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This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.
2019 marks our fourth annual review of Australian Christmas advertising, looking at not only the most creative advertising, but also the most effective.
While Christmas advertising in Australia doesn’t reach the same epic proportions as the UK and US, local brands are clearly taking note of overseas trends.
With lots of emotion and powerful storytelling again featuring prominently in 2019’s top performers, it is worthwhile noting that big production values don’t necessarily translate into effectiveness.
To put this into perspective, in addition to testing 14 locally-produced ads this year, we also tested many of the major UK Christmas campaigns.
The top ranked Australian ads in 2019 (AusPost and Myer) were just as effective as some of the most hyped, big-budget UK campaigns – including John Lewis, ALDI, IKEA, Amazon and Sainsbury’s.
The Cubery Rating is our one number prediction of advertising effectiveness, and is a composite measure which assesses 3 ‘Cs’:
AusPost spread the festive spirit far and wide this Christmas, telling the touching story of a young boy who uses his pocket money to buy a gift for a sad and lonely grandpa living across the road.
The heart-warming story which tapped into a sense of family and community, was the most liked and the most effective Christmas ad of 2019.
“The fact that postage can bring people together.”
“It’s so sentimental and perfect for Christmas.”
The warm sentiment and uplifting message created a high level of talkability and shareability. It also translated into favourable attitudes toward AusPost, predisposing people in the long-term.
“It was so sweet, I actually cried watching it. I liked that it was about how to spread the Christmas spirit and include people – not just about gifts.”
Everyone can relate to the childhood angst of not knowing whether Santa will find you on Christmas Day. Myer’s ‘Where We Are’ looked at the different ways Australians celebrate Christmas, launching the ‘Global Positioning Stocking’ to make Santa’s job of tracking down children much easier.
Nostalgia, combined with heart-warming storytelling and cinematic production qualities, resulted in the ad achieving a high level of effectiveness.
“It was very nostalgic and full of sentimental Christmas feelings.”
While the highly emotional and relatable narrative captured people’s imagination, the outback setting, tone and message lacked synergy with the Myer brand – would the ad be better suited to a telecommunications or travel company?
“This ad actually got me emotional. I think it’s a beautiful ad.”
Sheridan staged what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, going from annoyance and irritation (2018) to joy and delight (2019). The series of playful shorts suggested gifts from Sheridan, such as the ‘Oh no, I’ve forgotten…’ collection, reflecting the struggles associated with gifting.
“Fun colour schemes, light humour, simple and straightforward.”
Clever, witty and relatable humour helped the campaign stand out and engage viewers, with the contextually relevant setting and constant brand reinforcement ensuring Sheridan remained front-of-mind. Visual cues helped convey perceptions of quality and luxury, translating into significantly higher persuasion than 2018.
“I really liked the Sheridan sheets that were being shown in these ads, they looked very fashionable.”
‘Picked for Christmas’ was a departure from the family and community focus of Woolworths’ previous campaigns, with a fantastical-take on the brand’s ‘Fresh Food People’ heritage. Playing to this familiar positioning ensured the advertising memories were seamlessly connected to the brand.
“It’s quite festive. It portrays a magical place, which is fitting for Christmas.”
The upbeat and festive feel made the ad highly distinctive and memorable, with strong engagement complimented by clear messaging around ‘freshness’ and ‘quality’. These product-focused associations were enhanced by the otherworldly theme, culminating in strong short-term (persuasion) and long-term (positive feelings) impact.
“I really liked all the fruit and veg shown in this ad – you can’t get fresher than that.”
After leveraging greater emotive depth and storytelling in years gone past, Officeworks reverted to a more retail-oriented format this year. While the ad might not win creative plaudits, it is highly efficient – winning the title of the best branded Christmas ad of 2019.
“It was the kind of ad that Officeworks usually does.”
The in-store aesthetics, distinct colour palette and uniforms kept the brand front-of-mind, while the connection between Officeworks and its vast range of tech and stationery products was crystal clear.
“Showed different products not usually associated with Officeworks.”
Messaging around Officeworks’ fun and imaginative gifting possibilities inspired viewers, driving a high level of persuasion and boosting perceptions of the brand being innovative.
ING’s online-only Christmas campaign helped launch the brand’s CSR program, ‘ING Dreamstarter’ – an initiative supporting start-up businesses making a difference in the community.
“I liked it all! The song, it was witty and different. It stood out.”
The ‘rubbish choir’ stood out amongst the deluge of warm and sentimental Christmas advertising, being highly distinctive and delivering a positive message. The unique rendition of the Christmas classic ‘Joy to the World’, was both familiar and catchy, inspiring positive change.
“Wasn’t sure how it connected with ING.”
Although the eco-friendly message around not giving unwanted gifts was clear to viewers, there was a disconnect with ING. The ad didn’t provide viewers with the necessary detail around what the ‘ING Dreamstarter’ program was, preventing them from attaching these positive associations to the brand.
NRMA’s latest instalment in their ‘drive safe’ campaign made light of people taking more care to protect meaningless things (e.g. a cake) than what is truly important (our families and children).
“It hit home the importance of driving safe.”
The suspenseful trek to transport a pavlova across the countryside to Christmas lunch, was highly emotional and memorable. The call-to-arms paired well with the brand and prompted viewers to reflect on their own driving habits.
While the 2018 campaign ended on a celebratory note, showcasing the positive aftermath of the father’s near-miss – 2019’s conclusion was more sombre and thought-provoking. Combined with the eerie sense of impending disaster (accentuated by the sad music), this limited feelings of happiness and led to some people thinking it was a road traffic authority message.
“Gave the impression that something bad was going to happen.”
Nostalgia is a powerful tool for eliciting an emotional response, and there is no better time to unleash it than the festive season. ‘A Christmas Thank You’ takes a look at Coles’ 100+ year heritage, combining imagery of the past and present to celebrate family, food and togetherness.
“I liked the old and the new elements of the ad. It was very nostalgic and warm.”
Combined with a classic rendition of ‘Thank you for being a friend’ (from the iconic TV show, ‘The Golden Girls’), the ad was more distinctive than the brand’s previous efforts, encouraging viewers to share it with family and friends.
“A bit too much heart warming stuff.”
However, unlike Woolworths which built relevance by connecting its fresh and high quality produce to the festive occasion, Coles’ TVC didn’t leave people with a meaningful impression about the brand. It subsequently didn’t make people feel more positive toward Coles or motivate short-term behaviour.
Leveraging the brash and boisterous approach the brand is renowned for, Bonds earnt a top-four finish in last year’s rankings. In contrast, Bonds’ 2019 Christmas campaign was a dramatic change of pace.
“It was sweet and I loved the use of different relationships to show bonds between people.”
The sentimental series of shorts looked at a diverse cast of characters and their stories of perseverance and empowerment. This evoked feelings of warmth and inspiration, which was in contrast to the ‘excitement’ which drove 2018’s success.
“I disliked it because it wasn’t really what Bonds is about.”
Despite the touching stories being well received, the idea that Christmas is for celebrating our most cherished relationships (or ‘bonds’) wasn’t clearly conveyed. Subsequently, people’s attitudes and behaviours toward Bonds remained unchanged.
Big W hit rewind on Christmas to highlight all the fun and chaos which transpires during the lead-up to the big day. The overall result was a step up in creative effectiveness versus last year.
Building upon the brand’s ‘Every day’s a big day’ platform, the ad built greater relevance for Big W and better utilised its distinctive properties than in 2018.
“The colours – predominantly blue & silver.”
However, the fast transitions and haphazard storyline meant that some people struggled to keep up and maintain focus through to the end, subsequently diminishing the impact of the messaging.
“Hectic and quick.”
“I didn’t understand why it was going backwards.”
With Red Balloon’s ‘Break with Tradition’ taking home the turkey as the most effective Christmas ad of 2018, we were eagerly anticipating the follow-up in 2019. While continuing its familiar messaging around giving more meaningful gifts, ‘Enrichmas’ failed to hit the same lofty heights.
“The idea was good but it could have been made more interesting.”
The set-up involving Santa and his elves was predictable, with the concept of giving ‘enriching’ gifts not resonating as much as last year’s call-to-arms. Weaker delivery of the messaging meant Red Balloon wasn’t found to be as different or exciting.
The comparatively dark and gloomy executional style lacked the humour and vibrancy which underpinned the success of last year’s campaign. This led to a higher level of boredom and lower level of on-going viewer involvement.
“It was a bit boring. The elf was not very exciting.”
Despite overall effectiveness falling short of 2018’s ‘Santa Crashes’ campaign, the brand’s quirky style appears to be gradually becoming more synonymous with ALDI.
“It was quirky and different, like most Aldi ads.”
However, when this unique creative style is deployed throughout the year, it is generally underpinned by a relevant product insight that reinforces ALDI’s distinctive positioning.
This was lacking from the brand’s 2019 Christmas campaign, with the significance of the ‘never-ending ham’ (beyond the novelty of it) going over people’s heads, and the ‘grinch lady’ causing confusion.
“I didn’t understand the carving of the meat and why it had so many of those top layers.”
Subsequently, the ad failed to translate high levels of cut-through and a strong emotional response into a meaningful impression being left about ALDI, limiting its overall impact.
IGA told a fun story about an Italian family travelling to visit their Australian relatives, bearing gifts of panettone. To their surprise, the local family already had the same brand stocked in their cupboard – a testament to IGA carrying a wide-assortment of quality imported products.
“I like that it bears similarities to other IGA ads through its main message and the presenter.”
Shane Jacobson is a familiar presence in IGA’s communications, ensuring the brand was easily recognised. However, the dark aesthetics lacked synergy with the typically fun and vibrant nature of IGA’s advertising.
“It just did not grab my attention.”
Playing on unique cultural tropes meant that the intended humour didn’t land with all viewers. Overall engagement was weak, and the message around IGA catering to the needs of the local community wasn’t clear or motivating.
Target’s ‘Christmas with Love’ featured close-up cinematography of families and children, backed by Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ soundtrack. The ad drew a muted response from viewers, with Target’s creative effectiveness at Christmas continuing its downward trajectory since 2017.
“Generic and does not represent anything about Target.”
Not only did the ad fail to stand out or emotionally connect with viewers, but the tone and style lacked synergy with how Target is perceived.
“It was hard to remember it was for Target unless you were paying careful attention.”
Depicting a generic Christmas story and providing viewers with little new information, resulted in weak short-term (persuasion) and long-term (positive feelings and difference) impact.