2018 Christmas ads : Who did the best?

There’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit (for Marketers) than debating the best and worst Christmas ads. This year we highlighted Christmas ads from eight big brands: John Lewis, Waitrose, Argos, Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Visa, McDonald’s, and KFC. So which brands managed to make us laugh, cry, cringe, switch over!?

Let’s hear it from our expert judges, David, Jay, Heather and Sissi.

8. Waitrose & Partners: Too Good to Wait

On 8th place (and last on our list) is Waitrose & Partners “Too good to wait” Christmas ad.

Jay:  I’m a sucker for emotion and I think Christmas is a good family time full of memories so for me, this wasn’t a good ad.  I didn’t really find it funny other than skipping over the John Lewis ad - the hype surrounding a JL ad gets a bit boring after a while.

What are your thoughts on utilising humour (instead of emotion) in these types of ads? I’m personally not a fan, as explained above, Christmas to me means family, love, memories, warmth.  You don’t really get that in a humorous ad.

David: Cheeky and humorous but also a little lazy. It’s funny for a moment but nothing that will stick with you

Heather: It definitely surprised me the first time I saw it and made me laugh. I like that they’re taking the mick out of a partner brand. Gives a bit of personality to the brand which is nice.

What are your thoughts on utilising humour (instead of emotion) in these types of ads? I think it mixes it up a little. So many Christmas ads, especially from the John Lewis Partnership are about making people feel teary that it’s nice to be humorous too.

Sissi: I did not see that coming! Using humour instead of emotion does make the ad stand out form the others!

7. KFC: Christmas Advert 2018

Jay: Im not sure how I feel about KFC doing a Christmas advert using a chicken they will kill to feed LOL! It just seemed all wrong. Even the messaging is funny, but kinda sick!

David: Very well executed.  Humour and story interlink very well here to build anticipation in what looks like a Tarantino style production. 

Heather: First time I had seen this one too. I think it’s quite funny and clever marketing for KFC but it does make me feel a bit weird when they’re using the animals people are getting ready to eat!! I think I’m going to become a veggie, poor Turkey & Chicken!

Sissi: Quite a brave move from KFC, while the idea is creative and well-executed, I’m wondering if it will put some people off from eating poultry…

6. Argos: The Christmas fool

Jay: I thought it went on a little, probably could do with being shorter and getting the message out quicker.  Its a commercial ad with a point of sale - the first ad in the list to be pushing out a service feature, its less about Christmas and the connotations of giving during Christmas.  Long and too salesy for me. Decent Hashtag, getting the message of their service out there. I can see it doing well.  I don’t agree with banning an advert for being too political, its an expression and opinion piece that the viewer has an option to agree or disagree with.

David:  Bit of an unclear message from Argos - until you hit the punchline at the end…which isn’t that strong. Good animation though.

Thoughts on the hashtag: Sounds like a working title when developing a campaign - doesn’t really stand out - who’s going to use it?

Heather: his was the first time I’d seen the ad. I like it. It’s a whole new Christmas story and will appeal to their core customer - families!

Any thoughts on the hashtag :  It ties in with the story and makes sense to the consumer but nothing groundbreaking and I don’t think it’s going to be something that people will be tapping into massively.

Sissi: I really liked this ad! I I thought it was wonderful to embrace the “imperfections” or how some things tend to go wrong during the holiday preparations, but how in the end everything always turns out okay! Important message to all of us who tend to stress a little too much before Christmas…

5. McDonalds: #ReindeerReady

Jay:  I was half expecting Santa to buy a few ‘Cheeky Cheeseburgers’ for the reindeers but glad it was carrots! I liked the ad, on point with Christmas, and not promoting products, good message and shame on those not leaving Reindeer food!

Do you think it was a brave move from McDonalds to feature carrots, instead of burgers or fries, in their Christmas ad? I have more respect for the fact it wasn’t salesy and more about the messaging.  I can only imagine if they fed a reindeer a product there would be a backlash - so probably the correct move.

David: Relevant and story based. Safe and a little flat though. Good idea and nice contextual advertising of the fact they are switching to healthier menu choices.

Heather: It reminds me of Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) so it’s got a nostalgic feel for me but it’s totally random for McDonalds and I love that they’re trying to pretend people buy carrots from there but it definitely has a good Christmas story to it even if it is a little off brand. I feel really sorry for the reindeer as well so it got me there!  …it’s a bit off brand for them and doesn’t really resonate with McDonalds… they’re not known for their carrots!

Sissi: I thought the reindeer was adorable, so definitely extra points for that. Think it was quite brave for McDonalds to advertise carrots, but I guess they’re just finding a way to fit their offering with the season… happy it wasn’t a cheeseburger they were trying to feed to the reindeer.

4. Iceland: Say Hello to Rang-tan

Jay: Again, being a sucker for emotive videos, I loved this although its more a message and less about Christmas.  They are delivering the message that they do not stock palm oil products on their shelf, whats that got to do with Christmas?  JL added giving a present element for their message, this lacks a Christmas feel.  No snow, ice, Santa or snowman in the animation.

David: A ‘cause’ based campaign is always positive, but this could have been run at any time. Nice animation - but unrelated to Christmas. Disagree with banning this ad, but the release should have been framed differently.

Heather: To me it’s not a Christmas ad but I love the campaign and it’s really unexpected from Iceland. It could be used at any point in the year but I think it’s really important at this year to remind people of the bigger picture and that there’s more important things in life than just Christmas shopping / dinner. It’s a really hard hitting message and I think the fact it’s been banned by ASA has amplified the message even more.

Any thoughts on animated Christmas ads? I think they’re great and if they’re done well they’ll stick around for years. Animations at Christmas time are nostalgic for me so it’s a big part of why I like them.

This ad was banned for being too political, do you think this decision was justified? It’s a very strong statement and very honest. I don’t think it should have been banned but I’m a total animal activist and fully support their campaign so I could be biased.

Sissi: I didn’t find this ad that Christmassy, which bothered me a bit. However, the message resonates with me quite strongly and I’m always happy to see big companies taking a stance on environmental issues, so YAY for that!

3. Visa: #KeepItLocalThisChristmas

Jay: Good Advert, with an important message.  Its always easy in this day and age to shop amazon or hit a big supermarket for food, but these small retailers work tirelessly to provide to the community.

David: Classic Christmas tune to set the scene - you know what you’re about to be served up from the very first second.  A very human and relatable (British) ad. Supporting your local hughstreet is a big deal in the UK - this hits the nail on the head with emphasising that message around a time of year where big corporate suppliers are the typical go to.

Heather: Very Christmassy, very British and I didn’t think it was going to be a Visa ad. The singing does make me cringe though so I always end up turning it off.

What are your thoughts on this type of cause marketing efforts? I think it’s completely relevant to do so at this time of year and I would say they’re effective to an extent but there’s always a risk that there’s so many social causes being looked at and thought about that it could be overwhelming.

Sissi: I thought this ad was adorable, and great that it is advocating for a cause!

2. Sainsbury’s: The Big Night

Jay: Fun advert, kids are always cute and everyone can always can associate with a Christmas play - either having kids and watching or being in them! The music ties into the messaging, smartly chosen.  Music is a key element in any video, if its emotive it should be slow, if its inspirational it should be uplifting. I think they [cause marketing] are effective, the message is clear and hard hitting.  Everyone is a person, and even the local retailers who work all year round to provide for communities should be where money is spent.

David: Sentimental and well produced.  Funny and great energy. Also seems like it was a live production with real kids - a surprise for the parents who gave a seemingly genuine reaction at the end.

How important is the selection of the right music? Critical. Tunes/jingles is the one thing you can recreate when remembering an ad. Well applied for this ad.

Heather: I really like the concept, resonates with a British Christmas with the school nativity. I think it’s funny and uplifting. Definitely tugs at your heart strings.

How important is the selection of the right music? Really important, for me the music is what pulls out the emotions in viewers. “You get what you give” has been stuck in my head since I’ve watched the ad and I absolutely love that it was directed by The Greatest Showman’s Michael Gracey so it gets my vote for that alone!

Sissi: I loved this add, the plug was my favourite! Watching this ad definitely got me in the Christmas spirit.

1. John Lewis & Partners: The Boy and The Piano

Jay: I liked the ad, I think it has a nice meaningful story and conveys the idea for me, of gifting with a thought.  It gives a present more meaning rather than just a conventional ‘lets just buy whatever’.  A nice timeline of Elton’s career highs and comes back to an emotional Christmas gifting him his first piano that he still has.

However : I think the Hashtag is poor.  I can only imagine Elton John cost them a fortune but having him in the hashtag isn’t going to get reach, yes its a Christmas ad related to his memories but I think a more generic one, that we could all relate to would be better.  the hashtag should focus on the messaging in my eyes and not the star or ‘partnership’ John Lewis are trying to bring out.

Had to rewatch all these to come to a top decision, but having reviewed a few times, this is a great ad and message.

David: Great extended use of the celebrity into the online channels. Best to milk the celeb name; I’m sure it cost enough to include! 

Heather: I LOVE this advert because I love Elton John and I think this is the best ad they’ve done in the past couple of years. The past 2 have been a bit lacking for me. I love the story and it’s really heartfelt and has a lovely meaning.

Any thoughts on the hashtag #EltonJohnLewis? A bit rubbish! No-one will really use it, it’s not relevant to Christmas and a bit unimaginative.

Sissi: This was a really beautiful well-made add, and I have to admit that I love this kind of “longer”cinematic ads that really tell a story.  I think it is a success, although I can imagine that it will be criticised for not being Christmassy enough?