Holiday Spots Pull at Heart Strings to Loosen Purse Strings
It’s not all about Black Friday in the U.K., mainly because few outside the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean Christmas ads don’t get going in earnest by mid-November. Current U.K. talk is all about commercials: the rights and wrongs thereof; their potential for profit and traffic driving; the practice vs. principle of shopping and advertising. Following RetailWire’s Thanksgiving opening hours discussion, there are big questions being asked this year.
YouTube and Twitter have increased viewing figures as well. According to the Daily Telegraph, John Lewis’s £6 million ad had nearly half a million views on the former and trended on the latter "within hours of launch." Partly because it features a song by the eighties alternative rock band, The Smiths, the video has garnered more than 2.3 million views on YouTube.
That said, not everyone loved it, with critics labelling it "emotionally manipulative."
Alex Clark in The Guardian was amongst those upset by the choice of a track by an "anti-consumerist, anti-Thatcherite and anti-establishment" band "to part us from our festive cash."
Robert Booth, also in The Guardian, reckoned that John Lewis "has decided lovers of the 1980s anti-establishment rock band now represent its core target market." He quotes Craig Inglis, JL’s director of marketing, saying that The Smiths’ "iconic nature" and the fact they are British fit with the 45-55 age group of their core audience.
The Financial Times claims low TV prices are responsible for longer ads (60 or 90 seconds rather than the usual 30) "that get people talking, especially online." This is confirmed by an ad agency exec who notes, "Social [media] spending is going up and up but we know you cannot build brands solely online. … You need to build an emotional connection and TV is the best way to do that."
JL sells "lifestyle" but other stores employ differing levels of subtlety. Marks & Spencer uses X Factor finalists, Jamie Oliver serves dinner to characters in Christmas plays for Sainsburys, Iceland focuses on products and Littlewoods has kids singing about the presents to be found in its catalogue. Many others will be seen, avoided and/or succumbed to in different proportions. As another Guardian piece says, Christmas ads most likely work "otherwise they wouldn’t have become such a feature of our end-of-year screens for decades."
We may all be in this together, politicians keep saying, but some are more into it than others.
- John Lewis advert: the little boy with a box full of Christmas spirit – The Telegraph
- The John Lewis Christmas advert that has divided critics on twitter – Huffington Post
- Heaven knows I’m miserable over this John Lewis ad – The Guardian
- Smiths song to feature in John Lewis Christmas advert – The Guardian
- Retailers seek "X Factor" to gain more viewers – Financial Times
- What John Lewis and other stores’ TV ads tell us about Christmas 2011 – The Guardian
Discussion Questions: Do you have an issue with “emotionally manipulative” commercials? Are there particular themes that you think will be most effective this year considering factors such as the economy?