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13 Dec 2018

What Was the Best Christmas Ad of 2018?

Well, the Christmas ads are all out now. It’s been quite an interesting year. Let’s take a look at a few of them and their marketing messages and lessons.

John Lewis

Probably the reigning champs of the Christmas ad. Their ad is often the one people look out for. This year they haven’t strayed far from tradition, a well-known song and an emotional narrative. This time they’re taking us back through the life of Sir Elton John to show us the Christmas gift that changed his life.

Whether it’s true or not, is not really important. What is worthy of note is John Lewis didn’t sell pianos or really musical instruments of any sort. They did get a few digital pianos on their website after the internet (particularly Twitter) mocked them.

Have a look at the last few years as well; John Lewis doesn’t run a Christmas ad to sell anything in particular. They advertise for the emotion. The ad runs to sell you on the idea that John Lewis is the place to get something that’s more than just a gift.


This wasn’t Lidl’s main Christmas advert, but you’ve got to give them credit for this tweet; in the modern world, with house prices, Brexit, economy this and economy that, this is perfect.

The John Lewis ad spend came in “around $7 million”. This probably cost Lidl an hour or two’s wage, if that.

Although they’d both be difficult to measure, I’d imagine Lidl’s return on investment was much higher, too. They perfectly targeted the opposite market, choose the right message and got it in the right place.


Twitter UK

Even Twitter got in on the Christmas adverts this year. They did it by pulling in a Twitter legend, John Lewis: “Computer science educator, father of four, social liberal, atheist, and not a retail store.”

John Lewis (the man) gets some 50,000 tweets meant for John Lewis (the store) every year. That’s not the amazing thing though. What’s really remarkable is that he responded to most if not every tweet, and every response is filled with good cheer, grace, and wit. It seems like it gives him a great deal of joy.

The best parts of human interaction are often the things that happen by accident. Many of us long for the unexpected to brighten our day or change our lives. Twitter tapped into that feeling perfectly with their ad.

Love is a Gift

This last one isn’t a Christmas ad associated with any big brand. It was a short film made by Phil Beastall in 2014. He posted it on Facebook for the first time just after the John Lewis Christmas ad was released. It cost him about £50 to make. He got 6 million views. It definitely had much more emotional impact with me than the John Lewis ad did. I’d be surprised if Phil doesn’t get some work of the back of it.

In the Facebook post, he wrote:

“You don’t always need a huge budget, just an impactful narrative that gets the message across.”

He goes on to say that he thinks people don’t want to be sold to anymore, and that we have to sell indirectly.

It’s an interesting thought. If you read around a bit, it’s one that’s reflected elsewhere. Whether we’re becoming inoculated and overloaded by advertising or just a bit more savvy, traditional advertising seems to be getting less effective every year.

With that in mind, I think it’s interesting that John Lewis seemed to have upped the stakes this year. In previous years, they’ve always used a cover of a well-known song with employees or unknown actors playing out the narrative. This is a very cost effective way to combine all those elements.

This year is the first year they had the big-name artist performing the original song right there on the screen. It might just be a coincidence, but I wonder if they had another reason to do this?

Best Wishes …


Jacqui Frost

Jacqui Frost

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