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This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.
2020 marks Cubery’s fifth annual review of Australian Christmas advertising – assessing not only the most creative ads, but also the most effective.
With planning for many Christmas campaigns beginning 12 months out (or longer), the advent of COVID-19 threw advertisers into a tailspin – with many debating whether a Christmas ad was even appropriate given the circumstances.
At the onset of the pandemic many advertisers hastily adapted their in-market messaging, with the ones who were most successful having a genuine purpose for advertising and speaking with an authentic tone of voice – Guinness in the U.S. was a clear standout, conveying an inspiring message of solidarity as St. Patrick’s Day festivities were cancelled across the world.
Fast-forward nearly 9 months and life in Australia is very different, with much of the country – unlike many other parts of the world – looking forward to celebrating a relatively normal Christmas.
Given this, most Australian advertisers chose to adopt sentimental narratives, emphasising the true meaning of Christmas and generally avoiding making reference to COVID-19. Myer was the exception, utilising an orchestral production which encouraged Australians to make up for everything they’d missed out on in 2020 with a Christmas celebration like no other.
For the second year running, Australia Post took the crown with the most effective Australian Christmas ad – narrowly edging out Bonds and Woolworths. The continuation of the brand’s ‘Spread the Merry’ campaign from 2019 is a testament to many of the advertising basics – storytelling, single-minded message, positive emotional resolve, purposeful brand involvement, and consistency.
The Cubery Rating is our one number prediction of advertising effectiveness, and is a composite measure which assesses 3 ‘Cs’:
Australia Post carried through the momentum from its highly successful 2019 campaign, releasing the latest instalment of ‘Spread the Merry’ in 2020. This culminated in it taking out the top spot as Australia’s most effective Christmas ad for the 2nd year running!
“It was a sweet story with an Australian connection.”
The ad told the heart-warming story of a young girl from the suburbs who is saddened by the plight of a lonely cockatoo, ordering a gift for it online – and having it delivered via Australia Post – to help it make friends with other birds in the community.
“Love the warmth from the little girl and her attentiveness to want to help the bird.”
The story tugged at viewers’ heart strings, while providing a reminder of the important role Australia Post’s parcel delivery service plays in the community. The timeliness of this message (given people’s added reliance on the network due to widespread lockdowns in 2020) helped make this the most ‘Compelling’ Christmas ad of the year.
After being criticised in 2017 for using unrelatable models and presenting a one-dimensional picture of Australia, Bonds have been pushing the boundaries ever since. While the brand’s 2019 campaign didn’t quite hit the mark, Bonds bounced back with a fun and down-to-earth spot in 2020.
“You could remove all the logos/sound and most people would still assume it was for Bonds.”
‘Give a little, help a million’ conveyed that Bonds were making a donation to the community and that viewers were encouraged to help. While the exact details of the appeal were a little vague, the message of support was still greeted with enthusiasm.
“Practical assistance for those in need. Involves the community and highlights Bonds for different people of different ages and sizes.”
By toning down some of the more controversial elements of previous years, a greater number of people found the charitable message relevant and authentic – helping build a strong emotional attachment to Bonds.
2020’s ‘Share the Spirit of Christmas’ built on last year’s ‘fantastical’ theme, which saw Woolworths pivot from more wholesome and family-focused imagery – which shared close similarities with their major rival – to an approach which more clearly distinguished the brand and explicitly conveyed its ‘fresh food’ origins.
“It was creative and unique and made me feel warm and fuzzy.”
The majestical Christmas story embraced the spirit of Christmas, retaining viewer engagement and evoking feelings of warmth. Building the narrative around a farm that supplies carrots to ‘Woolies’ kept the brand involved in the story and synergised with its ‘fresh food people’ roots.
“It had a bit of Christmas magic, which makes me feel good.”
Ferrero Rocher made a triumphant return to screens in 2020 with ‘Say it with Gold’, marking the brand’s first Australian Christmas campaign in 30 years. Much of the ad’s success related to its efficiency – achieving (by far) the strongest ‘Connect’ score of all advertisers in 2020, thanks to the golden hue and unmistakable chocolate pyramid.
“Fits in with the brand, classical Ferrero Rocher.”
Combining a premium and luxurious touch with personal gifting further solidified the connection to Ferrero Rocher.
“I liked the family atmosphere. Classy. Shows the product really well.”
While efficient, the somewhat generic/predictable narrative led to it having the lowest ‘Attraction’ score of all Christmas ads in 2020 – a measure of how well the ad stands out and grabs people’s attention.
“Wasn't very memorable and the ads always seem to be the same for Ferrero Rocher.”
To reinforce the brand’s long heritage, David Jones took viewers on a trip down memory lane – positioning the retailer as the ‘Home of Christmas’. Using the brand’s famous Christmas windows (which were last referenced in 2017 with the animated gingerbread man execution) and its many admirers throughout the decades, the story elicited feelings of nostalgia and built excitement in anticipation of the holiday season.
“Love the Christmas experiences from nostalgic times to modern times.”
While Christmas windows are something people uniquely associate with David Jones in certain parts of the country, this isn’t a consistent story nation-wide – subsequently meaning the advertising memories weren’t exclusively linked to the brand.
“When I first saw the ad, I wasn’t sure if it was for Myer or David Jones until right at the end.”
While most advertisers forwent even referencing COVID-19, Myer instead built their entire Christmas story around the year that has been 2020. Myer touched on all the significant occasions people had missed out on due to the pandemic – suggesting that these could be compensated for by one huge Christmas extravaganza.
“It’s brilliant, sums up 2020 perfectly and highlights just how many celebrations were different this year.”
Wrapping this all up in an engaging orchestral production, people found the messaging relatable and enjoyed the range of amusing characters and scenarios – culminating in the ad achieving the highest ‘Captivating’ score of all advertisers in 2020.
However, what the ad lacked was anything to do with Myer. This was further exacerbated by the brand’s inconsistency since departing from animated characters Angel, Elf, Reindeer, and Mouse in 2017.
“Way too long, had no idea it was for Myer until the end.”
While Coles launched its new campaign platform – ‘Value the Australian Way’ – in the lead-up to Christmas, the overall sentiment of the brand’s official seasonal ad remained similar to previous years – depicting middle-suburbia and the emotion involved with families and friends coming together to celebrate the festive season.
People enjoyed the laid-back and relatable imagery, enhanced by the backing track – a reimagining of ‘Feels Like Going Back Home’ – ft. Australian artist Missy Higgins.
“Very Australian, family oriented and reminds me of past times with family at Christmas. Great music.”
Despite synergising with previous campaigns (with attribution greatly boosted by the cameo appearance of Curtis Stone), many considered the ad largely generic – both for the brand and broader category. As a result, it didn’t strongly enhance the way people think and feel about Coles.
“It was not unique, very similar to others we have seen before. Doesn’t catch attention.”
2020 marks the first year we’ve included a Kmart execution in our annual Christmas review, while also being the first campaign from the brand’s new creative agency – DDB Melbourne. Nonetheless, the ad was highly synergistic with Kmart – conveying the fun and cheerful tone that many are accustomed to.
“I liked the glitter and colours used – very bright and happy imagery of family.”
Featuring an up-tempo backing track, viewers were taken on the imaginative escapade of a child as she dispatches affordable presents to surprised bystanders. The story tapped into the joy of giving, receiving and enjoying gifts on Christmas day, eliciting feelings of happiness.
“A reminder of low prices. Thanks to Kmart everyone can afford to give presents during Christmas.”
While the overall style and tone – and focus on low prices – synergised with what people expect from Kmart, the approach was somewhat formulaic and didn’t significantly enhance predisposition toward the retailer.
“Pretty standard ad for Kmart.”
NRMA built a futuristic story in 2020 which sees a mother fall asleep at the wheel in a world where it is safe to do so.
“I was at the edge of my seat throughout the ad! It was such an eye opener!”
Despite being one of the most distinctive ads of the festive bunch, the slow, drawn-out presentation and abstract message detracted from its emotional impact – evoking high levels of boredom and annoyance.
“Too long, the darkness made it seem dull.”
NRMA’s 2019 campaign – which depicted the nail-biting transportation of a pavlova on Christmas day – proved that long-form narratives around road safety can sustain high levels of engagement. However, 2020’s take wasn’t able to build the same level of tension in the narrative. In addition, the story around not needing to worry about falling asleep at the wheel was found counter-intuitive to some – confused by what the intended take-away was.
“It is promoting dangerous driving while sleeping. Very irresponsible of NRMA.”
This year saw Officeworks continue its focus on gifting possibilities, with many finding the short-and-sweet story around ‘tough’ Uncle Max receiving a (seemingly obscure) present from his young niece cute and adorable.
“I loved the human emotion and depth of character. I liked the portrayal of a deep thinking, sensitive, kind-hearted man.”
While the innocuous gift aroused curiosity and intrigue, the abstract nature of the story detracted from the underlying message that meaningful gift ideas can be found at Officeworks. Viewers subsequently took little away which was new or different about Officeworks, with the ad not building the desired emotional attachment to the brand.
“It wasn’t very memorable – felt slow overall and too long to get to the point.”
This also meant viewers less-reliably connected the ad to Officeworks (despite the wrapping paper being on-brand).
“I felt if you missed the end of the ad you wouldn’t know it was for Officeworks.”
Aldi’s band of synchronised, swimming Santas maintained the brand’s signature ‘quirkiness’ – which seems to go to another level of abstract at Christmas. This resulted in it achieving one of the top ‘Captivating’ scores of all Christmas ads in 2020, with many finding the underwater routine fun and amusing.
“I love how different it is and that there is nothing else out there like it.”
While undeniably distinctive, the overall style – when not connected to a product/product insight – isn’t something the general public strongly associate with the brand. This has been the key aspect holding back the effectiveness of Aldi’s hero Christmas spots over the last 5 years.
“Doesn’t match anything to Aldi.”
Without understanding the ad’s underlying intent, many were left feeling annoyed and irritated.
“It makes no sense at all and does not have a reference to anything. It is trying too hard to be different or bizarre.”
Target’s festive spot focused on a couple embarking on an elaborate expedition to “do” Christmas themselves – when they could’ve instead gone to Target and all the hard work would’ve been done for them.
While the strategy seemingly has legs for the retailer, the cinematic production qualities didn’t align with how people (currently) perceive Target.
“It didn’t fit with what I thought Target was.”
Combined with the closing sequence which positioned Target as a “high street” retailer, the ad had closer similarities with Myer and David Jones than it did with Target.
“Had no real tie into Target at all.”
While some enjoyed the fun and light-hearted approach, lacking fluency with Target limited these associations from carrying-over to the brand.
St.George's Christmas spot followed the heart-warming story of a young boy who finds an old tape deck and records custom mixtapes for his father who’s spending Christmas on the road.
“Simple, straight forward heart warming message.”
While the gift was undeniably touching, many struggled to follow the story and exactly what the little boy was doing.
“Seemed more like it was an ad for cassette tapes for a while there.”
The thought behind the gift being more important than its value appears to be a sound strategy – particularly given the difficult year many have had. However, this insight has broad applications and doesn’t relate exclusively to St.George or even the wider banking sector.
“An obscure message for a bank.”
While featuring the brand’s ‘little dragon’ mascot throughout, his role was largely incidental – unlike other executions where he has been more heavily involved in driving the narrative.
“How did this ad say anything about St George? Nothing linked. The boy’s story has nothing to do with [them].”