Cubery Rating: 66 (-4 vs. 2022)
Kevin the Carrot once again delivered the goods for Aldi in 2023, topping this year’s U.K. Christmas charts. Continuing on with their Christmas-themed spoofs of Hollywood classics, the now iconic carrot teamed up with William Conker to reimagine the whimsical tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So effectively have Aldi found new, fresh, and topical ways to redeploy this same formula that “Kevin and the Christmas Factory” couldn’t have been mistaken for any other brand. And not only did this creative strategy continue to differentiate Aldi from other supermarkets, but it also guaranteed the happiness and amusement evoked from the cute story and lovable characters would be directly transferred onto the brand itself.
“Kevin is now a tradition for xmas and always is funny.”
Cubery Rating: 64 (+1 vs. 2022)
Departing from their celebrity-fronted campaign in 2022, Boots instead built a heartwarming story centered around a mother and child’s trek to deliver Santa a well-deserved present. While the more typical Christmas theme meant this year’s ad wasn’t as unique and ‘out there’, it certainly hit the right emotional notes. Along with a message which befitted the brand, the storyline — dotted with archetypal healthcare/beauty gifts straight from their recognizable blue shopping bags — provided a healthy dose of cues back to Boots. Ultimately, while the ad didn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd, unlike last year’s effort it did successfully tap into important shopper need states and gifting occasions.
“I really like the idea that mother and daughter think and care about other people same like you are expecting from Boots.”
Cubery Rating: 62 (+10 vs. 2022)
What a difference a year makes! After floundering down the bottom of our rankings in 2022, T.K. Maxx turned to the tried and trusted mechanism of animals in an effort to elicit warmth and favorability. While last year’s ode to the high five was undoubtedly more attention-grabbing, a lot of this magnetism came from a place of annoyance and irritation. In comparison, “Festive Farm” was seen as equally distinctive — but without the associated negativity. As a result people were left feeling happy and amused at the sharply dressed farmyard animals, with the ad also working well to deliver a strong point of difference for the brand versus other retailers.
“I loved the animals wearing the clothes. Very cute touch!”
Cubery Rating: 61 (-2 vs. 2022)
The Festive Fairy is playing the long game, and we like it! Returning once again as the face of M&S Foods’ Christmas campaign, the Dawn French voiced character teamed up with Wrexham football club owners/part time Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in the brand’s 2023 Christmas production. Positively, this year’s message did well to motivate people to choose the retailer, with the approach remaining consistent with the brand’s previous holiday campaigns. Ultimately, the ad’s true strength lay in its continued bedding-in of assets (visual style, character, themes etc.) — which are now instantly attributable to the brand.
“I liked the fact that Dawn French was in it again as the fairy.”
Cubery Rating: 60 (+19 vs. 2021)
E-commerce goliath Amazon created a nostalgia-filled story in 2023, celebrating the joys of being young and carefree. In contrast to their deep and complex attempt at storytelling in 2021, people were considerably more positive to this year’s much simpler, more heart-felt tale. Amazon also played a much more pivotal role in facilitating the end resolve, specifically the thrill experienced by the cute old ladies recreating their youth. By effectively communicating the brand’s ability to fulfill a need basically nobody else can rival (i.e. being able to almost instantaneously purchase whatever you could possibly need or want, from wherever you are), this helped reinforce what makes Amazon meaningfully different to others.
“I like the ad featured old women, as it gives the impression that Amazon targets all generations.”
Cubery Rating: 57 (-11 vs. 2022)
The rollercoaster ride that is John Lewis Christmas advertising continued in 2023, taking a step back after last year’s 5-star effort. Where the brand’s 2022 spot was found distinctive and likeable, this year’s ad was more negatively received — the confusing narrative involving a young boy’s relationship with the peculiar plant from “Little Shop of Horrors” clocking a significant uptick in feelings of irritation. While this enhanced the ad’s cut through ability, the jarring theme felt at odds with the usually soft and sentimental style the retailer is best known for (and which it pioneered over a decade ago).
“I expect John Lewis adverts to be more meaningful throughout. It felt that it was trying to be different.”
Cubery Rating: 56 (-17 vs. 2022)
No elf, no Asda? With Will Ferrell reprising his iconic character in 2022 it helped the supermarket chain rocket to the top of the U.K. Christmas rankings. However, this year’s celebrity pairing with Michael Bublé fell a little flat with viewers in comparison. While it wasn’t all bad news for Asda (people still found the ad reasonably enjoyable and brand linkage was good – a function of the story being framed around the grocer’s offerings), it lacked the excitement and ‘wow factor’ that the nostalgia-inducing “Buddy the Elf” brought to the table in 2022. As a result it struggled to leave a lasting imprint on viewers, and was thus limited in its ability to prime the supermarket chain for long-term success.
“The ad was ok, not one of the best Christmas ads I have seen.”
Cubery Rating: 56 (-5 vs. 2022)
After a promising 2022 campaign, discount supermarket chain Lidl potentially missed a golden opportunity to again incorporate the loveable Lidl Bear who debuted last year. “A Magical Christmas” instead featured a toy monkey as the focal point, with the story involving a raccoon traversing the city in search of its owner. As a result, the brand’s role within the story was largely absent and misunderstood, hindering any warmth and positively generated by the story from being transferred back onto the retailer. At the end of the day, we can’t help but wonder what could’ve been had the monkey instead been replaced with lovable Lidl bear.
“It’s a nice video, but if it hadn’t been for the logo in the top right corner it could have been pretty much anyone’s Xmas ad.”
Cubery Rating: 55 (+1 vs. 2022)
While Tesco’s 2023 effort certainly achieved better cut-through than the grocer’s 2022 spot “The Christmas Party”, some found the story confusing — struggling to understand what it was trying to say about the brand. Even though the grouchy teenager eventually succumbed to the unwavering pressure from his family and broke into the festive spirit at the two-and-a-half-minute story’s conclusion, the same couldn’t be said about viewers. The ad generated high levels of annoyance, which — when coupled with said confusion — subsequently hindered the ad’s ability to drive favorability toward the supermarket chain.
“I found it very confusing at the beginning and I was not sure what direction it was going in - not sure it works.”
Cubery Rating: 55 (-8 vs. 2022)
Kudos must go to the M&S creative team for putting their Christmas baubles on the line in order to shake things up in what could best be described as a conservative sea of sameness. However, it’s one thing to get people talking, and quite another to ensure the ad is delivering across all the core pillars of effectiveness. While this year’s ad certainly delivered on the former, the focus on Christmas’ most annoying and irritating traditions left people feeling — surprise, surprise — annoyed and irritated. While this isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing, feelings of negativity must be eventually resolved in order to seed associations in people’s minds that will make the brand feel like a good choice. Along with M&S being largely non-existent the ad will do little to shift predisposition toward the retailer.
“Felt very negative, I get the message do what you love but it really didn’t fit with M&S.”
Cubery Rating: 54 (+4 vs. 2022)
Argos made some small steps in the right direction with their 2023 spot “Dancer”, with the ad doing a better job of featuring the products available at the retailer than in 2022. Together with the use of Connie and Trevor (the brand’s mascots since earlier in the year), this subsequently meant it worked better to cue people into what the ad was about and who it was advertising. Unfortunately, though, this year’s execution fell a little flat, with people struggling to emotionally connect with the characters and intended humor. While the product-centric focus did help shine a light on the brand’s wide range of gifting possibilities, a largely muted emotional response ultimately limited the ad’s ability to get onto people’s radars in the first place.
“Showed a good range of Argos-based products, but I do wish the incessant need to incorporate dancing into adverts would stop!”
Cubery Rating: 52 (-1 vs. 2022)
Waitrose’s 2023 Christmas spectacular is the perfect example of how simply inserting celebrities into advertising isn’t guaranteed to create effective advertising. Headed by late night chat show royalty Graham Norton, this year’s spot heralded a more fun, more adult direction for the supermarket. The shift unsurprisingly resulted in a misalignment with people’s existing mental constructs around the brand, with celebrities like Norton not quite fitting with people’s (current) expectations of the retailer. While of course this shift takes time and consistency, with the ad not currently driving a strong sense of differentiation the likelihood of these associations becoming ownable for Waitrose over time is limited.
“Don’t know what Graham Norton had to do with it.”
Cubery Rating: 49 (-10 vs. 2022)
A lack of vibrancy and humor led to the undoing of Sainsbury’s in 2023, taking a step back after last year’s promising effort. Without the notable celebrity presence of leading lady Alison Hammond to bring energy and draw eyeballs (save for the cameo appearance of Rick Astley), “One Little Girl” struggled to cut through to the same degree as its predecessor. However, on a positive note the ad highlighted the supermarket’s unique range of products throughout the ad, helping to at least frame viewers memories around the brand. Ultimately, though, it didn’t strongly convince people why Sainsbury’s is worth shopping at this Christmas.
“I thought this ad was nice, although it didn’t have much humour.”
Cubery Rating: 48 (-7 vs. 2022)
Where art thou, Farmer Christmas? Just when we were starting to see the big man bed-in for the brand as a distinctive asset and shortcut to emotional appeal, Morrisons made the curious decision to drop him. Instead, the grocer deployed a raft of singing oven mitts in 2023 to woo viewers. While the approach proved a little more effective at getting people to sit up and take notice, overall enjoyment was adversely impacted — as was the ad’s connection back to the brand. With the fresh food/farmer associations from last year tapping into important shopper ‘jobs’ at Christmas time, we recommend Morrisons send a search party for ol’ Farmer Christmas (ASAP!).
“I did not think that the ad was distinctively for Morrisons. It could have been for any other supermarket.”
Cubery Rating: 47 (+11 vs. 2021)
After a Christmas hiatus in 2022, Very were back again this year with an animated spot involving a flock of flamingos and pigeons — and we’re not entirely certain why! Like T.K. Maxx, Very utilized animals in an effort to bring positive attention to the brand and its message, with the flamingos providing a good outlet to splash the ad with Very’s very distinctive and colorful pink asset. But the narrative lacked punch and didn’t meaningfully tap into any key consumer needs during the festive period, which ultimately meant the positivity generated by the animated birds didn’t ladder up to much.
“Didn't really like it. I could not understand the purpose of the flamingos and I didn't really see any of the products they were advertising.”