Christmas has always been a bumper time for brands and the ad industry. The holiday season sees Q4 holding the majority of budgets for many big brands. The long-awaited arrival on our screens (big and small) of the year’s crop of Christmas ads, play a key role in getting people in the festive spirit. Yet, as we head into the home straight of what would normally be the ‘Golden Quarter’ for brands and retailers, you’d be forgiven for not exactly brimming with festive cheer.
The phrase “a year like no other” is rapidly becoming the cliched motto for 2020, but not without reason. According to eMarketer’s Holiday Shopping 2020 report, UK shoppers will spend £88.54 billion during November and December this year – a 10.2% fall from last year, and the lowest holiday retail spending total since 2015.
Oh shining star of digital
But there is one ray of hope – digital sales are doing their best to bring joy to the world. According to the same eMarketer report this will be a record year for holiday ecommerce sales. The report cites that “more than three in ten retail pounds spent during the holiday season will go to online channels”. This won’t come as a surprise, but the pandemic has transformed our shopping habits and the UK’s retail ecommerce sales for the festive period are predicted to rise from 16.7% to £28.51 billion ($36.38 billion), accounting for 32.2% of total UK holiday sales.
Digital has always been a critical channel for brand marketers, and it has been slowly taking a greater share of ad spend for years. However, this year the digital transformation has been turbocharged by the pandemic and a dramatic change in shopping habits – so much so, that digital is expected to surpass traditional advertising for the first time this year.
Glad tidings we bring…
Many a Christmas ad campaign has been made and broken in the digital arena. Creating the perfect Christmas ad has never been easy; it’s about capturing the public mood to create relatable themes that balance promotion and message. Negotiating the array of logistical, budgetary and social challenges to create relatable Christmas ads, while being uncertain as to what Christmas will actually even look like, has been a huge challenge.
A tightening of the purse strings was inevitable. However, smaller budgets don’t have to mean a decline in creative output and lack of impact. Brands needed to swap the high-profile celebrities and glitz for effective advertising that works across multiple touch points and is able to connect directly with consumers. Indeed, this year has seen a mixed stocking full of creative approaches, highlighting the fact there is no one-size-fits-all answer to planning for this level of uncertainty.
Some have swerved the impact of Covid-19 completely where others have integrated it sensitively into their ads such as Tesco’s ‘No Naughty List’. Many have produced positive moments of escape, and there has been a noticeable increase in the charitable tie-ins.
Step (carefully) into Christmas
One thing is clear though, the impact of the pandemic is now ingrained in our collective psyche.
Whatever approach brands have taken, the glamour of the traditional TV slot needs to be underpinned by a solid digital campaign. According to the IAS report “Holiday Buying in a Year Like No Other”, 75% of consumers will do most or all of their holiday shopping online this year. With 63% of consumers saying they find online advertising important in discovering new products and promotions, it’s clear brands need to be rocking around the digital ad space.