Who won the battle of the Christmas ads 2017… and did anyone care?

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Rebecca Hayler

Christmas Day is less than a week away, so if you haven’t yet finished (or even started) your Christmas shopping, time is rapidly running out. Department stores Debenhams and House of Fraser have already got huge sales on all Christmas gifting to launch the January sales early. Meanwhile, other stores like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis seem to be waiting until after the big day.

Could this be influenced by how well the brand’s Christmas adverts have done this year? We have been tracking the best Christmas adverts and the social engagement alongside them over the past month to better understand the famous branded battle of their Christmas adverts.

Total results from the last five weeks:

Christmas advert statistics 2017

To be expected, John Lewis has taken first place out of all the Christmas adverts this year, closely followed by M&S and Sainsbury’s. These three brands are the usual winners comparing the last five years, so no huge surprises there.

Interestingly, this year Argos and Aldi have achieved an impressive amount of views alongside Debenhams bringing a strong contender to the competition. It looks as though brands are learning from the John Lewis advert success and have made sure that they are creating emotive advertising in the lead up to Christmas.

Moz the Monster

Image source

As an article from YouGov explains, Sainsbury’s decided this year to strip back their Christmas budget and create a low-key advert to save spending for elsewhere. It certainly seems that this hasn’t gone unnoticed as views and engagements are much lower than previous years, but it hasn’t affected their position much as they are third behind John Lewis and M&S, who both created high budget adverts.

When looking at social engagement, the adverts from Debenhams, Tesco and Argos have been spoken about more than Sainsbury’s offering on social platforms. This could have been affected by creating a low-budget advert, but it could also be a result of paid advertising, which Sainsbury’s may not have taken part in this year.

Sainsbury's Christmas advert

Image source

The advert that hasn’t had its 15 minutes of fame this year was House of Fraser’s Bring Merry Back campaign. Unfortunately, it has only had 152 engagements across social media and views are the lowest of all adverts we have tracked, with just over 93k. The low engagement may be a result of not using a hashtag.

While Aldi also hasn’t used a hashtag this year, they have continued last year’s theme using Kevin the Carrot which has brand recognition, and House of Fraser is the only other brand not to use a hashtag in their advertising.

Could this be why the advert is the bottom of the table? Brands are beginning to put more money into social media – and for good reason, too – as it is where most of their consumers are and catering for this platform is essential.

Children in Christmas advert

Image source

Below is a word cloud, pulled from our social listening tool that shows the main topics social users have spoken about over the last five weeks. The bigger and darker the word, the more it has been spoken about. ‘Christmas’ is obviously a big talking point along with ‘John Lewis’ and ‘2017’; this shows that many users are aware of the annual rival between brands.

‘Paddington’ and ‘Moz’ seem to be the most talked about characters this year, and the 9th December is a key date online, which highlights the release of the Debenhams and John Lewis adverts.

Christmas advert word cloud

It appears social users are getting a little bored of the Christmas advert hype, though. Looking at the graph below, you can see that the trend is beginning to decline, and this year’s stats are much closer to 2013’s results:

Christmas ad graph

2013 was the year that John Lewis released The Bear & The Hare advert, the year before Sainsbury’s World War two advert and the famous #MontyThePenguin was released. Between 2014 and 2016, Christmas adverts were taken much more seriously by big brands and the competition was extremely high, but this year it appears many have taken a step back and users have become less interested in the rivalry.

2016 was the most popular year for Christmas adverts to date, #BusterTheBoxer took to our screens thanks to John Lewis, and James Corden worked with Sainsbury’s on the Greatest Gift campaign. Sainsbury’s received over 18 million views that year and John Lewis got an impressive 27 million.

Comparing it to this year, views are much lower. John Lewis has received 18 million less views than last year, with just over 9 million. That’s a dramatic decrease, but when looking at #BusterTheBoxer social engagement online, the bouncing boxer only received 97k more than this year’s advert.

It seems as though social media is the way forward for brands, and they are most probably already aware of this.

Brands are going to need to think of ways that they can target their audience with outstanding emotive concepts not only in traditional advertising, but on social media, too. This is going to be hard now that a tradition has been established with big budget Christmas adverts, but perhaps Sainsbury’s approach is more realistic.

A lot less people have been watching the Christmas adverts this year, so it will be interesting to see how brands can incorporate a new strategy, and to find out what other investments brands can make from their big Christmas budgets.

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