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This Christmas, Australian advertisers have collectively turned up the dial on sentimentality in a bid to tap into the emotions associated with families and friends finally being able to reunite again. While a well-intended and seemingly appropriate strategy given the mood of the nation, it’s ultimately resulted in a deluge of advertisers struggling to stand out and cut through the Christmas clutter (as we’ve already covered for both budget retailers and grocery stores).
In this ‘sea of sameness’, would Michael Hill’s tear-jerker be able to rise above the competition? While its gooey, heart-warming story might’ve felt a little cliché — tying together a famous pop song, a winter wonderland, and a little boy on a mission to spread festive joy — it delivered something deeper than we’ve seen from a lot of other advertisers this year. To quantify its effectiveness, we tested it using our 3 C’s framework:
A young boy surprising the most important women in his life with hand-crafted gifts, made for a heartwarming story. While not necessarily unique, advertising doesn’t need to be in order to work. People thoroughly enjoyed the throwback tune and story centered around thoughtful gift-giving; crucially, this created mystery and intrigue around where it would eventually lead — sustaining viewers’ attention as a result. The dreamy, snowy town — shot in New Zealand rather than a more quintessentially hot and dry Australian location — didn’t detract from the ad’s appeal.
Given Michael Hill doesn’t typically invest heavily in brand communications, it wasn’t surprising that the associations stirred by the ad weren’t uniquely attributed to the brand. This’ll take time, and a broader commitment from the business, in order to properly embed as a brand asset. However, the focus on jewelry throughout the ad framed viewers’ expectations around the category. In addition, the touching conclusion where the boy refers to his mother as “the love of (his) life” — which leads to the unveiling of a real ring from Michael Hill — ensured the brand was present during the ad’s emotional climax.
While the ad might not have delivered any particularly new or different information about Michael Hill, this wasn’t at all surprising given it was designed to work in the long-term by attaching positive feelings to the brand. In this respect, it succeeded. Giving people the feels resulted in a heightened level of happiness, and these emotions ultimately carried over to the brand itself — building a good level of predisposition toward Michael Hill.
While Michael Hill leveraged a familiar holiday story, and touched on many frequently-utilized Christmas tropes, what the ad proves is that character-led story-telling — done well — will always give advertisers the best chance of success. Creating mystery and suspense, warming people’s hearts, and evoking excitement and inspiration, are all important ingredients for priming longer-term outcomes.
Michael Hill further enhanced this by deploying a powerful soundtrack — we’ve seen countless times before that music has a unique ability to alter the entire dynamic of an ad and heighten emotional impact. Uniting the entire business behind the importance of brand-led communications, as a way of priming future predisposition, will be an important next step to ensure these themes have the opportunity to bed-in as ownable properties.