So the big retailers have gone to town this year to really tug on those Christmas heart strings, with tales of penguin love, true friendship and, as The Telegraph puts it, a ‘touchingly human moment in one of history’s most brutal and relentless conflicts’.
The adverts have, once again, been a great conversation starter, and while I could write for hours debating the moral stance on some, the ‘slushy’ nature of others and the crisp production of most, this year I felt it appropriate to look at the creative ways in which the messages of the ads are being extended beyond the main campaign elements – after all, it’s nice to see something different!
Let’s start with ‘The Christmas Jumpers’. In stark contrast to Sainsbury’s controversial interpretation of one of the most famous tales from The First World War, surely this (now viral) video will put a smile on the faces of even the biggest Christmas Scrooges. Seemingly footage taken on a handheld video camera at a school talent show, the video shows a group of five middle-aged ‘dads’ doing a dance routine to a dubstep remix of The Nutcracker’s classic Dance Of the Sugar Plum Fairy – wearing Christmas jumpers from the retailer’s Tu range of course!
Three days after the video was uploaded to YouTube, it had already amassed almost 300,000 views, and regardless of whether they are professional dancers or not (which they are, by the way!), what a great concept for a fun and sharable piece of content that doesn’t rely on an emotive response to drive sales. What I particularly like is the simple editing and blatant omission of branding (right until the end), which combine to make it appear as an authentic piece of ‘home video’. Very clever and, no doubt, the contrast in tone to the company’s mainstream Christmas ad was also mirrored in the cost of production!
Then we have the, even more subtle, extended Christmas marketing campaign of Marks & Spencer. I didn’t intend to include this brand in the blog as I’m not a fan of this year’s TV ad, however, credit where credit is due and so I will.
Essentially if you’ve missed it – or haven’t dared turn on the TV in the last few weeks for fear of the inevitable Christmas deluge! – the 2014 M&S advert has ditched the celebs and instead depicts an evening with two fairies (adorned in sparkly clothes no doubt from M&S) who flit around the country carrying out good deeds. While for me the ad is pretty forgettable, the campaign behind it is not.
The campaign is all about random acts of kindness and is supported by significant social media activity (#FollowTheFairies and @TheTwoFairies) in which, for example, followers can nominate friends and family members who they feel deserve a good deed. But the campaign commenced well before the launch of the TV ad and this is the good bit! @TheTwoFairies have been exercising their wings for weeks travelling to homes, schools and offices to deliver anonymous gifts along with a calling card simply displaying their hashtag and twitter handle. The video for this is also worth a watch on the M&S YouTube channel (not the most inspired video of all time but gives some background to the campaign as a whole). In Newcastle, the campaign also included an illusion over the Tyne Bridge of fairies flying through the night, using drones.
What is nice to see is that, reportedly, M&S spent roughly the same as 2013 on its Christmas marketing campaign and, by ditching the celebs, it seems the company has invested rather more heavily in digital and social elements – with printed calling cards also thrown in for good measure!
But my favourite element, just because it’s so clever, is the trail #FollowTheFairies have left on Waterloo Bridge (see image). This has been stencilled on, not with paint or chalk, but simply by cleaning the dirt from the wall to leave the mysterious mark of Magic and Sparkle.
Merry Christmas all!