Oh, God. It’s that time of year again. Everywhere you go, the same old songs are playing, Father Christmas seems to be stalking you, and everyone in the world is desperately trying to convince you to buy their stuff. And, worst of all, it’s not even December. Don’t they know by now that we’re all cynical, soulless life forms devoid of joy and utterly embittered by the mere sight of tinsel?
Well – and this certainly comes as a bit of a shock for those of us whose sense of wonder long ago dissolved in a sea of vitriol – statistics say otherwise. Months and months before December, the term ‘Christmas’ peaks on John Lewis’s website. And, according to surveys, an entire third of shoppers start their Christmas shopping when the schools go back in September. Bearing in mind that the Christmas consumer urges therefore seem to start about four months before the actual event, it actually seems pretty restrained of the major brands to save up their Christmas ads until after Halloween.
Ah yes, Christmas ads. Major brands spend a phenomenal amount of money on producing Christmas ads, and the competition to produce The ad of the year – the one which captures the nation’s soul – is intense. John Lewis is known for pipping the others to the post, and their Christmas ad is always anticipated as a phenomenon in its own right, but it’s by no means untouchable. Some dubious choices and some excellent competition have seen the likes of Sainsburys and M&S taking the title before. The abstract interest in the ads alone is a significant marketing coup – but when you consider the Christmas Factor, the power of a good festive ad turns up to eleven.
Because, despite the ostensible cynicism of the modern age, despite all the well-voiced disgust at the ‘Christmas Creep’, and despite it becoming increasingly trendy to decry the commercialism of the season – 65% of shoppers still unequivocally state that Christmas adverts play a bit part in their buying choices. In commercial terms, that’s a huge endorsement. TV ads wipe the floor with all other media when it comes to consumer influences over Christmas – not even the mighty power of the internet comes close. When it comes to Christmas, we’re lovers of tradition. And, strange though it may seem, Christmas ads on TV have become an ingrained part of our Christmas traditions. A sign of the times, perhaps – but a good reason to work on an effective Christmas ad.
The British public, it seems, are more joyful and festive than we might think. Although this only goes so far. Canny retailers would do well to note that, while people love a good Christmas ad, they’re not so keen on actual people in actual Christmas costumes. 65% of surveyed consumers are happy to state that their Christmas buying choices are influenced by Christmas ads – but pretty much the same percentage also stated that they’d walk out of a shop if the staff were in Christmas costume. So, think festive, but not too festive…