Boy, that escalated quickly! Here we are, barely over a month away from Christmas, and many brands have (naturally) been making their cases for our holiday dollars for the better part of November.
While we haven’t seen anything yet from perennial holiday advertisers such as Apple and WestJet, some fantastic campaigns have already emerged. Here are my five top picks from what we’ve seen from the holiday season so far.
#5: Toys R Us – “Like Father, Like Daughter”
One of the main reasons Star Wars is so transcendent is its appeal across generations; with films now spanning across 5 decades. From the original trilogy and onwards, the movies are not only family-friendly but they have included family as a dominant theme. And based on the teasers for Episode VII, it’s evident that family connections will remain prominent in the next three films.
Toys R Us is understandably (and smartly) betting big on “The Force Awakens” to be a massive force to drive toy sales this Christmas season. By appealing to Gen-Xers’ profound affinity for Star Wars and their desire to share that love with the next generation of children, Toys R Us positions itself as the definitive Star Wars retail destination.
For a 60-second spot, the adorable scenes with great interplay between the actors combine for some strong emotional resonance. While the final setting in the toy aisles somewhat detracts from the raw storytelling, it effectively shows the priority that Toys R Us has dedicated to the Star Wars franchise for Christmas 2015.
#4: Interac – “Toy Store”
In advertising, the months of November and December function primarily for marketers to convince holiday shoppers to loosen their purse strings and spend joyfully with their credit cards. Interac faces an uphill, unsexy battle to persuade Canadians to think about the financial consequences and consider paying with debit.
“Toy Store” by Zulu Alpha Kilo imagines a holiday reality where product costs are more overtly stated than price tags could ever afford. Classic (unbranded) Christmas toys like nutcrackers, stuffed bears, dolls, and 1980s robots break into a chorus of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ with the warning of impending debt.
The message “Have a Merry January” frames the message in a positive way in Interac’s continuation of the successful “Be in the Black” campaign. A prominent outdoor campaign with some cheeky copy (ex: “Debt is a real nutcracker”) neatly puts a bow on the integrated campaign, although the online-only spots don’t quite strike the same chord.
As stated by Rob Feightner, Zulu Alpha Kilo’s client services director, “Canadians are being influenced and pressured to spend more and to spend sooner”. This campaign might just play a part in bucking the trend.
#3: Target – “The Holiday Odyssey”
We’ve all seen commercials where brands reimagine “The Night Before Christmas” where the product is, in one way or another, the hero. But few of them genuinely embrace the spirit of storytelling in a way that actually entertains.
Target (U.S., obviously) is hoping to bring the magic of animated storybooks to entertain and woo its guests with another major adventure in branded content. Centred on a digital storybook narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, Target and agency 72andSunny have created an immersive “Holiday Odyssey” including five holiday spots.
With Toys R Us already owning “Star Wars destination” status, Target managed to get brands like Minions, Barbie, Ninja Turtles, Lego, My Little Pony and Sesame Street to play in the same toy box and appear in the animations. To say this spot must have gone through many approvals would be a massive understatement, which makes its effectiveness even more impressive.
A great article from Adweek details the full scope of this campaign, which includes a kid-friendly wish list app and a tentpole event with Disney to air “Mary Poppins” on network TV for the first time in over a decade. We’ll have to wait and see if this trove of branded content is the ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ that will make it easy for Target’s guests to swallow the bitter pill of their holiday shopping bills.
#2: Duracell – “Battle for Christmas Morning”
The folks at Duracell have smartly featured toys in their holiday ads for many years now, working directly with strategic partner Hasbro since 2012 to show various toys coming alive through the power of their batteries.
With “Battle for Christmas Morning”, Duracell amps it up to a whole new level by bringing the excitement of the Star Wars universe into their commercial through an extended partnership with Disney/Lucasfilm. The production quality delivers in an impressive way that only the direct partnership with Lucas could have yielded.
The casting for the child actors is strong, especially the decision to write a young female Jedi into the script given the lead role Daisy Ridley will play as Rey in the upcoming film.
According to the press release, Duracell is one of the lucky seven global brands selected to participate in the “expansive, historical promotional campaign” to support the December 18th release of “The Force Awakens”. It’s a great alignment for both Duracell and Hasbro, as Star Wars toy sales are expected to bring in close of $2 billion over the last four months of 2015.
If this spot (nearing 9 million YouTube views) can help Duracell become the battery of choice for just a fraction of the electronic Star Wars toys gifted this Christmas, it could mean sales of galactic proportions for the batteries trusted everywhere.
#1: John Lewis – “#ManOnTheMoon”
This UK-based department store is well known (and well loved) for their Christmas ads adverts, and they managed to top most expectations this year with their 2015 spot by adam&eveDDB.
“#ManOnTheMoon” captures some of the best qualities associated with the season: the joy of giving, being kind to our neighbours, and the connections made between generations. In what promises to be a continuing trend in advertising, a young girl was written as the ambitious, resourceful protagonist; discovering a literal man on the moon and earnestly searching for a way to connect with him.
The choice of a cover from the Oasis classic ‘Half the World Away’ fits the story’s plot and emotional tone perfectly, with fantastic acting and art direction ensuring the production is truly cinematic. In a year where “The Martian” became a top box office draw, the concept is perfectly timed to make us sympathize with the lonely old man on the moon.
Of course, this is no small production, costing a full £1 million according to The Telegram. But with 15 million YouTube views and counting, John Lewis hardly needed to spend a fortune in paid media to make the investment worthwhile. And while the spot doesn’t prominently feature many brands – or even the retailer itself – the brand clearly has been getting mentioned as this spot propelled the brand to trend on social, not to mention word of mouth.
John Lewis took the concept a small step giant leap further by launching various initiatives related to the ad, all detailed on one impressive #ManOnTheMoon microsite. An app was created to bring a downloadable poster to life. John Lewis is supporting old people and giving guests a number of ways to view and learn more about the moon, including educational resources for children. Visitors can even shop for Man on the Moon products, including those shown in the ad.
Overall, this is a holiday ad to aspire towards and will be hard to dethrone as the best of 2015. After all, Christmas is a time for believing – and this campaign is enough to make anyone a believer; marketers and consumers alike.