Key takeaways from the UK’s most effective holiday ads in 2023

Most Americans have spent November watching Black Friday ads. But on the other side of the pond, most of their British cousins have been watching Christmas ads (a.k.a., “adverts”).

Yes, Black Friday sales have become common in the U.K. over the past decade, but Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. So, right after Halloween, most digital marketers in Old Blighty launch their Christmas ad campaigns.

If digital marketers in the U.S. want a sneak preview of creative effectiveness in December, then they should find a quiet moment during the current shopping frenzy on this side of the pond to analyze and evaluate what are the most effective Christmas ads for 2023 over in the U.K.

Measuring advertising effectiveness

In this article, I utilized DAIVID, an AI-driven creative effectiveness platform, to analyze and evaluate advertising effectiveness.

DAIVID has created a Creative Effectiveness Score (CES), a composite metric that combines the three main drivers of effectiveness: attention, emotions and memory. 

Ads are evaluated using facial coding, eye tracking, and survey responses to determine which had the biggest emotional and business impact on viewers. Altogether, 3,600 respondents took part in the study, which analyzed 24 Christmas campaigns.

The UK’s most effective Christmas ads this year

Using DAIVID’s methodology, here are the six most effective Christmas ads from Great Britain that should have the biggest impact on Christmas shoppers’ hearts, minds and wallets during this year’s festive season (unless you’re into Festivus).

1. “The World Needs More Santas | Coca-Cola,” with a creative effectiveness score (CES) of 7.61 out of 10.

2. “The LEGO Group Holiday Hero,” with a CES of 7.55

3. “Boots Christmas Advert 2023 | #GiveJoy | Boots UK,” with a CES of 7.27.

4. “Duracell | Bunny Saves Christmas

5. “Good as Gold | Shelter,” tied with a CES of 7.11.

6. “Snapper: The Perfect Tree | John Lewis & Partners | Christmas Ad 2023,” tied with a CES of 7.11.

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What makes these ads effective?

I asked Ian Forrester, CEO and founder of DAIVID, for his take on this year’s most effective holiday ads: 

  • “Coke certainly brought the Christmas fizz with its ‘The World Needs Santa’ campaign, which generated one the strongest emotional reactions of any Xmas ad this year. But the spot did more than just pack an emotional punch.”
  • “Like LEGO and Boots’ ads, which make up the rest of the top three, it grabbed people’s attention by trying something different from the usual festive fare and combined it with strong branding.” 
  • “Other ads, such as Shelter, also did well, but missed out on the top three because of poor brand recall. With so many festive ads coming out at the same time, advertisers need to do everything they can to wrestle attention away from their competitors by doing something different and memorable.”

Now, I’ve known Forrester since 2012, when he worked at Unruly. And over the years, we used to discuss the most shared Christmas adverts each year, until he left that company in 2019.

Back then, the retailer, John Lewis, and its ad agency Adam & Eve/DDB often created the Christmas advert at the top of the chart. This included “Monty the Penguin” in 2014, “Man on the Moon” in 2015, “Buster the Boxer” in 2016, and “The Boy and the Piano” in 2018.

But they seemed to have lost their magic formula for creating tear-jerking (but festive) ad fare somewhere around “Edgar the Excitable Dragon” in 2019, “Give a Little Love” in 2020, and “Unexpected Guest” in 2021.

Digital marketers on this side of the pond can guess what happened next. John Lewis changed agencies. Saatchi & Saatchi and production company Megaforce, which took over the creative reins this year for the first time, produced “Snapper: The Perfect Tree.”

Forrester’s ad research company had taken John Lewis’s Christmas campaigns from the last 13 years and ranked them using their CES yardstick. Altogether, 1,950 respondents took part in the study.

What did DAIVID discover?

Well, “Snapper: The Perfect Tree” was among the top four (or five) most effective John Lewis Christmas ads, behind only “Buster the Boxer” with a CES score of 7.4, “Man on the Moon” with 7.3, “The Boy and the Piano” with 7.2, and tied with “Monty the Penguin” with 7.1.

So, what does that mean?

Forrester said: 

  • “While this year we saw a new agency at the helm, Saatchi & Saatchi didn’t mess too much with the winning John Lewis formula, but still elevated itself above the sea of sameness. ‘Snapper: The Perfect Tree’ looks and feels like a John Lewis Xmas ad.”
  • “That includes wheeling out many of the tried-and-trusted John Lewis emotions – including warmth, aesthetic appreciation and joy – to good effect. These emotions played a huge role in driving overall effectiveness.”
  • “The ad also scored well for attention, the second strongest we have ever seen from a John Lewis Christmas ad, and decent branding resulted in a strong brand recall score. Yet strong negative emotions, most notably confusion, prevented the ad from finishing higher up the chart.
  • “This was largely down to its portrayal of a Venus flytrap as a Christmas tree. This surprised people and many found it funny, with 14.7% of viewers finding it hilarious, but it also confused almost as many people (14.0%). High levels of boredom (11.2%) also held the ad back from finishing in the top three.”

There you have it: Critical data and strategic insights.

And that’s a winning combination, no matter what month it is or what side of the pond you’re on.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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