Over the past decade, UK department store John Lewis has established itself as a source of eagerly anticipated Christmas adverts. Intensely human in their application, it’s the emotion they engender that wins over the hearts of the nation time and time again.
What’s interesting however is that often they’re not really focused on the humans in them at all. Nearly all of them have equally included some level of CGI or animated work, from bears to foxes, snowmen to penguins. This year, it’s a monster living under the bed called Moz and the tale of his unlikely friendship with a young boy that’s generating millions of views.
Whether you like this particular iteration or not, there’s no denying John Lewis’s impact in the space. This year, there are more animated ads than ever; many of them likewise focused on some warm and fuzzy feelings.
Read on for a round-up of six other animated ads that have caught our eye…
Barbour continues its partnership with The Snowman and The Snowdog for the second year, introducing a short campaign that follows young boy Billy into adulthood with his family. Included are his wife, his daughter and the now elderly dog, as well as the returning snowman himself. Original footage from the animated film, which was released in 2012 to mark the 30-year anniversary of The Snowman, is featured in the ad alongside 45 seconds of new content.
Tiffany & Co
This animated ad follows a wooden artist’s mannequin in a snowy landscape discovering various Tiffany & Co products in the snow; a diamond encrusted key, a ring adorning a tree and a bracelet around a rabbit’s neck. Throughout the tale, a big snowball is rolling around, eventually doing so over the mannequin until it breaks apart to reveal the best gift of all; the classic Tiffany blue box.
This documentary style campaign from Australian department store David Jones, follows an animated gingerbread man as he leaves his home for a backpacking adventure, collecting gifts for his family along the way. He travels through London, Paris and New York, before being knocked over by a dog and falling into pieces. However, hope is not lost, as a confectioner finds and reassembles the traveller, and sends him home where he and his family embrace within the window of the storefront in Sydney. The David Jones Christmas windows are always eagerly awaited in Australia, and this advert cleverly revealed their theme.
This fully animated ad from UK store Jigsaw follows the story of two neighbours who leave gifts anonymously for each other every Christmas under the tagline “Together through the years”. One year however, the boy, now fully grown, goes to leave a gift at his neighbour’s house and finds she no longer lives there. Fortunately she returns to deliver him his present and tell him where she has moved. Soon he is at her new door with another gift of his own. The closing line for this advert is “Be together this Christmas”.
In this playful advert from Christian Louboutin, when a female homeowner leaves her house, all of the baubles on her tree magically come to life. They dance around the tree unwrapping gifts and playing with what is inside (including various Louboutin gifts). When they hear her getting home they then hastily fix up the decorations and jump back into place just as she enters to see all of her shoes unwrapped and adorning her tree.
Marks & Spencer
M&S presented a family-oriented campaign this year based on a story about Paddington Bear the night before Christmas. Tied into the launch of the Paddington 2 film, this exclusive tale sees the young bear accidentally discovering a burglar (and mistaking him for Father Christmas), then going from house to house redelivering the stolen gifts.
Yoox is running an innovative marketing campaign on YouTube for the holiday season, which sees pre-roll ads featuring exclusive yet disappearing products.
Created in partnership with Google and Stink Studios, the 15-second ads showcase “The World’s Most Exclusive Collection” through shoppable fashion items that are only available for the timeframe of the video. Once the spot is over, the customer viewing won’t be able to watch it again nor will they be able to find the piece in question on the Yoox site.
The products featured are referred to as the “endangered protagonists” of the short movies, with shoppers given the chance to “save” them by buying them. If the occasion is lost, the item will be destroyed by a series of surreal animated 3D mechanisms, and the next person gets the opportunity instead.
The aim is to not only play with the pre-roll format, but with the concept of luxury desirability and urgency to buy in an on-brand, whimsical and pop animated way, reads the write-up.
“The aesthetics and the concept of the animations reminds that of childhood cartoons, in which the narration is deployed very rapidly and the climax immediately reached. However, behind the simplicity of the video is an innovative technology which we have explored together with Google, which allowed us to obtain a truly captivating format”, said Filippo Vezzali, creative director at YOOX.
“This campaign is proving that it is possible to run a branding campaign with performance tools, thus integrating a full funnel strategy which appeals to both awareness and purchase intent. It is brandformance at its best,” added Simone Zucca, fashion and retail sector leader for Google Italy.
Technically, the ads have been developed by using RITA, Stink Studios’ proprietary real time video cloud rendering platform. Each item is seamlessly integrated into the animated video in real-time, as the viewer is watching, making each shoppable pre-roll ad completely unique.
The ads are running in the US, Italy, Japan and South Korea until mid December and across cyber weekend.
What better time of year for something a bit fun and interactive than at Christmas. With an increasing movement towards more in the way of technology that actually resonates with consumers, we’ve seen all sorts of campaigns deployed this season to enhance the festive experience in both physical and digital spaces.
From chatbots to virtual reality devices, not to mention increasingly clever applications on social media, all things digital are proving key for successful holiday seasons to come.
Here we’ve rounded up all of the best of this year’s initiatives across the fashion and retail space. Don’t forget to also check out our best picks of the festive films for 2016.
Technology aids in merging physical with digital
The evolving presence of tech in the holiday season was first spotted when John Lewis launched its Christmas campaign in the UK a few weeks ago. Included was an in-store activity where visitors could experience its Buster the Boxer commercial through virtual reality headsets.
Shortly after, eBay opened a two-day pop up in London that aimed to be the first store run on ‘emotions’. Visitors could browse gift items and select the ones they responded to the best, according to bio-analytic and facial technology.
Next we saw Hearst Magazines teamed up with Blippar to create the world’s first ‘augmented reality retail district’ in Covent Garden. Magazine editors worked with 35 participating retailers to bring to life beauty and fashion gift guides that are only available to view through the Blippar app. Further gamification included using the app over the district’s Christmas tree, located in the famous Piazza, to unlock retailer and restaurant discounts.
Meanwhile in New York, department store window displays are being celebrated through a campaign from Google called Window Wonderland, which allows users to experience 18 displays, from the iconic Bergdorf Goodman to Macy’s and Tiffany & Co, also through the magic of VR. Each can be zoomed in and even come with audio guides from some of the store creatives talking about this year’s work.
The experience was produced by Google’s Art, Copy & Code team by taking hundreds of high-resolution images of each store and then stitching them together so they can be viewed via a web browser, on a smartphone or tablet, or through a VR headset.
In a nod to the lesser trend of wearable technology this season, Samsung is celebrating the launch of its new G3 smartwatch in Piccadilly Circus from Dec 1 until Christmas Eve, with one choir performance a day, showcasing holiday spirit from around the world. Aiming to bring Londoners and visitors together, each choir comes from a different culture or country, ranging from France to Bangladesh.
The key part however is that selected choir members will wear the new smartwatch, which will measure their heartbeats, movements and calories burnt. The biometric results have then been transformed into visuals, displayed on eight screens around the stage.
Social media spans chatbots to live video
Beyond creatively deploying technology in physical environments, brands are taking to social media to explore new and different ways they can engage and encourage followers to get excited for the season.
Conversation was also the name of the game for Agent Provocateur this season, albeit in a human capacity. The lingerie brand took to Whatsapp for a campaign led by its agency Cult LDN. Referred to as a Ménage à Trois, it helped couples choose ideal gifts by chatting within a group.
In a simpler way, we’ve also seen retailers like Macy’s pushing its “The Santa Project” campaign over social media with ads on Facebook Canvas and Instagram Marquee, while also encouraging followers to record their own videos explaining why they #Believe in Santa.
Also deploying video is Barneys New York, which has promoted a stylish Secret Santa featuring a group of influencers, from Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine to DJ Mia Moretti. #BarneysUnwrapped lives on the retailer’s Instagram page, where each participant stars in an individual video unwrapping their gift, subtly encouraging viewers to buy said items at Barneys, of course.
Needless to say, there’s also been a big focus on Snapchat this season with retailers such as Kohl’s taking the tried-and-test route of Sponsored Geofilters and John Lewis a Sponsored Lens themed to Buster the Boxer.
Sweet, Hearst’s Snapchat-only media channel, meanwhile ran a two-day pop-up ‘shop’ sponsored by Maybelline. It released a gift guide with over 100 snaps, ranging from affordable to expensive, with Maybelline ads running in between. While Sweet’s editorial team worked on the extensive gift selection, it also developed fun and shareable content such as GIFs and catchy phrases, hoping viewers would screengrab their wish list items and send to friends.
Despite the success of a Snapchat giveaway campaign during this year’s Black Friday, US beauty subscription box Birchbox experimented with Instagram Stories in a “12 Days of Christmas” initiative for the holidays instead. It revealed prizes and discounts from partners such as Hilton and Athleta, in a campaign hosted by actress Sophia Bush.
This sort of staggered giveaway as a strategy, has been deployed by a number of other American retailers this year, including Target for Black Friday, and JetBlue with another 12-day campaign in a bid to get customers to come back and interact day after day.
Meanwhile with live video on a steep incline, Facebook Live has been the focus for a lot of brands ahead of the holidays. UK retailer Primark, an active user of the feature, has recently promoted a series of giveaways under the “Go, Get and Gift” headline, where viewers who answered questions correctly the quickest would be rewarded discounts and gifts.
ASOS ran a similar campaign that grabbed viewer’s attentions by asking them to guess what was packed inside mysterious bags as tips and hints slowly unfolded, with all the right answers entering a prize draw.
What this also proves is that with digital media so embedded in customers’ lives, brands are particularly embracing chances to grab audience attention while they’re willing to join in; during a positive and festive time of the year. The holiday season, unlike its divisive younger sister Black Friday, is the perfect opportunity for them to convey a message of unity and fun, while experimenting with all that the newest tech has to offer. Look out for much more of this ahead too however.
Artificial intelligence is getting a kickstart for the holiday season with an elf-themed chatbot launching at Mall of America.
E.L.F, or Experiential List Formulator, is an IBM Watson-enabled platform, created in collaboration with Watson developer partner Satisfi, which helps visitors plan a more personalised shopping experience. It understands and interprets their queries using the Watson Conversation API and AlchemyLanguage API, both through Facebook Messenger or online on mobile and desktop via elf.mallofamerica.com.
Visitors to the shopping centre in Bloomington, MN, are guided through a series of questions from E.L.F to understand things like how much time they have and what activities they prefer. The service then presents them a series of suggestions, including ideal stores, theme park rides and shows.
The pilot programme aims to better understand, connect with, and create superior experiences for in-store shoppers, according to Don White, CEO of Satisfi. Head over to Forbes to find out more.
Actress Zosia Mamet returns to Kate Spade New York’s #MissAdventure campaign series, this time accompanied by her friend Miss Piggy for the holiday season.
The duo appears in an elevator together at the Empire State Building on their way to a festive party. In dreaded holiday style, a faux pas lies in the fact they’re wearing the same outfit. Cue a flurry of bickering and amusing comebacks to one another around who wears what better. There’s even a cameo appearance from Lendra Medine of Man Repeller.
“Our story for holiday is about the tools that we create to give our customers a unique and personalised experience,” Kristen Naiman, Kate Spade New York’s SVP of brand creative, told AdWeek. “When we started thinking about personalisation and the place that #MissAdventure occupies, we were really thinking, ‘What does it mean to have a unique sense of style and how do you express yourself through that?’ We turned that on its head and created a would-be debacle out of an effort to have your own personal style.”
The ad ends on the two long-time friends making up over their fashion choices and heading out to enjoy the occasion. “I love you but you make me bananas,” Mamet says.
Shorter versions of the spot are running as paid digital placements, while Miss Piggy also appears in a print and social campaign alongside Jourdan Dunn. Her character is otherwise part of an accessory line for the brand featuring wallets, phone cases and jewellery.
Speaking to WWD on the launch, Miss Piggy said: “Moi was already a big fan of Kate Spade New York’s Miss Adventure’s series. I mean you see all these fabulous and incredibly strong and wonderful women like Anna Kendrick and Zosia Mamet having fun. So, I thought: I’m fabulous, incredibly strong and wonderful, I need to be part of this. When I discovered they wanted to create product inspired by moi: Well, it was a done deal.”
H&M has teamed up with Hollywood director Wes Anderson, famed for his quirky films including The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, for a charming holiday tale titled Come Together.
Starring Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody, it’s a short spot about bad weather and mechanical conditions holding up a train journey on Christmas day. Brody plays the part of conductor having to deliver the bad news, before the camera pans across several carriage windows where varying characters are shown individually, including an unaccompanied small boy. Brody’s character then promises to make up to all aboard by offering a Christmas brunch at the cafeteria.
Anderson’s signature aesthetic and photography is present throughout, creating beautifully-constructed vintage scenes with H&M’s collections playing the smaller role alongside.
The spot ends with everyone coming together around a Christmas tree to the sound of Happy Christmas by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, conveying the idea of togetherness during the holiday period.
H&M isn’t the only fashion brand working with Hollywood names of late either: Prada just released a spot directed by David O Russell of Joy, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle fame; Burberry revealed The Tale of Thomas Burberry for the holiday season written by Matt Charman and directed by Asif Kapadia; Mulberry’s festive campaign was written by Hugo Guinness and directed by Albert Moya; and Moncler has also released a short film called Brave, Vision from Spike Lee.
In the past, H&M has also enlisted heavy hitters such as Katy Perry (2015) and Lady Gaga (2014), both below, to celebrate the festive season with music.
The holiday season has become a big opportunity for retailers and brands to create a deeper emotional connection with their customers at a pivotal time of year for spend. 2016 continues much in the same way, powered by big launches including a message of female empowerment from M&S with Mrs Claus, another iconic nod from John Lewis with Buster the Boxer, and a big cinematic piece from Burberry.
Whether the intention is to encourage happy tears or just have your audience laugh, brands are stepping up to the challenge of showing a strong sense of self, and conveying a powerful message in the process, all in a bid, of course, to drive some of that all-important Q4 revenue in their direction.
Read on for our pick of the best campaigns across the fashion and retail space in Europe and US this year (beyond those already mentioned), as well as a bevvy of further ones to know about below…
Mulberry: It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Mulberry tugs at the heartstrings for the holiday season with an endearing story of love and acceptance played by child actors pretending to be grown-ups. The two-part film, which was shot in the British countryside in Surrey, tells the story of a traditional Christmas where three siblings return to their childhood home to spend the holidays with their difficult mother. As the story unravels, secrets and problems come to light. At the end of Part I, in an act of generosity, one sibling gifts her sister her much loved new Bayswater bag, in a realisation that “it’s what’s inside that counts”.
Directed by Albert Moya and written by Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel), it explores a deeper meaning of accepting each other for who they are. As Johnny Coca, the label’s creative director, explains: “When I was a kid, all that I wanted to do was to be grown up so I could be like my dad. Now that I am an adult, I just want to be a kid again! Christmas brings out the kid in all of us, and this is what I love about using children to tell our story this year.” The second and final version, which shows the family coming to terms with each others’ faults and weaknesses, premieres later this month.
Macy’s: The #SantaProject
The tagline for Macy’s holiday campaigns has long been about the idea of “Believe”. For 2016, they’ve turned that into an exploration of whether children today do indeed believe in Santa Claus. Cue a series of seriously cute clips featuring young kids sharing their thoughts on the miracle of Christmas, before a reminder message of the sort of realities they’re faced with when turning to the internet to search out the truth instead. It’s a positive note revolving really around kindness with what we post online, which let’s face it, can be applied to all parts of life, especially after this rocky year.
Rebecca Minkoff: Holiday My Way With @arielle
Rebecca Minkoff teams up with Vine star Arielle Vandenberg to tell the story of an independent woman trying to navigate the holidays by herself as she decides to stay in the city for the first time, and not go home to see her family. Each video, or chapter, focuses on a different achievement as the main character stumbles into adulthood, from decorating the apartment, to hosting a Friendsgiving, alluding to Thanksgiving as well.
Rebecca Minkoff, the designer herself, makes a cameo as a friend disappointed with the (clumsily wrapped) gift she receives from the main character. On other platforms, the #holidaymyway hashtag is being used to promote a Christmas gift guide and additional marketing content.
Harrods: A Very British Bear Tale
Seemingly inspired by Disney’s Frozen, Harrods tells an animated tale of a young teddy bear serving as the only (snuggly) survivor when an ice storm takes over the palace thanks to a mischievous elf. Hugh, as he’s called, comes to the rescue by climbing to the rooftop in order to signal help from Father Christmas in the North Pole. As the narrated story continues, the spell is broken and Hugh ends up crowned a prince thanks to his courage.
In addition from Harrods this season, is A Very British Fairy Tale in partnership with Burberry; a stop motion short made from paper cutouts.
Coach: A Holiday Film Starring #RexyTheCoachDino
Coach continues its good-humoured approach to luxury with a holiday film starring its now beloved mascot, Rexy the Coach Dino. The film shows what happens at the label’s New York City workshop after hours, when one rogue Rexy leather dinosaur comes to life. Aiming to wreak havoc, the dinosaur runs free pushing over boxes, breaking baubles and generally creating a mess, all while dancing – by herself – to the soundtrack of Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”, as sung by The Donnas. As the sun rises, Rexy spots an open window and sets herself free, roaming the streets of the city independently.
Kate Spade: Make Magic Happen
Kate Spade’s short but sweet spot, starring model Jourdan Dunn and stylist Catherine Baba, features a small cameo by the iconic Miss Piggy. Shouting over the spot in a possessive manner, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”, the fabulous Muppets’ character attempts to keep all handbags to herself. The campaign also promotes the designer’s latest collaboration, with Miss Piggy herself. The holiday line includes wallets, phone cases, and accessories with the character’s “Who, moi?” catchphrase.
Speaking to WWD, Miss Piggy talked of her excitement to join the great group of women associated with the brand: “Moi was already a big fan of Kate Spade New York’s Miss Adventure’s series. I mean you see all these fabulous and incredibly strong and wonderful women like Anna Kendrick and Zosia Mamet having fun. So, I thought: I’m fabulous, incredibly strong and wonderful, I need to be part of this. When I discovered they wanted to create product inspired by moi: Well, it was a done deal.”
Target: The Toycracker
Target is betting big on its holiday campaign with an eight-minute musical titled The Toycracker, a cheeky take on the Nutcracker classic that reimagines the Tchaikovsky soundtrack as a modern hip hop track. Developed by ad agency 72AndSunny, the spot stars singer John Legend as the Rat King, his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, as the Nutcracker and Isabella Russo (The School of Rock) as Clara. This year’s popular toys, such as Trolls and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, have replaced classic characters such as the Sugar Plum Fairy and toy soldiers, while the play’s famous sword fight scene will be told as a rap battle.
The full musical will air in two four-minute spots during ABC’s network premiere of the film Frozen on December 11 in the US. Meanwhile, the brand has launched behind-the-scenes footage of the night of the musical in the shape of a trailer, starring the Bullseye dog and a young girl, Marisol, as well as toys that have come to life to work on the production. The campaign will be supported by further marketing activity that includes a Snapchat filter and a “10 Days of Deals” promotion.
Farfetch: The Holiday Remix
For this Christmas season, Farfetch is presenting a remix of all things festive with a shoppable video that takes on a modern twist of the Nutcracker story. The e-tailer worked with choreographer Dana Foglia, of Beyonce’s Formation fame, to create a modern-day version of Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, with dancers donning this season’s best partywear.
When watched on Farfetch.com, the video allows customers to shop by displaying circles over certain garments, thanks to a partnership with touchable video platform Cinematique. Clicking the circles will showcase more information about the outfit, and allow users to add to a basket and checkout at the end.
Warehouse continues its ‘Resolutely British’ reinvention, under the helm of newly appointed creative director Emma Cook, with a video campaign that celebrates what happens in the girl’s room, or the ladies’ room at public spaces, from nightclubs to bars. The short video shows women touching up their make-up, socialising and generally letting their guard down, in a space where “strangers become allies, the compliments are free and the drama is left on the dancefloor”.
Topshop: The Anti-Cliché Christmas
Topshop appeals to its young and trendy demographic with a call to express individuality. The spot showcases models of all different styles, from modern sportswear to grungy, walking as cuts outs in front of backgrounds including cityscapes and the beachside, emphasising the idea of party dressing “without the one-size-fits-all approach” in order to represent an anti-cliché sort of Christmas.
To celebrate the sentiment, Topshop has also launched its still image campaign presenting its next generation of rising fashion stars, which are models Stella Maxwell, Londone Myers, Cami Morrone, Jing Wen, Kiki Willems, Marjan Jonkman, Damaris Goddrie, Caitie Green and Lottie Moss, Kate Moss’ youngest sister. Explaining the campaign, Kate Phelan, the retailer’s creative director, says: “This season is about the individual spirit of a woman – she no longer wants to be part of a tribe, she has her own style.”
House of Fraser: Christmas is Coming for You
British retailer House of Fraser is aiming to convey the excitement and anticipation that precedes the season with a modern dance spot, in the same vein as Farfetch. Teaming up with choreographer Suzette Brissett, the spot showcases dancers going through a whirlwind of settings, including an opulent dining table and a forest where trees are filled with presents. The upbeat soundtrack is courtesy of British songstress Laura Mvula, who reinterprets The Fugees’ classic Ready or Not track.
Additional ones to check out below include Cartier, Very.co.uk, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Harvey Nichols, Jack Wills, Boohoo.com, Debenhams, New Look, Tiffany & Co, Gap and Banana Republic. As a bonus: also tugging our heart strings outside the fashion space, is Sainsbury’s The Greatest Gift.
Primark has unveiled its own “Keyboard” for the festive period featuring a multitude of Christmas-themed emojis including novelty jumpers, gingerbread men, a pug and a shopping bag bursting with presents.
Available for iOS and Android, the app enables users to insert the icons directly into any iMessage/MMS or Facebook message. Also available are fun animated GIFs including sparkling Christmas trees and glittery party dresses.
The launch comes following iOS 10’s new themed stickers in its Messages apps. Within an iMessage on an iPhone or iPad for instance, users can click on the ‘Store’ button to download a variety of different packs. Primark is one of the first retailers to offer one. H&M also did it for the launch of its Kenzo collection, while other brands including Starbucks, Super Mario and the Mr Men line have versions too.
Olly Rzysko, head of digital comms, at the retailer, commented: “Christmas is the time for giving and we wanted to give our fans the opportunity to make their messages much more festive in 2016. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s free and really captures the emotion and fun that surrounds the most wonderful time of the year.”
The Keyboard was created by messaging agency Snaps, which has also worked with brands including Coach, Macy’s and Dove. Snaps’ CEO, Christian Brucculeri, said: “We’re thrilled to support Primark’s entry into the mobile messaging market with their holiday-focused keyboard. With this launch, Primark is taking its first steps into consistently being in the consumer conversation on messaging apps like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. At Snaps’ we’ve shown that consumers sharing of brand emojis, stickers and other related content drives an increase in awareness, brand favourability and purchase intent.”
Move over John Lewis, Marks & Spencer may just have beaten you to the title of best Christmas campaign in UK retail this year.
“Christmas with Love” is not only a heartwarming festive tale, but a message of female empowerment at a time of political dismay coming out of the recent US elections. In an anti-Trump statement, its heroine is none other than Mrs Claus herself.
A feminist declaration, it sees Oscar-nominated actress Janet McTeer, sneaking off on her own secret mission during Christmas Eve night, while Santa is busy away on his sleigh. Taking several cues from James Bond – snowmobile, underground transport hub, helicopter ride and more – Mrs Claus arrives at the home of a little boy to make his Christmas wish come true.
Unlike her husband, she skips all the difficult bits, like sliding down the chimney, and instead acts the ultimate logical superhero by striding purposefully the front door. It’s bold, modern and completely kickass, which supports much of the sentiment about it across social media.
The three-minute tale was created by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, and directed by Tom Hooper, of The King’s Speech, Elizabeth I and Les Miserables fame. It’s an ambitious piece of cinematic storytelling, as others like Burberry have strived for this season.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of customer, marketing and M&S.com, said: “Our ‘Christmas with Love’ campaign is a brand new approach for M&S this year, one that has been created with our customers and for our customers, with their feedback at the heart of our strategy. Our ambition is for M&S’s customers across the nation to experience something special this festive season.”
It launches during a challenging time for the retailer, after it announced the closure of 60 stores and a fall in pretax profit of 88% during the first six months of this financial year. Never before has there been such a need for it to turn to fulfilling what its customers really want.
“Mrs Claus is the result of thousands of conversations that we had with our customers to understand what they want from M&S – which is warmth, empathy and a touch of humour presented in a modern and contemporary way. She epitomises the huge efforts our customers put in to making the festive season special and represents the love and togetherness that customers want to feel and see in abundance at Christmas,” Bousquet-Chavanne added.
The ad has already been watched over 4 million times on YouTube. It is supported online by a wealth of web content and fun social messaging (as per the below) backed by Mrs Claus with the #LoveMrsClaus hashtag. All of them continue in her note of female empowerment, even the replies being sent to individual users commenting on the ad. She will also appear in a spot giving style tips to TV presenter Dawn O’Porter and Christmas decoration suggestions to Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer.
The campaign comes of course hot on the heels of the US election and presumably a hope from the retailer that it would support the country’s first female president from afar had Hillary Clinton won. The #imwithher hashtag surrounding the presidential election is undoubtedly a great fit with this same message.
The concept of feminist marketing has been a big focus from brands across the board in recent years, including from others such as H&M and Netflix this autumn. John Lewis also nodded to the results of the US election, as well as Brexit, with a quote from Craig Inglis, customer director, that read: “2016 has certainly been quite a year, so we hope our advert will make people smile.”
It does that too, but for the women out there, M&S manages to go that one step further and gently remind us that hope is not completely lost, after all.
“Gifts All Wrapped Up” is the theme of Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter’s Christmas campaign, but underlying it is a clumsy dose of racial stereotyping that somehow got signed off by the combined teams.
An animated tale documenting the process of gift-giving and delivery from the luxury e-commerce sites, the film depicts a gentleman buying presents online, before seeing them all arrive under the Christmas tree in what looks like a family scene. The 30-second version of the ad has been viewed on YouTube close to 900,000 times so far. There is also a 60-second cut.
The gent in question is depicted as a white male. Also featured as characters in the ad are a white woman, a black woman and three white kids.
Here’s the issue: The black woman’s role is incredibly confusing – supposed to be a friend, she is the one spending her time doing the “work”. In decorating the tree, lighting the fire and eventually opening the door to the gift deliveries, she comes across as the hired help.
As a colleague pointed out, she’s dressed very well in the piece – seemingly wearing Gucci – but she almost certainly appears to be a personal assistant at the very least. So the question is, why has she been portrayed as a black woman? Was that necessary?
Let’s not forget this is an animation – meaning she was purposefully “coloured in”, to be incredibly vulgar about it. Had it been a real-life film however, that reflection of race may in fact have only been more evident.
For the record, the campaign does further include a gift guide depicting a number of different characters from a broader diverse background. In that context, it comes across as less a matter of stereotyping and more an intention to fulfill a diversity brief.
As the team told me in response to request for comment: “The heart of the campaign is the stylish and easy shopping experience Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter provides our customers during the busy holiday season, as showcased and experienced by the diverse characters depicted throughout, who represent both our customers from the 170+ countries we proudly serve and the individuals delivering our first-rate service.”
In the film however, the dynamic between the animated characters and exactly what the black woman’s role is, remains unclear. Another response from the combined Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter team to me, reads: “The whole group is a mix of grown-ups and children of all backgrounds with no discernible relationship to each other, who are celebrating the holiday season together.”
Unintentional though it may have been, the fact of the matter is, the campaign still comes across as though its based on a stereotypical, wealthy white family, even if they are meant to rather be a group of friends, while a black woman helps alongside. It’s a thoughtless depiction of society, not to mention its own customer base – an example of a brand naively playing the diversity card for commercial gain.
What really matters is that this didn’t get picked up internally before being released – neither by the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group nor by the agencies involved. (It was illustrated by Simone Massoni via Dutch Uncle Agency, with animation by Animade). Perhaps this is politicising something that doesn’t need to be politicised, but as part of a leading luxury business, these two brands have a responsibility to be more aware of the messages they put out into the world.
Net-a-Porter was previously praised back in August for its autumn campaign’s focus on diversity. Speaking about it at launch, Claudia Plant, global brand creative director at the company, explained: “We have a global audience we cater to and that audience is made up of multiple nationalities with different style aesthetics. For our fall campaign, we shot five completely different women, and what we got was a great variety of fashion characters that we hope speaks to a broad spectrum of our customers across the globe. When casting the models, it was very important to strike a balance between women who would inspire our customers, as well as having the right mix of fresh faces.”
As the Telegraph wrote at the time: “Translation: where you’re looking to sell designer wares to women on every continent, it can only help to show them women who represent them.”
In this instance, it looks like a classic case of that extended diversity brief gone very wrong.