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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.
Christmas ads used to be all about selling product. Brands and retailers would dust off the Rat Pack Christmas album, add in some sparkly frocks and set the scene at a dinner party, office party or some other kind of party and there it was. Today though, those Christmas ads are spectaculars that have to build brand awareness, do some social/environmental good and set social media buzzing.
And they have to be emotionally engaging. So I was particularly interested in ICM Unlimited’s webcam survey that tracked consumer reaction to the ads from the UK’s big high street retailers.
They used webcams as part of a survey to capture emotions on faces during a screening of six festive ads. ICM Unlimited found that The Art of Christmas from M&S came top, just beating Sainsbury’s Mog ad as the most emotionally engaging ad. M&S was higher up the emotional engagement scale than any of the other ads tested using ‘facial coding’ and also beat Tesco, John Lewis, Asda and Boots.
ICM Unlimited and CrowdEmotion rated six ads based on a score for happiness, surprise, puzzlement, disgust, fear and sadness. Emotional engagement for the ads was compared against explicit appreciation – did audiences say that they enjoyed the ad? Based on the results, retailers fell into in one of four categories: Love It, Hate It, Needs Work or Guilty Pleasures.
Tom Wormald, director at ICM Unlimited, said: “In surveys, people claim they don’t respond to – or are not influenced by – TV advertising. But using a webcam we can prove we go on an emotional rollercoaster when watching commercials, meaning the ads are influencing our attitudes and behaviours in ways we often don’t even realise.
“The M&S ad sat firmly in our ‘Guilty Pleasures’ category because although people claimed not to like it, the emotional response shows that it brings a lot of ‘happiness’. Sainsbury’s triggered a positive ‘puzzlement’ response driven by curiosity about the storyline. A fast-paced but disjointed narrative from Boots registered a sense of ‘fear’ – it made people feel uncertain. We even detected a sense of ‘disgust’ in responses to some ads, possibly because viewers might feel manipulated by some parts of an advert.”
This is what ICM said about each one:
M&S – The Art of Christmas: Winner in ‘emotional engagement’ – happiness everywhere
This came up top as the most emotionally engaging advert, filled with extravagant visuals and using Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk as the soundtrack. Upbeat and colourful, peppered with images of gift giving, feasting and excitement, this ad closes nostalgically with fleeting images of Morecambe & Wise. The ad really takes off with shots of children waking then jumping excitedly on beds. Here the facial expressions were all about happiness – 133% higher than the norm of the ads tested.
Sainsbury’s – Mog’s Christmas Calamity: Curiosity and the cat make this a favourite
High explicit appreciation and emotional engagement contributed to the success of this ad. Viewers experienced ‘fear’ at the start because when people see cute animals their protective instincts kick in – and that translates into fear of danger. But the ad’s humour quickly produces high scores for ‘happiness’, some 85% above the ad norm when Mog is spun around on a ceiling fan in the kitchen. The Sainsbury’s story created a strong sense of ‘puzzlement’ and curiosity too – scoring 150% higher for these emotions than the John Lewis ad.
Tesco finest Range – Flirt: Puzzlement and disgust
The sight of an awkward young man trying to impress a confident older woman with his tastes in desserts, cheese and wine also brought mixed emotions. There was ‘puzzlement’ about whether the flirty son would be put in his place. The young man’s insistence on seeking the older woman’s attention created a sense of ‘disgust’. But ‘happiness’ peaks when the young man’s mother arrives to put him down by showing her son some boys-sized pyjamas.
John Lewis – Man on The Moon: Experience the full range of emotions
This is the ad everyone wanted to hate (low explicit appreciation scores), but secretly loved (sound emotional engagement scores). Featuring a young girl making contact with the Man on the Moon, the ad is unusual and resulted in higher ‘surprise’ scores (40% more than Sainsbury’s Mog the Cat). It also registered ‘disgust’, with viewers possibly rejecting the ad for its use of feelings of guilt and pathos towards the elderly. Man on the Moon also scored 22% more ‘sadness’ compared to Mog the Cat.
Asda – Because it’s Christmas: Cute Pug dog with antlers hits the high point
Asda’s ad performed poorly on ‘explicit appreciation’ and ‘emotional engagement’. Despite the upbeat soundtrack and visuals, viewers felt the ad lacked a clear narrative. But there were some high points with ‘happiness’ surging to 60% above the norm when the cute Pug dog with antlers appears.
Boots – Discover More: Peaks of fear and disgust sprinkled with some happiness
Viewers saw the Boots ad as lacking a narrative. There were small peaks of ‘fear’, possibly due to a sense of disorientation as the ad moved quickly from scene to scene. Viewers also registered spikes of ‘disgust’, probably due to the heavy emphasis on product placement and limited human interaction, which can leave audiences feeling manipulated. Near the end there are small peaks of ‘happiness’ as a woman finally makes eye contact and waves to viewers.
This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday
Macy’s has achieved the title of most-viewed Christmas ad in the US with its heartwarming tale of a young girl spreading festive spirit and granting wishes wherever she goes.
“The Wish Writer”, as it’s called, nods to the idea of giving to others over the holiday season, and dutifully sees such warm thoughts and good deeds returned to the main protagonist for her generosity. It’s thoughtful, emotional, and a nice example of a retailer embracing the idea of storytelling.
Festive retail films are continuing to come out in droves, with Target, Sainsbury’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods getting in on the storytelling and emotion-inspiring game, ranging from an adventure to save the Christmas tree, to Mog the cat almost ruining the day, and a coach getting a wonderful surprise.
Meanwhile, Harvey Nichols warns of the risk of #giftface, Primark documents a journey home with a clever combination of models amid toy scenery, Kohl’s focuses on modern family, and House of Fraser and M&S stick with good musical fun. The Body Shop is a personal highlight, however – nothing like a good sing-a-long to Jingle Bells in the shower.