Why is Christmas advertising so important?

Tue 1 Dec 2020

This year has not been kind to retailers. With growing competition from online rivals, many major high street stores (including Toys R Us, House of Fraser, and Mothercare) closed branches in 2018. Yet seasonal advertising spend continues to rise – UK retailers are expected to spend a record £6.4 billion during the 2018 Christmas season, compared to just under £6 billion last year. We examine why companies are willing to invest so much time, money, and effort in their seasonal marketing campaigns.

The British public is hooked

Ever since John Lewis released its first televised Christmas advert in 2007, the public imagination has been captured by big budget seasonal campaigns. During an emotional time of year when we spend time reconnecting with friends and family, sentimental advertisements pack a huge emotional punch.

The Advertising Association reports that:

A third are just as excited about the premiere of a Christmas advert as they are about a film release.

Nearly half of Brits (47%) have been moved to tears by a Christmas advert they’ve seen or heard.

One in six people have changed their plans to watch the premiere of their favourite Christmas advert.

More than 1 in 10 Brits have become fans of an artist/song after discovering them in a Christmas advert.

Christmas adverts have become an annual event that many look forward to year after year. As Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford says, “Our Christmas advertising season is the envy of the world, thanks to the brilliant, creative talent working in our industry. The joy of this advertising period, seeing what brands bring out each year, is an integral part of a great British Christmas.”

Christmas advertising is effective

Research shows that every £1 spent on advertising returns £6 to the UK economy, and that’s just the financial benefit - the brand awareness achieved through a successful Christmas campaign is equally important. John Lewis’s 2016 commercial, featuring trampolining star ‘Buster the Boxer,’ became an instant social media smash, garnering more than 30,000 mentions on Twitter in the two hours following its launch and becoming the most-shared ad of 2016.

The upbeat ad, which cost the company £7 million to produce, helped John Lewis outperform the market over the festive period, growing like-for-like sales at department stores 2.7 per cent in the six weeks to 31 December. The company estimates that since 2012, sales have increased by more than 35% thanks to the success of its Christmas advertising. Rival companies report similar levels of financial success with their seasonal marketing campaigns.

Karen Fraser, director of advertising think-tank Credos, says, “Advertisers are increasing their investments in Christmas advertising year-on-year, because they know Christmas advertising works. As the UK high street faces an uncertain future, Christmas is one of the key periods for retailers. Advertising helps stores attract customers, and that helps sustain jobs and high streets in the UK.”

If you’re considering a career in advertising or marketing, an MA in Advertising Strategy and Planning from Falmouth University’s Flexible Learning programmes can provide you with key insights into the creative and strategic processes of successful brands and the skills you need to work for them. 


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