King Of The #ChristmasAds

December 14, 2018

It’s that time of year when the retail sector battles it out across TV and social media, to be crowned king of the Christmas adverts.  With multi-million pound budgets and increasing pressure on high street square footage, retailers need to make their advertising spend count and see a corresponding sales uplift, whether that’s footfall or ecommerce purchases.


The stakes are high and competition to become the Christmas advert of the season increases each year.   Whether it’s the storyline, choice of music or the stars of the adverts themselves, friends, family and colleagues are likely to have some sort of opinion.


At Impact, we decided to conduct some social listening to find out what the online buzz is this year and if the retailers look likely to claim victory or defeat.





It might seem strange to start with a campaign that never made it to our TV screens, but Iceland’s advert #NoPalmOilChristmas, banned by the industry body responsible for vetting TV ads Clearcast, has dominated online conversations this year, generating significantly higher use of the hashtag than all the other supermarkets put together.

With well over 5.5 million views on YouTube, trumping all other supermarket YouTube Christmas campaign views, the ban has not stopped consumers watching it.  Tugging on the heart strings of consumers and sending an environmental and political message, Iceland has hit the sweet spot.  The furore that kicked off after the ban was announced has  helped the message reach further, with the majority of mentions online focusing on the petition to have the advert aired on TV (instigated by campaigner @_mark_topps).



The public backing from charities Greenpeace and Change for the campaign is also likely to have helped increase the number of impressions.


Whether this campaign has helped Iceland increase sales or improve perceptions of the brand is yet to be seen, but their CSR department has definitely worked wonders to deliver a message that strikes a chord with consumers.





Another retailer enjoying the fruits of controversy this year is Aldi, who whilst continuing to update consumers on the adventures of Kevin the Carrot, has been accused of ripping off the Coca Cola ‘Holidays are coming’ advert – with over 1.5 million views on YouTube.



Along with Aldi, Sainsburys and Tesco have had to up their game in recent years.  This season Sainsbury’s leads the way with its portrayal of a school Christmas show.  The advert cleverly combines emotion with humour, balancing the nervous glances between a mother in the audience and her young daughter on the stage with the humour of ‘plug boy’ jumping into a socket to reveal the Christmas vignette. 



Social media buzz concludes , ‘plug boy’ is really the star of the advert, with online conversations polarising those with health and safety concerns with those who express sheer disbelief at this point of view and who enjoy a good belly laugh.
































It is likely to be for this reason that Sainsbury’s is the 2nd most watched individual supermarket Christmas advert this year on YouTube:

*Based on a sum of views of all Christmas adverts created by  retailer (Lidl has 6 Christmas ads and Aldi has 8 Christmas ads)




John Lewis has always been considered a benchmark when it comes to Christmas adverts, with classic campaigns including Monty The Penguin, The Bear and The Hare, and Man on the Moon. This year their contribution is The Boy & The Piano, an emotional account of how one present to Elton John as a young child led to him to being the star he is today.


In the week of its launch, there were almost 39,000 mentions of #EltonJohnLewis, just short of the 44,000  #NoPalmOilChristmas mentions achieved by Iceland in their launch week.  Ironically the volume of #EltonJohnLewis mentions was driven by Lidl who spotted an opportunity and cleverly posted their own humorous tweet, taking advantage of the popularity of the hashtag and gaining their own online buzz:


With a reported £7M price tag (£5M reportedly going to Mr John), has John Lewis over stretched its ambitions this year?




Brands want and need to stand out, especially now that every move they make can be analysed and amplified by social exchanges. A storyline that provokes controversy yet connects to the audience emotionally, whether through humour or sentiment seems a formula for success.


Sainsbury’s has done the seemingly impossible and appears to have ticked all the boxes. Ultimately though, it will be the sales results published next year that will reveal who has been crowned King of the Christmas advert 2018.


To find out more about social listening or how to optimise your campaign performance, get in touch with Tom at or call on +44 (0)1932 226 793.


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