless. I also want to recognise Michael Hill’s chief marketing officer Jo Feeney who is responsible for the ad. She is both a friend, past team member, incredible individual and a kiwi. Jo was recently recognised within the top 50 CMO’s in Australia at number 15. Nice one Ms Josephine!
2. Asda (UK) :Have your Elf a Merry Christmas
Just to help some people feeler older, Will Ferrell’s Elf will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, but Will Ferrell’s character Buddy the Elf has returned in a commercial for the UK supermarket chain Asda.
This is super clever covering all aspects of what makes Asda brilliant for Christmas with scenes cut straight from the movie and inserted into the commercial. Iconic scenes from the 2003 film are set in an Asda store during a chaotic trial shift.
1. John Lewis (UK): The Beginner
John Lewis is always one of the most highly anticipated ads of the season. But with big anticipation comes big expectation. And they haven’t disappointed winning the SUPREME AWARD for 2022.
This is just so incredibly awesome. The John Lewis Christmas campaign is a story that unfolds very elegantly, about a dad learning to skateboard. He demonstrates his commitment, anxiousness, struggles and ultimate success. What transpires is he is learning so he can connect with a foster child when she arrives. The end of the ad noted that 108,000 children within the UK currently reside within the care system. Get the tissues, this is a stunner and so deserving of the first place. Note: the ad has been viewed nearly 3.2 million times on YouTube after just 12 days on the social media site.
Nothing comes even close!
Check out Part 2 which has some funny and outrageous Christmas ads and the big productions that were incredible or simply missed the mark – plus some homegrown commercials worthy of recognition.
RECAP – Top 15 List
John Lewis – The Beginner (UK)
Asda – Buddy the Elf (UK)
Michael Hill – Make someone happy (AUS)
Kauflands – The love of holidays knows no bounds (Czech)
Tesco – Joy Shortage (UK)
Lidl – What matters
New World – Let’s make Xmas magic
Aldi – Kevin the Carrot (UK)
O2 - Snowgran
Barbour – One of a kindness
The National Lottery (UK) – A Christmas Love Story
McDonald’s - #reindeerready (UK)
Publix – A recipe that matters (USA)
Penny Supermarkets (GER)
TIE: Aldi (GER) – Make it your party & Aldi (AUS) - You can’t overcook Christmas