It’s that time of year again — a time when the leaves have started to fall, people have begun to bundle and the temperature and Christmas ads start to drop.
And you know what that means? It’s time to share our list of this year’s top performing Christmas ads!
Even though it’s just mid-November, most major UK retailers have already released their holiday ads. As soon as each ad is released, we’ve been adding them into Zappi’s agile research platform to get a view of how consumers are responding. And it’s been great to see so many brands hit the mark and strike the right chord with consumers!
In fact, based on our research, overall retailer ads seem to be getting better and better each year based on the norm scores for brand consideration and brand appeal:
Now let’s dive into our list of the top 10 retail Christmas ads of 2023.
The ad: The reigning champ is back at it again! This year, Aldi introduces a new character that joins in on Kevin’s adventures, named William Conker.
A sweet play on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Kevin is selected as one of five to visit William Conker’s factory. As they tour the factory, you get to see the delicious treats and eats you can find at Aldi, all while enjoying their veggie-fied version of Wonka’s (or Conker’s) wonderland – ending with Kevin, who recognizes the true meaning of Christmas – receiving the cheese key to the factory and sharing it with others.
How it did: For the second year in a row, Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot comes out on top yet again. We always trust Aldi to inject some fun and joy into the season and this year was no different: the ad performed significantly above the norm across all key metrics and came out as the most 'unique' this season. People once again loved the characters and thought the story was charming with a message that perfectly matches the Christmas spirit.
A couple of respondents said:
“Not only did it make you feel good but it also teaches the children to share. And they all love Kevin's adventures”.
“Thought it was funny and charming and matched the christmas spirit".
Read our full analysis of previous Aldi Christmas ads.
The ad: Amazon pulls at the heartstrings yet again with this year’s nostalgic yet magical holiday ad. The ad depicts three lifelong friends sitting on a park bench, watching kids sled down a snowy hill with “In My Life” by The Beatles playing softly in the background.
One of the women places an order for supportive seat cushions on Amazon and gives them to her friends to use on their sleds, and suddenly, they’re off! As they go down the hill, the woman flashes back in time to when they were all young kids themselves, sledding down the hill together as they are now — once again sharing a joyful moment together.
How it did: The beautiful juxtaposition of the three ladies in their older age sledding down the hill against images of their younger selves really struck a chord with consumers — branding it the most ‘heartwarming,’ ‘inspirational’ and ‘nostalgic’ ad of the bunch.
While very touching, the ad also conveys pure happiness; one respondent said “Loved the ladies, loved the memories and intensity of feeling it provoked, what a joyous advert." The instrumental song choice and lack of voice-over was praised, allowing the story and message behind it to speak for itself.
The ad: While the festive fairy makes another appearance, M&S again introduces some new characters for the third year in a row — Right and Left Mitten played by superstars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. M&S Food also decided to tell a longer story this year, with six installments that will be released leading up to Christmas.
In episode one, Fairy Dawn French brings Right and Left Mitten to life (and in from the cold). As the Mittens share their tale of how they got to be left out in the snow to begin with, the fairy sprinkles them with some M&S Christmas magic as she shows them wonderful looking food and treats – giving them a feast that’s “fit for a mitten.”
How it did: Coming in at number three yet again, M&S’s choice to bring back Dawn French’s fairy has certainly paid off, combined with their consistently clever and fresh decision to add new characters like Left and Right mitten — who certainly stole the show.
Consumers absolutely loved the humor they brought to the table (quite literally!) and praised how warm and inviting the story felt. One respondent commented: “The mittens were the best part of the advert- they added a bit of humor to it. The fairy was cute. The scene felt warm and inviting - it was not a sad advert as many can be during christmas time. Enticed people to shop at M&S”.
When it comes to great looking food, M&S has made it a staple of their ads year after year which is reflected in the joint highest brand linkage score we’ve seen this season.
In episode 2 there is more focus on specific offerings like the ‘triple chocolate panettone’ and their ‘shortbread and gingerbread in a snowy Christmas projection tin.’ The mittens continue to deliver funny moments, with the shorter episode performing very much on par with the first.
The ad: In this ad, a mother and daughter are out holiday shopping when the daughter asks: Who gives presents to Santa? This sparks a great adventure where they start traveling north to Santa, gifting makeup, perfumes and other cosmetics to ‘give back to the givers’ who help them along the way.
The ad ends with the mother on a snowy rooftop as she drops the last present down the chimney (a pair of flight socks) that land on the floor of a familiar character’s workshop, dressed in red and white.
How it did: This uplifting story about a girl on a mission to give back to Santa really resonated with consumers — scoring significantly above the norm on most key metrics.
For the second year in a row, Boots chose a song that’s far from “Christmassy” that was an absolute hit with the audience - putting them in a great mood and contributing to the very strong ‘uniqueness’ score. The story was extremely engaging with viewers enjoying the ad more and more as the journey progressed. It was the perfect example of how to deliver a wholesome Christmas message in an uplifting way.
The ad: If you thought the teaser was good, the full ad is even better! This year, Asda opens their holiday ad by introducing their Chief Quality Officer, Michael Bublé. In the ad, he is asked to join a meeting to approve products, and he begins to list all of the delicious food offerings Asda has this season. As he journeys through the facility, he starts to see, smell and taste even more great plates being created all around him.
In the end, all the food really “jingled his bells” and he closes the ad by joining carolers in singing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”
How it did: How could Asda possibly top last year’s celebrity appearance with Will Ferrell as Buddy? By appointing Michael Bublé as their seasonal Chief Quality Officer, obviously! He fit perfectly with the “everyday” and down-to-earth image of the brand, delivering excellent comedic timing.
Asda chose to showcase their seasonal products in an unconventional way — being quality-checked by none other than Bublé. This alongside the interactions with multiple charismatic employees made the ad “fresh,” “interesting,” and “charming.”
The ad: This year’s Sainsbury’s holiday ad opens up among the aisles of one of their stores, where a young girl suddenly gets a hold of the store mic to ask everyone one big question: What does Santa have for his Christmas dinner?
This kicks off a series of scenes where Sainsbury’s employees start giving their takes on what the “Big Fella” has to eat, featuring a number of Sainsbury’s specials from their charcuter-tree to their no beef wellington and more; ending with an appearance from Rick Astley himself.
How it did: This curious little girl certainly kept consumers entertained! The ad was very relatable and showcased strong branding (aided by the story unfolding in store), which translated to high relevance and brand linkage scores. Viewers praised how simple yet effective it was, with a bit of intrigue generated at the very start and then cleverly showcasing the spread of Christmas offerings Sainsbury’s has in store this year.
Some of the comments included:
“The story of the little girl asking what Santa has is quite cute, and everyone sighing with relief as they thought she was going to ask if he was real.”
“It’s a very inclusive and fun way to involve all tastes and flavours for the christmas dinner.”
The ad: TK Maxx’s holiday ad bursts open with an alpaca fashionably dressed in a turtleneck sweater and fanny pack coming out of a barn door to Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” A young girl stands in awe as the alpaca is followed by two ducks and a hedgehog also dressed to the nines.
The two farm owners stand to the side watching and the man asks the woman, “Have you bought the whole farm designer outfits? I thought we were keeping it small with the gifts this year?” To which she replies, “Oh, I did.”
How it did: Landing a spot in our top 10 Christmas ads (and being the most improved year on year!) certainly proves that TK Maxx’s ad really did blow some consumer’s minds! The fashionable farm animals played a massive part in making the ad enjoyable for all, landing it an ‘overall appeal’ score that topped our highest scorer, Aldi.
It was branded this season’s “funniest” ad with a lot of cheekiness and subtle yet powerful brand messaging. Some people didn’t even feel like it was an advert — it was creative, silly and, most importantly, put a smile on people’s faces.
Some comments that stood out were:
“The humor was fantastic. I liked the creativity. And the subtle hinting."
“It was simple and fun and felt christmassy. The animals were a massive part of the enjoyment and I loved that the advert wasn't being too political and kept on point."
The ad: This year’s Lidl holiday ad opens with a racoon longingly peering into a festive family home from its own home in a tree outside. When an ornament breaks in the home and one of the parents goes out to replace it, they end up getting a stuffed monkey for their child but lose it along the way home.
The racoon sees this, grabs the stuffed animal and proceeds on a mission to get it back to them. After traversing through train tunnels, waterways and fences, the raccoon finally places the stuffed monkey underneath their Christmas tree, only to be chased out by the family dog.
Back in its tree, the raccoon watches as the kid joyfully finds the stuffed animal and the dog comes outside to give the raccoon some of the food it's taken to share a holiday meal together — sharing the magic.
How it did: Even though number eight on our list (still quite a feat out of all the retail ads out there!), Lidl manages to deliver one of the most “heart-warming” ads of the season, with one respondent going as far as to say: “Warm and friendly, and not pushing products. Better than John Lewis normally is. Well done.”
Everyone has a soft spot for cute animals and when paired with a powerful Christmas story about kindness, it’s a match made in heaven. With the focus on delivering an engrossing, heartfelt story, Lidl’s branding was a bit less prominent than other ads — a key reason why it doesn’t feature higher up on the ranking.
The ad: Argos’ holiday ad shows a toy T-rex named Trevor counting down to start recording on a Google Pixel phone. As “Le Freak” by Chic plays, a dancing doll named Connie slowly rises from a gift box and starts dancing her way to him, passing by items you’d find at Argos such as a Sonos speaker and Shark hair dryer.
The ad ends with Connie doing an epic split, asking Trevor if he got the whole dance, but it seems he was actually recording himself the entire time.
How it did: Landing at number nine, this ad was the shortest we tested and so very sweet! Earlier this year Argos introduced Connie and Trevor as the new faces of the brand, and they’ve been a success with consumers ever since.
In a short period of time Argos has done a fantastic job of making the characters memorable and highly associated with the brand, so the continuation of their stories works very effectively. It was also great to see Argos build upon their year round brand assets for Christmas, as so often Christmas is kept completely separate from the rest of year. The audience loved that it was very playful, the music made it highly entertaining and the message wasn’t too serious.
The ad: Last but not least, Very’s ad depicts human-like pigeons all bundled up for some holiday shopping who look up to see flamingo’s donning pink Very uniforms and packages fly down to deliver a variety gifts — from home decor to festive sweaters and more, leaving all of the fowl families quite happy.
How it did: Very’s flamingoes brought a lot of sparkle to this year’s lineup, with consumers loving the joy they delivered to the mopey pigeons.
“The transition from dull to vibrant was engaging and puts you in the Christmas spirit” one respondent said. The music was highly nostalgic and people really enjoyed seeing the birds spend quality time with their families throughout the story. This was the second most improved retailer ad compared to last year, only beaten by TK Maxx!
And that’s that, our list of 2023’s best retail Christmas ads in the UK. It’s always interesting to see what brands will come out with each year, and even more interesting, which ads hit the mark for consumers.
While we mainly focused on the top 10, here’s where all retailer ads we have researched so far are received by consumers:
It’s worth noting that we were surprised we didn’t see John Lewis on this year’s list. While consumers found it to be a likable, emotive and distinctive story, it just didn't strike a chord as powerfully as previous years.
If you’re interested in learning more about top performing holiday ads, follow us on LinkedIn for more insights as the season progresses.
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