Top Christmas Campaigns and Why They Worked
With UK advertisers reportedly spending a record high £7.9bn on this year’s festive ads, we thought it was time to look at some of the top successful Christmas campaigns of all time, and delve into why we feel they worked so well.
1. Coca-Cola’s Holidays Are Coming, Christmas 1995
We start our rundown of fascinating Christmas campaigns and why they worked with an absolute classic. After all, it’s not Christmas without the Coca-Cola trucks appearing on your tellybox, is it? Indeed, the brand even popularised (though it isn’t actually the originator of) the colour of Santa Claus’s suit!
Like Santa, the Coca-Cola trucks gave ordinary folks the promise and possibility of something special coming to their town. The iconic ad, complete with its catchy jingle, set up an equally iconic real-life tour of the trucks visiting locations worldwide. Decades later, both are still going strong – as you can see here. That’s me (Mark), finally getting my chance to see the iconic trucks live in person in Winchester in 2015. Happy days.
Meanwhile, over on Coca-Cola’s YouTube channel, you can see the evolution of the ad with last year’s arrival of the famous truck in its 2021 TV ad, The Letter.
By mixing memorable visuals and sounds with the magic of a real-life special visit that’s unique to this time of the year, Coca-Cola made itself synonymous with the festive season. That’s why it’s first on our list of the top successful Christmas campaigns.
2. The Morter’s Rage Against The Machine For Christmas No. 1, Christmas 2009
Now we move on to a very different campaign – and our first (but by no means the last in this list) powered by social media.
The Battle of Christmas 2009 happened when Jon and Tracey Morter, sick of Simon Cowell star factories Pop Idol and X-Factor producing one Christmas number one single after another, started a simple Facebook group. The group’s first post called for people to buy 1992’s anti-establishment anthem Killing in the Name by Rage Against The Machine instead of the new single by X-Factor winner Joe McElderry, The Climb. By getting Rage to number one, they wanted people to send a message to record execs in-keeping with the song’s most memorable line, “F*!% you I won’t do what you tell me.”
The fact that it succeeded just goes to show the power a social media campaign can have. Even back in Facebook’s fledgling days of 2009, the Morters were able to pick up on growing public sentiment and use the platform to drive a movement that brought an old song back into the spotlight, and gave an iconic 90s band their first ever UK number one. That Simon Cowell himself congratulated the Morters on their marketing of the campaign just proves that this is one of the very best Christmas social media campaigns ever.
3. John Lewis’ Monty The Penguin, Christmas 2014
John Lewis’ TV ads have been a big deal since 2007, but it wasn’t until 2011 that, like the Coca-Cola trucks, the brand’s ads became one of those things people look for each December.
That ad, titled The Long Wait, showed a young boy waiting for Christmas as a cover of The Smiths track Please Please Let Me Get What I Want played in the background. The clever spin (and there always is one with John Lewis ads), was that the boy was looking forward to Christmas so he could give a gift to his parents, rather than get something for himself.
Yet while The Long Wait was undoubtedly a breakthrough, it’s Monty The Penguin we’ve chosen to look at for our top successful Christmas campaigns. That’s because the campaign not only hit many of the same emotional buttons as the company’s previous campaigns, it was also arguably the first to be so tightly integrated across above, through, and below-the-line channels. Monty was everywhere, with TV and radio ads, social media and other digital channels, and the brand’s own stores, all offering a combination of passive and interactive campaign elements.
As a final cherry on top, the brand also banked on the ad’s star, Monty himself, becoming one of the hottest toys that holiday season. They were right – with people flocking to buy and wrap a cute fluffy Monty for kids, friends and partners alike. That meant the campaign wasn’t just interactive – it even promoted a specific product, alongside the idea of shopping in John Lewis’s retail outlets.
4. Ted Baker’s #TedsElfie, Christmas 2014
From a truly integrated campaign, we move to one launched that same year which made the full use of just a single social platform – Instagram.
Creating 32 unique Instagram accounts, clothing brand Ted Baker launched an interactive ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style game. It asked people to start at the @TedsElfie account and visit other accounts that represented other parts of the North Pole, where Santa had lost seven of his elves. By tapping on squares, players were given clues about the elves’ whereabouts and could receive gifts for playing. They were even encouraged to leave comments to enter draws for prizes – one of which was a trip to see the Northern Lights.
An incredibly innovative campaign that garnered over 14,500 competition entries and 37,000+ interactions, this campaign worked because of how well it gamified participation, incentivising users to engage with the brand in a fun and indirect way. It’s absolutely one of the best Christmas social media campaigns – and possibly our favourite festive Instagram campaign ever.
5. McDonald’s’ #ReindeerReady, 2016
In 2016 McDonald’s launched the video above – a heart-warming tale of a dad’s dedication to his daughter, and her dedication to leaving out a carrot for Santa’s magical reindeer.
The story itself was beautifully sweet, but what was really clever was the way it ended – with a hashtag the brand has since carried forward.
This video came at a time when McDonald’s was busy changing its image to a more health-conscious eatery. So the focus on carrots as a health food tied in with the brand’s deeper goals and the general public shift towards healthy eating, while also aligning with the spirit of Christmas in a relatable and moving way.
Intriguingly, this hashtag has since gone on to be referred to as a ‘platform’ by the ad agency who created it, and has formed the basis for each of McDonald’s Christmas ads in the following years. This year’s instalment is now live, so why not take a look?
So that’s our list of the top Christmas campaigns and why they worked. Which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
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