Episode 61

Best in snow: The UK’s top Christmas ads 2023

Kim Malcolm, Director, Product Marketing and Head of Advertising at Zappi, talks through the brands that made this year’s list of top retail Christmas ads in the UK, the themes seen across them and what made them resonate so well with consumers.


Ryan Barry: Ho, ho, ho. Hi, everybody, and welcome to this episode of Inside Insights, a podcast powered by Zappi. My name is Santa, and I will be your host today. 

For those of you listening on podcast, Ryan has left the building, and uh, Santa Claus is here for one day and one day only recording this podcast from the suburbs of Boston before I go back to the North Pole and get ready for Christmas. And I am joined today by Zappi's head of advertising, and Santa and Ryan's friend Kim Malcolm. Hello, Kim. 

Kim Malcolm: Hello, I feel like I've undercooked it with just the Christmas jumper. 

Ryan: Well, this was a little surprise for you because I know you're a big fan of Santa and I want to say you are on the nice list this year, Kim, so you'll be getting big gifts.. Some of you, maybe you're on the naughty list and particularly some of you Christmas advertisers.

Ryan: No, I'm just kidding. Today Kim and I are going to talk to you folks about Christmas advertising. For our American audience the Christmas ads are to the UK culture, what the super bowl ads are to us Americans. It's a big deal and it's an opportunity for marketers in the UK to really bring out their best thinking, to build their brand, to obviously drive incremental visits and sales over the Christmas holiday.

Ryan: And it's a great way to, to get us in the festive spirit. Ryan wanted me to tell everybody that, um, he doesn't like talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving. This podcast is being recorded two days before Thanksgiving. 

Ryan: Um, but this Christmas, it comes at an interesting time in the world. A time I think when brands can maybe give us some relief from what's going on and let's just think about what a crazy three years. We've just all gone through, there was a lot of political uncertainty Then there was a pandemic and that was mental and that changed all of our lives and then we all sort of were expected to go back to normal. And normal hasn't really fallen into place for anybody, right?

Ryan: Like everybody's trying to figure out the future of work and the future of life. If your child was a COVID baby, well, they lost two years of cognitive development, and that's really interesting. And then we've had all this geopolitical turmoil. And, uh, then we have what's going on in the Middle East, which is nothing short of horrific and confusing and sad.

Ryan: And so I think what Kim and I are going to try to do today is bring some light to the world. And we thank brands like Aldi, Amazon, Marks and Spencer, Boots, and many others for their incredible work that gives us an excuse to talk about something different. 

Ryan: But, Kim, as somebody who thinks about advertising a lot and analyzes a lot of ads, how do you feel like the state of consumers are today in their mindset and how they're receiving different messaging? Like where do you feel like based on looking at the data and just kind of reading the room? What are your feelings on how consumers are perceiving advertising and and just feeling in general today?

Kim: In general, I think it's hard for advertisers to read the room to get the stuff right to know what consumers want and how the moods are taking them for Christmas though I think they've got it spot on.

Kim: I think we might have said that last year, but this year's even better. And I think it ties into a little bit of what you were saying in the introduction. People are in a bit of turmoil. People are suffering, obviously, in different ways. The cost of living crisis is having a big impact. We did a little survey actually, and I think we saw about 60 percent of people saying that they were going to have to change their shopping habits around Christmas this year.

Kim: So they were talking about, you know, shopping around a bit more, looking for good discounts, buying from different brands, starting their shopping earlier, early December. However, I think where the advertisers have got it right is, that doesn't mean... that they're not excited about Christmas. 60 percent of people are still really excited about Christmas.

Kim: They're using it as an opportunity to, in spite of everything else, get families together, feel the joy, feel the magic, feel the nostalgia of all being together. A bit of escapism almost. And, and so they're, you know, they are really excited about it. And they're ready to get going. They started their shopping in early November.

Kim: We did actually ask a question this year, Ryan, which I thought was quite interesting, which is asking when it's reasonable for brands and products to start talking about Christmas. We had, and we had about 50 percent who felt like there was too much on products, too much in store display around Christmas stuff in early November, too early, right?

Kim: However, on the advertising side. Even though the advertising literally broke on the 1st of November this year, and I know it because I was sat in a swimming costume by a swimming pool the day after Halloween on holiday, and the Christmas ads started popping up. So even though they came on the 1st of November, people weren't saying the Christmas ads were too early.

Kim: And why is that? We actually had over 50 percent of the people we talk to who look forward to the Christmas ads. You just compared it to the Superbowl, but they look forward to it, they bring the joy, they get them in the festive mood, they help them have a bit of escapism. So I think while there's a bit of a debate, has it happened too soon?

Kim: The reality is people are shopping already and people don't seem to mind that the Christmas ads have come early. So if I was a retailer, I think I would have probably gone quite early with my ads too. You know, I can, I can see why, why that would happen. So long as you're using your ads to get people in the mood, make them feel great, make them feel good about your brand and all those other wonderful things, which they've done.

Ryan: It's a really interesting, like you think about like, The piece of marketing, it's a really interesting insight, right? Like, the fact that the in store POS materials, and let's face it, that's a really, that's a really important channel that a lot of advertisers forget about, um, at the point of sale, on the digital banners when they're checking out on e com, etc.

Ryan: The fact that that is something people aren't ready with, but actually Christmas advertising is, is actually a profound insight. And by the way, we're using the word Christmas a lot. I'm sorry. I'm actually not even religious at all. But Christmas to me is a festive season. So happy holidays regardless of what you celebrate. We respect and appreciate all of you, but we're here to talk about Christmas ads. So, sorry if we're politically incorrect, we're just trying to keep it real, but you're all welcome here.

Ryan: Um, but I think what's interesting for me as a consumer is the decorations. It's the pressure and when I feel that in a retail environment that stresses me out But as I was telling you before this my son and I sat around we're obviously American, so we don't see Christmas ads to the same level that you do. And there was a few that got me emotional right like actually like the Amazon one in particular I was literally teary eyed sitting in my house because it was a beautiful ad wonderful story of these of these women you know, reigniting their life and the product placement and the branding.

Ryan: And it just made me feel, it made me feel something right. And, and I think like after, uh, the shit we're all going through. Personal lives and professional lives. Everybody listening to this podcast works in business, right? 2023 has been a slog. And so the opportunity to think about a moment of freedom, a moment of connectivity is a nice reprieve from.

Ryan: The crazy shit we're all dealing with. So I think your insight is a really interesting macro insight for marketers. ‘Cause I want to, I want to feel as good as I feel at Christmas all the time. It's a wonderful time of year.

Kim: I think that's right. And if you look at advertising of old, you know, without sounding as ancient as I am…The whole point of it was that people should look forward to it. It's really great stories. It was great entertainment. It was humorous back in the day. It was escapism. It was like mini movies, you know, and I think we've lost some of that. We'd like real product based ads. We are like focused on ‘buy now’ forgetting that you're actually there to make people feel good about the brand to not to make people reconsider the brand in the moment.

Kim: Maybe people don't even realize what's happening, but they're being entertained. And the next time there's an occasion and opportunity, you know, the purpose of the advertising is to make that brand come to mind in a positive light at that time. And that's what great advertising does. And that's exactly what these, what these Christmas ads do.

Kim: They are really hot on entertainment. They're hot on making you feel something. I think joy, love, laughter, they're, they're the three things that, you know, really came, really came through this year. 

Kim: And I think the Amazon ad that you mentioned, which I happen to love…And for anyone who hasn't seen it, it's basically this beautiful story of these lifelong friends, these three women, sitting in a beautiful kind of Christmas festive scene, which people love in Christmas ads, it's snow, they're watching kids sledging, they're watching them have the most wonderful time and they're looking on and the devil's in the detail like the expressions on their face they're like they're happy for people sledging they're feeling nostalgic they they're also a moment where you see that they maybe feel like they're missing out a little bit One of them jumps into action, uses their Amazon app, and orders these wonderful, uh, I don't know, padded cushions would be my best description of it.

Ryan: I actually have one of those for my row bike. Actually, I bought it from Amazon. 

Kim: Oh, that's quite funny. Well, if you want to put that in a sledge instead, although you probably aren't old enough to need one. Um, but it was beautiful because she orders it, she brings it back, she gives it to her friends.

Kim: They look at it, kind of wondering what it is, and then realize they head to the top of the slope, and then the best description, the three lifelong friends, um, in their later years, come sledging down the hill, joining in with the youngsters, and there's all these wonderful moments. You can see unbridled joy on their faces.

Kim: Like unbridled joy that you feel yourself when you're watching it. You don't watch them feeling joy. You feel joy for it. It's a really positive representation of an older generation that you don't always get in advertising. There's beautiful connections between the generations because you've got the younger generation.

Kim: And then you've got that beautiful nostalgic moment where one of the ladies goes back in time and sees herself sledging as a child. And, you know, I couldn't help but think, I, like, that will be, that will, not I want that to be, that will be me in 30 years time.

Kim: There's absolutely no way I'm watching people sledging without getting on that sledge and, and going down the slope. I just thought it was really wonderful and people thought it was wonderful. It was representative. It filled them with joy, all of those fantastic things. And, Amazon's done that for a couple of years now, but this is their best yet. This is their best yet. 

Ryan: It really was. And so for everybody listening, Kim analyzed a bunch of UK Christmas ads with British consumers using our ad system. Uh, so below this podcast, anywhere you'll find it will be a hyperlink to the data, to Kim's analysis of the actual ads. What we're going to cover for the rest of this is a mixture of thematics, how that can transform your advertising everywhere and some specifics.

Ryan: And so, I hope you don't mind our specifics, but if you're curious and want to watch a spot as we go, feel free to pause us, click the link below. You'll be able to see the actual ads. And the reason why we wanted to do this episode is, I think it's important because some of the lessons that come from holiday advertising are principles of good marketing and we forget about them in April. We forget about them in August. And just because we produce more expensive spots at these big tent pole moments doesn't mean we should forget about the principles because what did Amazon do? Well, they put their, they put me at the center of a story that I could see.

Ryan: And Kim, I want to go sledding with you when I'm an old man. Can I come? I'll meet you in the North of England. Yeah, I'll ride on my sleigh over there and I'll come over with you. 

Ryan: But I think what are, what are we, what do we know about consumers around the holidays? Well, they're going to shop, they're going to eat, they're going to host friends.

Ryan: So as a brand, you're trying to earn the invite to that special occasion, not drive a purchase order. And so by putting yourself in that story, you have a greater propensity to be there because what that Amazon spot did clearly, if you're reading the room of Kim and I, it struck a chord with us. And. Like we put ourselves there.

Ryan: We're both outdoors people, right? So like that connects with us in a way that click here to get your butt pad tomorrow because you're a prime member wouldn't, but what did they do? They told me a story. They wove a product in subtly. The woman took out her iPhone, ordered the freaking butt pads, brought the boxes same day, and then took her, took her friends on an experience that brought them back to another time.

Ryan: And that's what the holidays are. But I think so much of that is just good advertising. So what I want to do, Kim, is get some of the themes that you saw. Obviously we just covered one big one, but by analyzing these now, I think at least two years in a row, but you've been following this your whole career, what are some of the themes that you saw with this year's holiday spots? And maybe compare them to last year when we also did the exact same work. 

Kim: Yeah, so we talked there specifically, I think, about kind of joy. Um, joy was the big theme there. And that didn't just come through in the Amazon ad. It came through in other ads, which we can go on to talk about as well. But there are other ways as well of entertaining.

Kim: I guess what was, what was probably true of all of the ads was that they're great examples of fantastic entertainment, but the way in which they did it was different. So that one was about making you feel something, making you feel joy. There were a lot of them that were highly entertaining, really great stories and a lot of them that had humor as well.

Kim: So I really want to talk as well about the TK Maxx ad, because it's a really great example of humor and entertainment a very different feeling like laugh out loud rather than feeling something from the inside. I also want to reference that one, by the way, because last year I think you pushed me on not great ads and there were some firsts, like TK Maxx is the most improved.

Ryan: Is that right?

Kim: So for that brand.. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It came highest on love. It came highest on laughter. Um, and it's just wonderful. 

Kim: Also, it opens up with an alpaca, which happens to be an animal that I particularly like…

Ryan: Very likable animal. But also, that song, I don't know if this will be as resonant for you, but that song brought me back to when I was younger. I love that tune. Um, but the humor there really comes through, right? 

Kim: Yeah, so the alpaca comes like strutting along in these like designer clothes out of the barn. So, you know, you see the setting it's all quiet then the music starts the animal struts. You see it's enclosed then it's followed by a couple of other animals and then at the back. There's this little hedgehog thing that's also dressed up. And when they walk out of the barn, this woman, this woman, this little girl, I think it's a grandchild of the couple that are there, like gasp, you know, you've never seen anything like it, it's ridiculous.

Kim: The music stops, so you've got a moment of drama, you've got this like ludicrous opening of the animals, and then the relationship between the husband and wife is also quite magical, like, ‘Come on Jean, I thought we weren't overdoing it this Christmas.’ Um, and of course, she's like, ‘oh, I didn't.’ And, you know, meanwhile, these animals are strutting around in, like, designer clothes.

Kim: And he clearly loves what his wife's done. And there's this little nod between them. But the animals, the interaction between them, it's all, it's all fantastic. And, and humor's not normally, you know, used that much in advertising. I think it's making a bit of a comeback. We're seeing more of it. But it's a really great way of making people feel really good, you know, getting into their minds without them.

Kim: You know, they just feel entertained. They don't feel sold to or or anything else. So I think that humor side is another great example. And we see it a few times. So, I think you mentioned earlier, um, there's the Aldi ad with Kevin Carrot, and everyone finds that hilarious. It's one of the key things, you know, year on year that they bring back the humor.

Kim: I actually had a little note of, I think, one of the lines: ‘I can see his plum crack.’ It sounds like a one liner, with the vegetables in the factory. And then there's a really, there's another very funny one… 

Kim: So, the story is about Kevin Carrot. It's a take off of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Kim: And the guy who owns the factory is called William Conker. And all of the other vegetables do something wrong when they're going around the factory, and of course Kevin doesn't. He behaves himself, he follows the rules, he's very inclusive, very well behaved, and so he gets given the cheese to the factory, the keys of course, and they're actually this great big section, and then he says something like, ‘Oh wow, that's huge, Willy.’

Kim: Referring to the keys, but obviously it's Willy Conker. And like, it's those little, it's those little moments that is really funny. But what's also amazing is, it's not just a clever idea, it's not just a take off of something that's really universal, you know, like everyone knows Roald Dahl and, you know, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Kim: It's not, it's not just that, but the level of detail that they went to in that ad, those little moments of humor, the beautiful way that the whole thing was set, you know, it feels like a proper movie, like people commented on how beautifully set it was. But yeah, I mean on humor specifically, that's very funny.

Kim: And the M&S ad was very funny as well, so we talked about TK Maxx, talked about the Aldi one. 

Kim: The M& S one is with the fairy again. So that's the third year that, uh, she's appeared along with Ryan and Rob from Rexxon. Not how you would know them, right? But you know who I'm referring to, who come as Mittens.

Ryan: I thought that, yeah, the Mittens, I thought was like, I thought that was, I wrote in my notes when I was watching that ad. So I watched some of these ads and then I look at what consumers say. 

Ryan: What I loved about the Marks and Spencer ad, Kim, was it was such a creative use of a celebrity, you know, like, and it was actually quite bold on M&S's part, right, because if you, you know, I think Ryan Reynolds has a pretty distinct voice, right, so like, you know, I knew who it was right away.

Ryan: But it was such a creative application of celebrity, uh, funds and there was something also really old school about it, which I love and a lot of advertisers get wrong. That was a theatrical story they told. And a lot of times brands do that. And then consumers go, great story about the brand, right?

Ryan: Because let's be honest, we're spending money on advertising to build brand, to drive emotion, to drive sales. That's what marketing is all about. The thing that they did that was so beautiful and old school to me is just a subtle Marks and Spencer logo brought to you by the whole damn time in the corner of the screen.

Ryan: Like it was, it was, you were watching the story, but that brand was there the entire time. And it just reminded me of some basic marketing stuff that I think a lot of times when marketers do big swing theatrical performances, they forget, I got to link this to my brand. And M&S just did it so simply.

Ryan: So I give them credit because sometimes simplicity is a good thing. And the story was super creative and wonderful. And, I remembered it was Marks and Spencer. 

Kim: Yeah, they did. I think that one's really interesting as well, because, you know, we were talking about the humor.

Kim: ‘I got snow up my, ah.. Merry Christmas’, you know, the little notes of that, but actually what you say, the brand as well, the really interesting thing, if you look at how people talk about the ad and what they play back, obviously they talk about it being humorous and they talk about the celebrities and all of those things.

Kim: They've stuck with the fairy for the third year running. Kevin the Carrot has played a role now for eight or nine years in Aldi's Christmas advertising. They're actually creating some consistency, which is what I always talk about as a principle, but it's a fresh consistency, right? People say consistency is boring.

Kim: Actually, as humans, we bloody love the familiar. Of course we do. Like, it makes us feel safe. However, dull really is the death of advertising. So if you can make something familiar, but also make it fresh, which is what they do with the new stories on Kevin, it's what they did by bringing in the Mittens this year, two new celebrities that were alongside.

Kim: So the fairy is starting to be established as a cue for M&S, but do you know what the other cue is for M&S? You mentioned the logo, but what do you think it is that people, like in the UK, people immediately know it's M& S? The food, their product! It's bloody delicious.

Ryan: Oh, because it's everywhere. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Kim: It's everywhere. And M&S food is M&S food. Like it's obviously M&S and people recognize it. People think it's delicious. It's almost like interesting, not not just M&S, but actually M& S this year, Asda this year, Sainsbury's this year, they all showed off the food.

Kim: They basically found really creative ways of just being able to show off their amazing products at Christmas, right? Which means that it did brand building. And it will have generated short term sales as well because it's done in a really interesting way. If they just showed their products, it would be awful, right?

Kim: But the way they showed off that beautiful food and the way that I think, you know, Asda did it through talking, through showing Michael Bublé moving through the supermarket as their quality control person. And he was working behind the scenes on making sure all of the food was quality.

Kim: And in Aldi, you could again see all of the food out there. And in M&S they ask, what is it that Santa has for their Christmas dinner? And then they use that as an opportunity to show off all the amazing products they've got. So they've, they've all done it. You know, if we're talking about good principles of advertising, they found interesting ways to give their brand a role and make sure that it pays back for them.

Kim: It's either showing off the products, it's using a distinctive asset like we've talked about with the fairy. Or the other one is things like other distinctive assets like colors and things. So Asda was set in the Asda store. They're wearing green. It's so obvious it's Asda. The uniform is Asda. The people are authentically Asda.

Kim: And the same in the Sainsbury's one. Actually, the Sainsbury's one shows, uh, they're coming up to the front of the store. The first thing you see is a Sainsbury's supermarket and then she walks into the store. I don't know if you've seen the Sainsbury's one and this little girl said, um, manages to get hold of the tannoy, right?

Kim: She gets hold of the tannoy. I don't know what that is in the U. S. Do you call it a tannoy system in a supermarket? 

Ryan: No, uh, probably an overhead system is what we'd call it. I don't even know. I used to work in a supermarket. I still don't know. A PA system maybe? 

Kim: PA system, yeah. So so basically she gets hold of it and she says, ‘Hey Sainsbury's. I've got a question for you.’ We've seen the front of the store. We've seen ‘Hey Sainsbury's shoppers, I've got a question for you.’ And then this story unfolds and she says, ‘um, it's about Santa.’ She's going to ask! The panic! Some air comes out of a balloon, everything goes on to high alert.

Kim:  And then she says, ‘What does Santa have for his Christmas dinner?’ That opens up an opportunity for all sorts of people in the store in the production train out in the field, authentic Sainsbury's people to talk about what the different amazing food things are that Santa may well be having for his Christmas dinner in a branded way, but with an engaging story, a well loved little girl, you know, a narrative that people can can, you know, can get their claws into and really really start to enjoy in a really upbeat way. So sorry, we've gone off on branding.

Ryan: No, but it's super important. There were a couple of thoughts that I was having as you were talking. But also like as I was watching some of these last night. Um, there's a lot of rhetoric and content lately about campaign wear out and It's being positioned as, Hey, marketers, great news for you, campaign wear out, uh, is like less of a thing than you think it is. And tell your CFO that your CFO will like it. 

Ryan: I think what you said is the important part of campaign wear out. So Geico has used a frog or a gecko rather for 20 years, but they are using that distinctive brand asset as part of a campaign territory in really abstract, creative and unique ways.

Ryan: It's the same thing as Kevin the Carrot. It's the same thing as the fairy. These things become part and parcel assets of this brand, which you should be evaluating as: Are my assets what I think they are? And are they coming through in our advertising? If only we had an ad system that allowed brands to do that.

Ryan: Um, that's a shameless plug because we believe we have the best advertising product on the market. Um, but I think really the creative application of determining if you have an asset, being consistent in the deployment of that, but being creative in the application is where a lot of brands get wrong if they ran back the same spot.

Ryan: That wouldn't play. I'd get bored of that. But I think we sometimes conflate campaign wear out or not with the creativity required to make a campaign cascade into the future. What do you think? 

Kim: Well, I think, I think that's right. Although I would challenge the second point in that actually we've seen the same ads can do brilliantly.

Kim: So last year we did some research. 

Ryan: That's good to know. 

Kim: We actually researched five ads in the U. S. that you would know better than me. Um, there was like a Coca Cola, I think it was a polar bear one, skating polar bears. There was ones for Hershey's with bells. There was, there was like five different ads that have run for like 15 or 20 years and were still absolutely brilliant.

Kim: We did the same thing with the Coca Cola truck ad, you know, holidays are coming. Absolutely fantastic. People still love it. So. Interesting. I think if you've got, right, if you've got news based advertising, so if you're saying something about a new product, something that's novel, that's going to wear out, right?

Kim: Because that's not newsworthy anymore. If you are tied into a particular moment. Um, uh, like a football world, sorry, soccer world cup. You see, I'm getting my Americanisms back in here. 

Ryan: It's all right. My mother's Irish. I can speak both languages. 

Kim: You're doing better than me then. Sport, you know, sport, tying into sporting events or cultural moments, that stuff's not going to work like a month or two later, right?

Kim: However, for most advertising, if it's entertainment, and if it's also if it's not something that's culturally become not okay or better understood of it, it's one of those things that doesn't change much. The same ads can actually probably be used a lot more than you think. Um, and actually, I think we probably do rush on to do other things.

Kim: However, the other point that you made, I totally agree with, which is try and establish something that can be familiar with people that they really love. Use that again and again and use it in a fresh way each time that changes it up. And interestingly, And maybe this is one for the US audience because we're talking about UK Christmas ads, but we, we did a load of research on a whole bunch of US ads in finance.

Kim: So a load of insurance ads, a load of, uh, banking ads. And this is just playing into exactly what you said. The banking ads did really poorly overall, like a sector that's really struggling to make themselves interesting, to actually stand out as a brand, be connected to a brand. Whereas the stuff in insurance, almost all of the brands had a distinctive brand asset, a brand character, the stuff that you've just been talking about.

Ryan:  And they do it brilliantly in the US. They really do. 

Kim: It was spot on. They were like a massive cut above. So what we saw is when you look at the finance sector, you've got some of the worst and some of the absolute best advertising that you can find. But there's stuff to learn from that, right? Like, There's no reason why more, you know, in the UK, like Lloyd's Bank for years had a horse.

Kim: It's like, there's no reason why you can't make it interesting. 

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. And I think like, it's so funny you bring the parallel to the U.S. insurance ad. Limu Emu, Jake from State Farm. Geico, Gecko, Flo. I have no interest in that category, but without even blinking I can name all four personas. Yeah, without even thinking about it. 

Kim: And here's another thing when we talk about distinctive assets. We haven't seen many doing this, right? So Kevin Carrot's a real asset for Aldi, but he's a Christmas asset. The fairies are Christmas assets. One of the ads that came in the top 10 was for Argos, which sells all sorts of things in the UK.

Kim: And they had this dinosaur and this doll, Connie, and something else, can't remember their names, doesn't really matter, doesn't mean they're not recognisable! They only started establishing them this year, but their entire ad was the story of those two, so this dinosaur looking like they were recording Connie, this doll who was doing all of these tricks, ended in the splits and went, ‘Did you get that?’

Kim: And he realized he actually had his camera on selfie mode, so it was actually recording the dinosaur and not her doing the tricks. People got the brand, even though they've only been using those characters for a year, and they really like them. What I really like about that is that they've used those assets that they use the rest of the year, and they've brought them into Christmas rather than fully separating them, which I think is a, you know, is an interesting dynamic.

Kim: The Duracell bunny, we focused on retailers this year, but there's an ad for Duracell, the batteries, obviously, are long lasting, and Santa's sleigh, like, Rudolph's got a red flashing nose, and then it stops flashing like the reindeer's run out of battery and can't help Santa deliver all of his presents.

Kim: Um, and the Duracell bunny flies in and looks absolutely appalled at some kind of cheap battery that's being used. So, you know, again, but in a festive story, which is what people want at Christmas. I think that's a really nice idea, and McDonald's did it too. 

Ryan: Did they? There's another, there's another point I wanted to discuss with you and share with everybody. And it sort of only prompted in my brain as we were talking, So I have a, let me just quickly have a bug bear moment. I have a bug bear that we develop innovation separately to the campaigns we create. Name me, name me a company and they likely have an innovation team and an advertising team.

Ryan: And that silo permeates through insights through go to market and everything else. And it, and it plagues me because you innovate for a purpose of driving growth to your brands and your business and you market for the exact same purpose. And we, we happen to sit in the center of this. We see the silo in our, in our life, in our PNL and our customers.

Ryan: A lot of the thinking and innovation is about grounding people in demand spaces or jobs to be done or usage occasions and how that can change based on seasonal moments, cultural moments, et cetera, is real. And a lot of bad advertising does a shitty job of very tacky product placement, in my opinion.

Ryan: Every single one of these ads that scored highly, broke our norm, and is in the top 10, understood the occasion at hand, and tactfully implemented their product into a story. 

Kim: Yes, absolutely. 

Ryan: We should be doing this all goddamn year, ladies and gentlemen. We shouldn't be doing this for Christmas. It was the beautiful food that you knew was their asset in a story that featured the fairy and Ryan Reynolds.

Ryan: It was Kevin the carrot coming up. It was the lady taking out her iPhone. It was, and these, this is about understanding the moment that your consumer is welcoming you into their house. To their family to their cookout to their dinner and being intentional about why you deserve a role there through storytelling. And so many brands get this wrong and I just wanted to go on that rant.

Ryan: So thank you for listening to my TED talk.

Kim: I liked it. I mean the the key thing that we say like if you've got a brand asset then you've got a massive head start so everyone should invest in them, right? But whatever you're doing should..either your brand should make sense of the story, so your brand's the thing that triggers it, or at least the story should make sense for your brand, right?

Kim: If it doesn't make sense, it's not good enough. And I think, and maybe you would contrast this better, but I think that's one of the interesting contrasts when I compare the UK Christmas ads and the US Super Bowl ads. I feel like what the UK Christmas ads have done really well this year, other years as well, particularly this year, is all of them, or not all of them, the vast majority of them, make sense for the brand.

Kim: There's a reason that the brand is telling that story. It's got a role in it, et cetera. Whereas I think in some of the Super Bowl ads, if you remember looking at them, some of them were like really great creative stories, but they didn't, it didn't make sense for the brand where the brand didn't make sense of the story.

Kim: There's obviously exceptions, but I would say that's one of the contrasts. 

Kim: Um, the other contrast being what you mentioned about celebrities and how they're used sometimes in the Super Bowl, the celebrity becomes the whole ad. 

Ryan: Last year Serena Williams was trying to market a beer and like five other things. I'm like, Serena's tired. She just retired. Leave her alone. 

Kim: Yeah, yeah, it's true. And the ad becomes branded to the celebrity and not branded to the brand. Whereas if you look at the clever, and by the way, I happen to believe that if you've got your own character or asset, it's always going to be easier to brand it than if you buy an asset like a celebrity, but sometimes it's worth doing.

Kim: And I think what the Christmas ads did this year in the UK, you know, M& S used celebrities, which we've talked about, but they were used in a really authentic way for who the celebrity was, and the celebrities enhanced the story. Or Michael Bublé in Asda, he played the chief quality officer. So his job, I mean he's highly associated with Christmas, people love him, he sang a carol at the end, but the vast majority of his role was to quality choose the right products that Asda would sell at Christmas, so reinforcing quality credentials and all those things.

Kim: I mean maybe they should have chosen a celebrity chef, not for me to comment on, but Bublé works well because of his connection to Christmas. 

Kim: So, I think that that worked really well and, and Rick played a little cameo role within the Sainsbury's ad. So that was the one I mentioned where they were trying to, uh, the little girl asked what Santa ate for lunch and he was in one of the aisles and then he, like, picked something up and then someone, like, sang a bit of his lyrics from behind and it was quite funny and he played a little cameo role.

Kim: It was in keeping with the story that was going on in the ad. He didn't dominate it. I think there's a little learning in there, um, because I think, you know, we're talking about branding a lot. There's a little learning in there around the celebrities as well and how they can help your story, but they need to not detract from your brand.

Ryan: I think some of the, uh, differences between UK Christmas spots and Super Bowl are actually really profound. I was just thinking about it, like I don't, I don't think you're paying more to place your spot. In the UK right now, you know, you're putting it on BBC nightly news or whatever I think it's still the same… 

Kim: Definitely not the BBC, that can't have ads, Ryan! 

Ryan: Oh, that shows how American I am.

Ryan: Thank you, thank you. As you can tell I don't watch a lot of British TVwhen I’m in England or Ireland. Um, if I'm in Ireland I'm betting on horses with my uncle in a pub. If I'm in England I'm usually working and I'm eating, uh I'm usually eating Asian food because that seems to be what everybody eats in London when they take you out to dinner.

Ryan: There's nothing wrong with that, by the way. Shout out to Dishoom and Thai Ab's, my two favorite restaurants in the United Kingdom. But I was just thinking about it. Like, I feel like the American marketers have a lot of pressure because they're shelling out whatever they're shelling out to produce the spot and then 4 million bucks to place a 30 second spot and.

Ryan: And so, like, I remember helping a small business a couple years ago in the Super Bowl spot, and he was trying to boil advertising's ocean because his board was holding him to account. Like, I need website visitations up, I need sales up, I want to build my brand, I want to do this all, and I need it all done this quarter.

Ryan: And that's a lot to ask from a piece of creative, right? Like, it's, it's a lot to ask from one piece of creative, and so I think that might be maybe why. Because I do think, like, if I look through all the top 10 in the UK,they were all really good advertising and when we've done the Super Bowl, we're always trying to be very polite.

Ryan: But there are some goddamn terrible Super Bowl ads that get out there and I, and I can only think that there's like this pressure to do like Tom Brady and product placement and ACTA and put the brand in and try to be funny. And it's like, oh, I'm confused. 

Kim: It's true, it's true. And what you just touched on, like maybe that's the opportunity in the UK right?

Kim: We compare Christmas and the Super Bowl because they're the big moments, right? I think nine and a half billion, I think they said they'll spend this year on Christmas advertising. Not, not TV, just to be clear. TV is like a small and smaller proportion of a total nine and a half billion market for advertising.

Kim: But what some Super Bowl ads did well and what UK Christmas ads can do really well is that bit that we touched on before which is it's not just about a big TV spot like, yeah, that's great and it sets the scene and it's wonderful when you've got like a program like, uh, I'm a celebrity get me out of here just started on Sunday night.

Kim: And it got, as I understand it, and I hope I haven't got it wrong, I think it got the biggest audience of any program on ITV this year. It usually does. It usually gets really high viewing figures. And Tesco launched their Christmas ad during that thing. 

Kim: But to the point you made earlier, and to the point the Superbowl has less advantage on, you know, someone like Aldi uses stuff with Kevin the Carrot.

Kim: Loads of other ads, loads of social, loads of in store stuff throughout the whole of December. And the same with M&S. You know, if you go into the stores, You feel the ads, it's all linked. The John Lewis one had a big display of a Venus fly trap in their big, you know, their main store in London just after the ad had broken.

Kim: So, you know, for them, if you're going to invest that much, the TV spot is there to make you famous, hopefully get some broad reach, bring some universality to Christmas where people come together and, but, but on its own, it's absolutely. Not enough and there's masses of opportunity to do a holistic campaign around it for multiple, multiple weeks.

Ryan: It's almost like integrated marketing communications isn't like the second thing they teach you when you take marketing class at uni. Anyways, um, as always. This has been fun. Ryan has to get back to work now. So Santa's going to get back in his sleigh. 

Ryan: As I said at the beginning of the episode below, anywhere you find this podcast, you will find a link to the data and also Kim's wonderful analysis. We should also shout out, Kim's team. Cause Kim is a super woman, but she also is not going at this alone. Kim, why don't you give some shout out to some of the people who helped you get all this great work done? 

Kim: Well the biggest shoutout goes to Isa, who did a heck of a lot of the work with launching.

Ryan: Isa, kudos! 

Kim: Launching the stuff, looking at the data, but Daria, Vinny, Katie, Kelsey, there's, you know, there's a whole, there's a whole team behind it who, you know, have worked really hard, and enjoyed it. Let's not pretend, come on, we all love looking at the ads!

Ryan: That's right. It's a fun project and all of the people you mentioned are on my nice list.

Ryan: As are all the, the engaged representative British consumers who took the survey. We, we got rid of all you bots and professional survey takers. So you are on my naughty list. And to our top 10 advertisers, great job to all of you marketers for really, really being relevant to consumers. So I just want to call out in order each of our top 10, according to consumer data.

Ryan: The first ad was Aldi, the second ad was Amazon, then Marks and Spencer. Then Boots, then Asda, then Sainsbury's, then TK Maxx, for my American friends, that's TJ Maxx here, Lidl, Argos, and Very. These were our top 10 ads according to what people thought about them. And so, may you enjoy the fruits of your labor, British marketers.

Kim: Can I just quickly say, in the late entrant of Tesco who only launched on Sunday night, and I think I've crept in 10th place. So well done. 

Ryan: Oh, Tesco. All right. Shout out to Tesco. Very, we love you, so we'll make it a tie for 10th place because they were late. 

Kim: And they were the second most improved year on year. So still congratulations to Very, it was a really big step up and it was awesome. 

Ryan: Oh, that's fantastic. Everybody, happy holidays to you and your family. I hope that you all have a moment to pause to turn your phones off to hug those that you love to tell stories to reminisce about some simple times and give yourself a break from the chaos that is around us.

Ryan: I really thank you for all your support in our podcast and all the work that we're doing. If you have any ideas for us, please let us know and I would like to publicly say, Kim, thank you. You're a pleasure to work with. You bring the heat every day. You're an absolute legend of a person, a teammate, a leader, and your advertising brain is fantastic. So I'm very lucky to have you on my side of the table. Happy holidays, everybody. 

Kim: Thank you, Santa. 

Ryan: Bye bye.