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Christmas 2023 Ad Rankings

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There’s something undeniably magical about the advertising extravaganza we’re treated to each festive season; it’s the one time of year the public is genuinely excited about (and eagerly anticipates) new campaign releases. In a world where consumers are largely apathetic and indifferent toward brands and advertising, it truly is a season like none other! 

But, in the rush to test ads and separate the wheat from the chaff, what quickly gets lost is the theory and ‘science’ behind what makes an ad effective. In particular, we’ve seen marketers grow increasingly skeptical toward the idea that “emotion” and “happiness” are the be-all and end-all of advertising success.

To be clear, emotion (and standing out) is a prerequisite; advertising which doesn’t enter people’s mental headspace is consigned to being ineffectual. But from there, two other (equally important) things must happen:
1. The memories must be inextricably connected to the brand; and
2. Motivating impressions, associations, and ideas must be seeded in people’s minds.

Our framework has been built upon these rigorous theoretical underpinnings, distilling the factors for success into a simple and intuitive framework — the 3Cs:
1. Captivate: Be emotive; stand out and grab attention.
2. Connect: Be recognizable; synergize with expectations.
3. Compel: Be motivating; drive behavioral change.

We produce a one number composite metric (the Cubery Rating) which equally weights the 3Cs, providing a robust and transparent prediction of effectiveness. You can read more about our framework here

Without further ado, we’re delighted to share the live rankings for the United Kingdom and Australia.

Merry Christmas! 🎅

The 2023 rankings

Aldi  |  Kevin and the Christmas Factory
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.”
Boots  |  #GiveJoy
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.”
T.K. Maxx  |  Festive Farm
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!”
Marks & Spencer Food  |  Mittens
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.”
Amazon  |  Joy Ride
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.”
John Lewis  |  Snapper: The Perfect Tree
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.”
Asda  |  Make This Christmas Incredibublé
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.”
Lidl  |  A Magical Christmas
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.”
Tesco  |  Helping You Become More Christmas
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.”
Marks & Spencer  |  Do What You Love
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.”
Argos  |  Dancer
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!”
Waitrose  |  Time For The Good Stuff
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.”
Sainsbury’s  |  One Little Girl Asks One Big Question
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.”
Morrisons  |  Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us
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.”
Very  |  Make It Sparkle
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.”
Australia Post  |  Delivering Christmas
Cubery Rating: 78 (+14 vs. 2022)
There was no topping Australia Post in 2023. While the national mail carrier’s holiday ads have consistently delivered (topping our Australian rankings in 3 of the last 4 years), this year’s tale took things to new heights. Centered around Santa himself, the narrative follows ‘Nick’ as he goes undercover as an intern at Australia Post. In doing so he discovers exactly how Australia Post delivers gifts at Christmas — confirming his suspicions that sliding down chimneys mightn’t be the best way of getting the job done! By placing a familiar face in an unfamiliar environment it made for a highly amusing plot, generating excitement around the festive period. What’s more, spotlighting Australia Post offices, employees, and delivery methods meant warmth and favorability was intrinsically linked to the brand.
“It was extremely amusing seeing Santa undercover and fit well with a postal service. It is memorable and won’t forget the ad or that it’s for Australia Post.”
Target  |  All The Way
Cubery Rating: 70 (+1 vs. 2022)
Being Australia’s top performing Christmas ad in 2022 meant Target had big shoes to fill in 2023. And while it fell just short of being the best ad again in 2023, “All The Way” did prove just as effective as its predecessor. Viewers enjoyed the family-friendly storyline together with the clever rendition of Jingle Bells (which used different sound effects intrinsically tied to the festive season). Simultaneously tapping into a sense of familiarity around the hectic build-up to Christmas day made the ad feel warm and relatable. Target’s presence was also felt, with the sequential narrative clearly positioning the retailer as the facilitator behind the long and tiring — but thoroughly enjoyed — Christmas day.
“I liked how it felt special but captured the craziness of Christmas at home.”
Coles  |  Coles Christmas
Cubery Rating: 65 (-1 vs. 2022)
While many fall into the trap of reinventing the wheel each Christmas, Coles went to Great Lengths to ensure consistency with the brand’s wider campaign platform that was launched earlier in the year. The decision to build off the quality-focused “Great Lengths” creative theme with its Christmas spot paid dividends, with the approach tapping into many of shoppers’ most important ‘jobs to be done’ during the festive period (e.g. wanting to go the extra mile to bring joy and happiness to those near and dear). Together with the seasonal appearance of Curtis Stone it made for an ad that was unmistakably for Coles, and Coles only.
“There’s a bit of humour throughout the advert which flows from the recent quality adverts with Coles that aren’t part of their Christmas range.”
Kmart  |  Christmas Gifting
Cubery Rating: 65 (+3 vs. 2022)
Kmart once again proved the power of consistency, almost cloning their 2022 Christmas campaign in 2023 (with just a few small tweaks to keep things feeling fresh and relevant). Using the same familiar white backdrop, the ad spotlighted the great value products you’d expect to see from the discount retailer, while wrapping it all up in Kmart’s typically upbeat style (including the Avicii soundtrack which frequently appears across their communications). Consequently, viewers were almost unanimous in their view that the ad was for — and could only be for — Kmart. While yes, the ad doesn’t score high marks in the creativity and engagement stakes, it makes up for this (and more) in other aspects — ultimately delivering a clear and motivating message at a time shoppers need it most.
“Easy to identify it was for Kmart, showed there were still bargains despite the cost of living increases.”
Woolworths  |  Christmas Spectacular
Cubery Rating: 62 (+2 vs. 2022)
Unlike Coles, Woolworths switched gears this year, moving from the dulcet nostalgic tones of their 2022 ode to the mango and instead taking a considerably more energetic and upbeat approach. The big band musical ensemble which replaced last year’s soft acoustic soundtrack was found much more enjoyable, with it being complimented by a story featuring bright visuals and cute children in playful costumes. However, the change of pace certainly hindered connection back to the brand, with people not finding the theme synergistic with the established ‘fresh food’ focus they’ve typically come to expect from Woolworths. While this meant the ad didn’t tap into as many key shopper purchase motivators during the festive period, the ad still carved out a point of difference and exhibited potential to become a long-term creative platform for the grocery retailer.
“It was a really heartwarming story with lots of energy and people coming together. Made Christmas fun!”
Aldi  |  Go Big on the Little Things
Cubery Rating: 61 (-2 vs. 2022)
Aldi’s quest to distinguish itself from the big two big supermarket goliaths was again the focus of its 2023 Christmas campaign. Like nearly all the Aldi Christmas ads we’ve tested since 2016, the brand’s newest spot certainly grabbed people’s attention — its rework of the classic 80’s hit (“Time of My Life”) to incorporate the supermarket chain’s range of side dishes was considered highly unique. While the off-key singing meant some of this magnetism was from a place of annoyance (consequently impacting how positive it left people feeling toward the brand), the approach was nonetheless effective in delivering on exactly what Aldi sets out to do each year — reminding people that the grocer does things a little bit differently to competitors.
“It is completely different to what other grocery retailers do.”
Myer  |  Make Your Merry Meaningful
Cubery Rating: 58 (-4 vs. 2022)
2023 saw Myer continue their penchant for shaking things up and switching creative themes each Christmas. After last year’s highly energetic dance routine, this year saw the up-market department store deploy a more laconic style together with a dose of quintessentially Australian humor, presenting a highly relatable and enjoyable narrative surrounding the dreaded re-gift. However, Mark Ritson recently commented in Marketing Week that: “Most marketers seek ads that deliver instant, one-off success, but the ideal campaign is an idea that runs indefinitely while only the execution changes.” With Myer still not having quite landed on a style that they can call their own, the ad’s ability to build and reinforce memory structures in shoppers’ minds was consequently limited.
“It was interesting to watch but so annoying trying to figure out who it was representing.”
Telstra  |  Hello Christmas
Cubery Rating: 55 ()
Telstra’s latest foray into Christmas advertising mirrors the path taken by many other brands over the years. By going heavy on a heart-warming, sentimental storytelling approach that is widely deployed during the festive season, often what gets sacrificed is creative elements (emotional or otherwise) that people can uniquely and exclusively associate with the advertiser. For Telstra, the theme felt at odds with people’s expectations of the telco, meaning that the feelings generated by the emotional story weren’t able to be successfully attributed back to the brand. Could this be a shift in direction for Telstra under a newly appointed CMO? Of course, but commitment to the cause — and investment in building and refreshing a tight set of distinctive brand assets — is necessary to make this strategy work and to get Telstra to the promised land.
“A nice ad but it achieves nothing for its customers.”
Big W  |  Ghost
Cubery Rating: 52 (-2 vs. 2022)
While the characters were cute and the theme certainly festive, viewers just couldn’t get past a child receiving a tub of stain remover for Christmas. Whether an intentional move to spark conversation or a way to showcase the wide range of products offered by the retailer, the narrative’s climax (or anti-climax?) left many scratching their heads feeling as though they’d missed something. Positively, the family-friendly theme was synergistic with people’s expectations of the discount department store, particularly following on from last year’s whimsical Christmas-hands narrative.
“I couldn’t really tell at first what the ad was for and didn’t quite understand the present for the little pet ghost.”
David Jones  |  185 Christmases
Cubery Rating: 50 (-9 vs. 2022)
Much like Myer, David Jones have been known to quickly move from one creative theme to the next each year, resulting in advertising which lacks familiar, easily identifiable cues. This year, however, a continuation of the effervescent, glitzy theme seen last year (a style that has also been scattered across years gone prior) meant “185 Christmases” was much more aligned with people’s expectations of the luxury department store. However, the people featured, their behavior, and the overall glamorous setting created a bit of tension with the average person’s financial situation during these testing times. More broadly, the approach was considered somewhat generic and subsequently failed to leave a lasting impression on people.
“It showed a ritzy Christmas. A bit out of reach for the average family and the table wasn’t warm and cozy but squashy and like it was staged.”
Michael Hill  |  A Christmas to Remember
Cubery Rating: 47 (-18 vs. 2022)
After the brand’s 2022 campaign received widespread plaudits, Michael Hill decided to shift gears in 2023 and go in a slightly different direction. While the movie-length tale of a young girl coming to terms with a new parental figure in her life was a slightly more unique (and serious) direction than the junior Casanova story of years gone past, people found this new collection of characters and the way the story was told a lot less heart-warming and likeable. By revealing the brand at the ad’s conclusion amidst a somewhat mawkish conflict resolution it meant the ad’s ability to build favorable mental associations for Michael Hill was consequently diminished.  
“It was long and felt sad... the ending didn’t even seem like a happy moment.“

Explore our Christmas learnings