Brands Assemble For Festive TV Advertising Rush

If ever one required proof of the impact TV advertising continues to have on the UK public, you need only look to this year’s festive arms race.

Mid-way into November and already our allegiances have been drawn. And once again it all started with John Lewis, whose 'Monty The Penguin had already garnered 10.7 million YouTube hits after just four days at the start of the month. Amazingly, this figure is almost equal to the total number of clicks accrued by ‘The Bear & The Hare’ across the whole of last year’s festive period, with Monty since accumulating a huge total of almost 16 million views to date.

TV Advertising Stakes High For Tesco

And the brand has now been joined by its usual sparing partners, the likes of which weren’t going to let Monty have the ring to himself for too long. The season finale of Downton Abbey earlier this month (November 9th) provided the arena for grand unveilings from Tesco, M&S, Aldi, Boots and Debenhams, turning the weekend’s peak schedule into a huge, national event akin to the Super Bowl in America.

Tesco in particular has never had the stakes set so high, having endured a highly publicised year of controversy. The 60-second campaign, titled ‘Lights On’, errs away from the usual emphasis on quality food at competitive prices, with this year’s effort reallocating the focus to an emotive angle that celebrates family and the spirit of the season. It is hoped that this change in strategy will nurture stronger emotional ties to the brand, though judging by the competition this year, the UK’s largest food retailer certainly has its work cut out.

Sainsbury’s Timely Ode To History

How does a brand follow up on one of the most celebrated festive TV advertising campaigns of 2013? That’s the problem posed to Sainsbury’s this year, but in the guise of ‘Christmas Is For Sharing’, the supermarket chain is perhaps responsible for 2014’s standout effort. Set on Christmas Day in 1914, the ad venerates the temporary ceasefire observed when German and British soldiers left the trenches to enjoy a simple game of football,putting their troubles and enmity to one side.

Celebrating humanity at its purest and most heartfelt, the campaign - developed in partnership with the Royal British Legion - points to the fact that, essentially, we are all the same, and thus need to love one another. Never is this message more pertinent than at Christmas, whilst the ad’s focus on a World War I backdrop is an extremely touching commemoration of the brave lives lost one hundred years ago this year. Once again, Sainsbury’s has excelled amid the festive furor.

Boots Shoots For The Heart

Boots has left no prisoners with its 2014 festive advertising assault. Not content with simply tugging at the heartstrings, the healthcare chain has instead tied them in knots; illustrating the idea that, wherever you are or whatever you’re doing, the season is about putting the happiness of those you love first.

Expecting a quiet, underwhelming Christmas after working the night shift, a lady returns home on Boxing Day morning to find that her family have travelled miles upon miles to be there for her when she opens the door. There was not a dry eye in the office upon seeing this one for the first time, with the quintessentially festive setting projecting a homely atmosphere which, perhaps more so than any other campaign featured in this list, conveys the reality of what Christmas means to families at the end of a year otherwise dominated by disparate responsibilities and individual lifestyles. 

M&S Opts For Tried & Tested Formula

M&S has again opted for a fairytale-inspired theme this Christmas, enlisting two angelic models to play a duo of fairies that make it their mission to make others’ Christmases wonderful. In one suitably snow-covered, crisp evening in the city, the twosome returns a lost cat to its owner, provides a man with the perfect gift for his partner, and plays cupid with two lonesome walkers.

Yet, whilst this year’s instalment succeeds in once again bringing that spine-tingling atmosphere only Christmas can provide into the living room, the impact achieved by last year’s Alice in Wonderland-themed opus is somewhat blunted on this year’s #FollowtheFairies, due primarily to the fact the brand’s approach has changed little. Still, why repair something if it isn’t broken?

Pretenders To The Throne Intensify TV Assaults

Lidl and Aldi, both of whom are seeking to make the most of Tesco’s woes with aggressive TV advertising strategies this Christmas, have unsurprisingly gone for the quality food at low prices angle, with Lidl in particular expressing the point that, despite costing less, the supermarket cuts no corners on taste, surprising a Christmas lunch party by revealing that the delectable food they’ve been eating has, in fact, comes from the aisles of Lidl.

Aldi ramps things up a little with some celebrity endorsement, enlisting Jools Holland to inject some pizzazz into proceedings with a customary appearance at the piano. The brand’s message is simple: Aldi is now the favourite supermarket for customers of all walks of life; whether you’re in the midst of space exploration or lazing on a hot beach. It’s a strong angle that will appeal to some, but does it inspire enough? It will be interesting to see.

Festive TV Advertising Market Continues To Grow

This year’s festive TV advertising blitz is expected to generate £700 million in ad spend, an unprecedented outlay.  And with the likes of Robert Dyas and House of Fraser returning to the fray after a decade-long absence, competition promises to be fiercer than ever.

One interesting aspect of this year’s seasonal market is the focus on social and online marketing as a supplement to TV; the likes of John Lewis, Boots and M&S have placed significant attention on nurturing online conversation through the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, allocating noteworthy time, energy and, in some cases, money to this continually growing sidekick to television.

Without the mass reach and visibility that TV advertising provides, such online activity would fail to generate the interaction and social conversation required to maximise marketing effectiveness, whilst without the incremental online presence, businesses centring marketing activity on TV would lose additional engagement opportunities fostered by dual-screen viewing trends that continue to define the landscape. In this modern age, the two dovetail perfectly as a potent advertising strategy. And remember, it doesn't cost a thing to build a Facebook page or upload a video to YouTube!

You Don’t Need To Spend Millions

The next six weeks promise to be dominated by Christmas TV campaigns, each ad break becoming a battleground for retailers and supermarkets. Yet, you don’t a multimillion pound advertising budget and spots in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here or The X Factor to make an impact on TV – indeed, Tesco spent £25 million on ad activity last year, and look at the predicament it now finds itself in – the key is to deliver a TV advertisement that sells your proposition to your target audience via the right channels, at the right times of day and year, and with the most cost efficiency.

Fake snow flakes, poignant acoustic covers and celebrities looking festive clearly works for some brands, but for all those millions of pounds, ultimately what it boils down to is the quality of your business and marketing message. For just a few thousand pounds, you too can cut through to the heart of your audience, and leave the indelible mark only TV can produce.

To find out more about how Guerillascope can support your TV advertising ambitions in December and January, give our team a call today on 0800 357 675, or complete our quick and easy TV planning form.