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Expert Advice on Christmas Campaigns from People That Aren’t Us

by Danish Chan

3 min read

A Round-Up of All the Advice Smart People Tell Us About Christmas Advertising

Like chocolate, booze, and long lunches, it’s easy to overdo it this time of year.

And advice on Christmas advertising is no different. So, here are our top 5 pieces of advice from the last few years. Also, we’re turning really smart people’s advice into something BuzzFeed would write. So apologies if it’s oversimplified.


5. Don’t Give Away Your Distinctiveness
Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science

“Leaning too far into festive packaging can come at a cost for brand distinctiveness.” – Dr. Will Caruso.
The battle for attention in-store is always a street fight. The demands of kids, budgets, time constraints, and promotional chaos mean distinctive visual cues are even more important for people to navigate brands and categories.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace the season, but think about how you capture the spirit of the season without just becoming another green and red product on the shelf.


4. Don’t Be Afraid of ‘Borrowing’ Some Festive Fame

A shortcut to an effective Christmas ad is borrowing some festive IP. Every brand is fighting for that nostalgic, emotional cut-through this time of year. Sometimes the fastest and easiest way to get there is by borrowing a well-established bit of Christmas fame. That could be in the form of a celebrity, characters, or stories.

Asda’s ‘Have Your Elf a Merry Christmas’ is a great example of this, scoring top marks on System1’s rating system.

3. There’s More Than Two Emotions at Christmas
Mark Ritson, PhD in Marketing / Marketing Professor

Emotional advertising is everywhere in December, which is actually a great thing! But, according to Ritson, most emotional advertising is pretty one-dimensional, with the majority focusing on empathy or joy and sidestepping other emotions like fear, surprise, awe, craving, and humor. If every brand is playing to the same emotion, do you feel the same way about every brand? Maybe?

The ads we make during Christmas should feel unique to the brand. And that includes the way we want people to feel.


2. Find the Moment in the Occasion

This is your chance to use more than the occasion, but specific experiences in Christmas to create an ownable moment. Whether it’s gift-giving, overworking in December, the family holiday, or Christmas lunch. Create the context and experiences during Christmas you want people to think of your brand in. Be meaningfully specific.
Take John Lewis for example. Whether it’s Monty the Penguin, Buster the Boxer, or a Venus flytrap, there’s an iconic Christmas morning moment that is just unmistakable.

1. Read the Room
Contagious Magazine

It’s important to align your Christmas campaign with the public’s sentiment. During hard times, brands might opt for a more subdued Christmas context or try to solve the headaches of the season in slightly more novel ways.

Take Lidl’s Christmas Jumper Rental Service. A campaign developed with fashion rental company By Rotation, where people can rent a jumper from the retailer’s website for £2 a day. The collection includes jumpers from Lidl’s Christmas jumper archive from 2020 to 2023 and three limited-edition styles created in collaboration with slow-fashion designer Lydia Bolton. All profits go to the UK children’s charity NSPCC.
A great, fun, light-hearted example of a business leaning into their brand and being responsive to the cost-of-living pressures hitting families hard this year.

In hindsight, we should have written this piece in April. Just in time for all the Christmas briefs to hit the creative department. But who wants to read about Christmas ads during Easter? No one. Calm down.

Read the room!

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Danish Chan

→ Danish is one of the most awarded strategists in the world, having worked on some of the most iconic brands in the last decade including Virgin Atlantic, Coca Cola, and Volvo. Danish spent his career helping to make modern, connected strategy integral to world-class effective work. A co-founder of Untangld, and a founding partner of By The Network, Danish is also a regular judge at the Effies and WARC Global Effectiveness Awards and a contributor to popular industry rags.

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