By Ellie-Rose Davies, Content Executive at IMRG

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… because the Christmas ads are out!

As ‘the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear’, this blog sings to the Christmas ads of 2022 and highlights whether they are a worthy family tradition for online retail. You will gain an understanding of how Christmas ads can effectively drive engagement, loyalty, and communicate brand values.

Now, the quote above is from one of the greatest Christmas films of all time, Elf. Utilising what sits at the heart of the nation, Asda used visual effects in their ad this year, where Buddy the Elf walked around the store as an employee, voicing the most rememberable lines from the film.

Retailers that tune into nostalgia, becoming customer conscious by knowing their catalysts of happiness, alongside overtly demonstrating the products they have on offer, are very merry and clever marketeers indeed.

We also saw this with Aldi, who tuned into the film Home Alone in their ad, and perhaps caused many of us to chuckle at the end when Kevin the carrot became a different part of the snowman than anticipated. Yet, while these ads offered us excitement, there are other ways retailers can get to the heart of the nation and boost sales.

It’s time to Give a little love

John Lewis has always been one for giving back at Christmas time. With the Give A Little Love ad in 2020, the same rings true for their The Beginner ad this year, which foregrounds their work with people in the care system, and urges people to make a difference.

As Steve Sneath, Sales Director at Intersoft exclaims, ‘this year, retailers need to consider the circumstances surrounding Christmas frivolities. Many ads have focussed on issues closer to home.’ For example, John Lewis ‘followed their words with actions by supporting Action for Children.’

‘Considering that 74% of consumers say they intend to shop with brands making sustainable delivery choices, Intersoft is taking action on the climate crisis. Together with Ecologi, we are offsetting employee CO2 emissions and funding climate-positive projects from business milestones. Actions speak louder than words, and this year, highlighting the actions companies are taking is crucial to getting the public on board.’

As we know, Christmas isn’t bright for everyone, so let’s…

Be conscious of lower spirits

We’ve all heard the lines, ‘you better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout I’m telling you why…but the reality is many customers have had a hard year doing just this, watching out for the latest rises in their bills, worrying about the peak spending period ahead, and generally feeling more low.

According to Gavin Murphy, CMO at Scurri, ‘while people’s buying power is being squeezed, companies are preparing for a very thrifty holiday season. According to WPP’s media firm Mindshare, 4 in 10 Britons are concerned about their ability to afford Christmas altogether.’

‘Furthermore, the data reveals that the number of people who are pessimistic about Christmas is nearly five times greater than it was last year at this time. As a result, customers will carefully consider which products to buy and where to buy them in order to extend their overall holiday budget, doing research online.’

Heath Barlow, Regional VP & MD for EMEA North at Emarsys echoes these concerns; ‘while many enjoy the escapism of Christmas ads, with 51% of customers only able to spend “what they can afford” due to the cost-of-living crisis, retailers also risk over-aspirational adverts falling flat.’

‘The solution is to use meaningful personalisation to nurture lasting relationships. Even with customers making cutbacks this year, the relatability of Christmas adverts is a vehicle for demonstrating that you truly understand your audience. Brands that get this right will see customers return when the hard times ease.’

A great example is offered by Sam Benkel, MD UK, Retail Media, at Criteo, where ‘early ads such as TK Maxx’s ‘gifting hero’ spot highlight that this year is all about helping shoppers find the right gifts which represent the best possible value.’

This ‘Christmas Nailed’ ad features the lines: ‘Marvellous gifts, Sam, but you shouldn’t have spent so much on us.’ ‘Didn’t. Just went to TK Maxx’ [plenty of high fives, and happy music], showcasing that customers can pick up quality items for less in tough economic circumstances.

Retailers might pick up on this idea, as settling customer anxiety might be the reason they turn to one brand over another. Also, the ad was released relatively early, on 27th October, a smart move that might have triggered many customers to start budgeting earlier.

Think beyond TV ads

While Sam at Criteo highlights the importance of TV ads offering value to customers, he also suggests that ‘for those who don’t have the TV budget, onsite advertising can still give them an advantage. Grocers like ASDA and marketplaces like will be making relevant recommendations for complementary goods through sponsored product listings and digital display.’

‘It’s a savvy approach, borrowing the best from in-store where eye-catching displays and new product demonstrations help increase basket size and order value. This rare ‘win-win-win’ opportunity can boost sales for manufacturers, introduce new advertising revenue for retailers, and can produce quicker, seamless experiences for shoppers.’

Traditionally, when people think of onsite advertisements, banners, large text, and stagnant images might come to mind. Yet, Jennifer Griffin Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at Brightcove reveals that ‘the internet has revolutionised the way we consume adverts – long gone are the days when people would only see Christmas ads on TV.’

‘Video has become the ultimate medium for online retailers to reach their audiences and bring their brand or product to life – 85% of consumers rely on video when they shop online. Christmas is an opportunity for brands to showcase their creativity – and many are increasingly leveraging video to achieve this. With an effective video-first strategy, brands can evoke emotion, get to the heart of audiences’ pain points or desires, and present an actionable solution.’

Also thinking beyond festive TV ads is Thomas Kasemir, Chief Product Officer at Productsup, who says, ‘the key to standing out amongst other Christmas campaigns is to create ads that actually aid the shopping experience – not complicate it.’

‘For instance, companies can leverage local inventory ads to help online shoppers find products that are available for local pickup. This helps shoppers avoid shipping fees and delivery delays, so they can be sure their gifts arrive on time.’

Keeping customers’ attention

If retailers take this advice on board, and their ads, TV or not, have captured customers’ attention, it might be time for them to consider how to keep them whilst they’ve got them. For example, if an ad makes the customer feel happy, yet when they visit the retailer’s site, they feel let down, this can quickly impact customer retention, and acquisition through word of mouth.

Rob Griffin, CEO at MIRACL comments, ‘Christmas is the absolute peak time for brands to re-enforce their endearing characters, generating warmth from the nation that will ensure their brand stays top of mind at Christmas and well beyond. Smart advertising does capitalise on this unique opportunity – but it should not be the only way to engage with customers during this time.’

‘In a recent survey, nearly 60% of consumers stated that they would feel negatively towards a brand if their login experience was poor to access the e-commerce site. A reminder that customer experience remains of high importance to maintain that valued brand love, and whatever you do, don’t rely on gorgeously gushing ads alone.’

A way for retailers to manage increased sales, and, in turn, increase customer satisfaction, is presented by Karolina Fialowska, senior VAT consultant at Sovos; ‘the countdown to Christmas always triggers advertising to boost sales for retailers, enticing customers via various channels with the lure of high-quality products. This resulting spike in demand is increasingly managed via marketplaces.’

‘With this shift of B2C sales through marketplaces, the onus for charging UK VAT also moves to them for goods not above £135. Although it’s the season to give gifts, these rules don’t apply to the import of non-commercial goods such as gifts. Nevertheless, these rules ease the VAT compliance obligations for online retailers and help them focus on increased demand.’

Overall, while Christmas ads are a retailer’s family tradition, one that is often fun and showcases the best in market talent, retailers should also use them to make their best impact on the world, revenue, and long-term customer loyalty.

If you wish to find out about how December 2022 performed in our Index, be sure to keep an eye on IMRG’s upcoming events.

For more key ecommerce insight, here are IMRG’s latest blogs that might be of interest:

  1. Tackling A Tough Christmas Through Hybrid Shopping Experiences – IMRG
  2. Top Considerations & Marketing Tactics For Black Friday success – IMRG
  3. How Can SMEs Acquire New Customers During the Economic Crisis? – IMRG
  4. A Mindful November – Mental Health Around Black Friday 2022 – IMRG
  5. How Can Alcohol Ecommerce Businesses Secure European Success? – IMRG

Published 23/11/2022

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