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This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.
Ever since the Wise Men blew the gift budget by bringing gold to the baby shower, Christmas has been a commercial beast. However, while things have gotten a little more materialistic over recent times, this doesn’t mean the things that make Christmas sentimental aren’t as real and tangible as ever. It’s why the wall-to-wall festive advertising seen each year is packed to the brim with emotional storylines designed to elicit the warm-and-fuzzy’s.
It's no secret creative agencies are forever pushing the envelope in order to stand out from the competitive clutter, adding fuel to the emotional bonfire each year. But while we applaud the creative ambition in developing bigger and more elaborate spectacles, the risk with this approach is that it’s not building, refreshing, or leveraging the brand’s distinctive assets, leaving ads with no end recipient for these hard-earned feelings. Get the balance right, though, and the rewards can be immense and long-lasting.
This risk versus reward conundrum is well illustrated by the 2023 Christmas ads of two iconic Australian brands: telecommunications giant, Telstra, and national postal service, Australia Post. Taking vastly different creative approaches (albeit courtesy of the same creative agency, The Monkeys), Telstra opted for a deep, emotional story featuring a lonely reindeer wandering the streets. In contrast AusPost created a humorous and light-hearted piece which saw Santa take on an internship to learn the ins-and-outs of parcel delivery.
Though both were attention-grabbing and enjoyable in their own right, overall effectiveness differed significantly between the two ads. And the strength of brand connection was the key reason why.
With the goal of creating “a uniquely Australian Christmas story with a unique role for the Telstra brand”, Telstra was only successful in addressing half the brief — prioritizing emotion and warmth at the expense of long-lasting branded memories. While the iconic phone box’s concluding appearance was an attempt to meaningfully integrate the brand, people were still ultimately left confused about what the story had to do with the telco.
Of course, in AusPost’s case, it helps if the service you’re providing is intrinsically linked to the festive season (but by no means are we suggesting this makes a creative’s job easy). The fun and amusing narrative saw Santa go on an undercover mission at AusPost to understand how the postal service is able to make deliveries across the country so efficiently. Not only was it highly fitting, but it also gave a not-so-subtle nod to AusPost’s professionalism and reliability. Basically, if the world’s most famous package deliverer wants to know how AusPost does it, then they must be doing something right! As a result, AusPost was able to set itself apart from the rest at Christmas — evoking an intense emotional response (tick ✅) while wrapping it all up in a way that was heavily codified to the brand (tick ✅).
These discrepancies are an important reminder for marketers to not lose sight of the fact that the primary role of advertising is to build mental availability. While emotion is a prerequisite for achieving this, it ultimately counts for nothing if these memories can’t be reliably connected back to the brand. You can read more about why all 3Cs are necessary for advertising success here.