When a Lil’ Goat stole the show: A PR perspective on Christmas TV ads
Now we’re well into December it seems acceptable to discuss Christmas TV ads in the (virtual) office. But when we polled our team for its views on this year’s festive treats we had no idea the debate would get so heated. Feelings on Christmas TV ads certainly run deep at GingerMay.
Team members ranked seven festive ads from well-known brands and retailers, as well as suggesting other favourite ads. Amazon’s ‘The show must go on’ came top of our festive seven – perhaps not surprising given we’re a tech PR agency. But the ad that won the popularity crown wasn’t one from our list. It turns out TK Maxx’s Lil’ Goat strutting her stuff on the ice in a designer outfit because she’s had a tough year and she “bloomin’ well deserves it,” is just about surreal enough to win us over.
TK Maxx has risen admirably to a challenge faced by all advertisers this year – how to reference the situation around the pandemic in a way that resonates with consumers rather than alienating them. This was especially tricky as brands didn’t know what restrictions would be in place for the festive period when they made their ads. A second challenge for advertisers in 2020 is authentically addressing diversity. Overall, the team felt the characters in this year’s Christmas TV ads were more diverse and representative than in previous years – a positive trend that the majority felt was long overdue.
Let’s take a closer look at the seven festive TV ads on the GingerMay list and see what our team made of them.
First place: Amazon – The show must go on
Amazon’s inspirational story of a ballerina whose family arrange for her to perform even though her show is cancelled, is the overwhelming winner of our poll. It is equally popular across different age groups, but the male members of the team didn’t rank it at number one, preferring the McDonalds and Disney offerings.
The ad’s tremendous popularity is largely down to the soundtrack and moving narrative, with one participant who put the ad first explaining, “I’m always won over by the music and a strong storyline.” Another team member said, “Amazon’s ad is by far my favourite. It combines all the main issues from 2020, and very well might I add.”
Second place: Disney – From our family to yours
Disney’s animated film about a grandmother called Lola and the festive traditions she shares with her granddaughter came second overall on our Christmas list. It was especially popular with our younger team members and – at age 11 – our very youngest participant really connected with the multi-generational message, the evolving story and the heart-warming ending. Overall, the ad resonated more with our under-30s, who ranked it second, while the over-30s placed it in fifth. This gap was even more marked among the parents on our team, who ranked the ad in sixth place, possibly indicating they are a little Disneyed out this year.
Third place: McDonalds – Inner child
McDonalds’ ad, which tells the moving story of a mum struggling to maintain the excitement of Christmas once her son reaches his teenage years, is also an animation, possibly to get around the logistical challenges of filming in the current climate. This ad is generally popular with our team, and was ranked third overall. However, there was a significant difference in gender groups. The male members of the team ranked the ad joint first, while female members placed the ad in fourth.
Fourth place: John Lewis – Give a little love
John Lewis’ Christmas ad is always much anticipated, meaning expectations are high. The ad for both Waitrose and John Lewis cleverly combines animation with live action as whimsical characters pass on the love. It is inspired by acts of kindness, and is used to highlight the brands’ charity work with HomeStart and FareShare.
While our team ranked the ad in a very creditable fourth place overall, opinion was higher among the older age group, with the over-30s ranking it in second place. As one team member explained “I think out of all the ads, John Lewis probably managed to get across the true message of Christmas and what’s important, which is giving love.” However, some team members weren’t convinced the ad was as good as previous offerings, with one saying “nothing will ever reduce me to tears as much as the John Lewis ad where the snowman travelled a long way to get his snowlady some gloves and a scarf.”
Fifth place: Tesco – No naughty list
Tesco really picked up the gauntlet with its Christmas ad, and addressed the COVID-19 situation head-on with surprising humour and fun. Or, as Harbour’s Kevin Chesters so beautifully put it in a recent article for The Drum, the Tesco ad “absolutely walked the fine line between reality and escapism with the skill of Santa’s elf of the month.”
With highly relatable references, from happy birthday hand washing to Captain Tom, and of course those unprecedented pies, Tesco declares there is no naughty list this year and delivers some respite from ads that overwork the heart strings. Despite being in fifth place the ad is still popular with our team, with one member declaring “I like Tesco best, it’s been a tough year and we all deserve to be on the nice list!”
Sixth place: Sainsbury’s – Food is home, Home is Christmas
Sainsbury’s three-part Christmas ad is based around festive meals that stir up memories of home and family. The ad is currently the most talked about on social media, increasing social engagement with the brand by 216%, possibly due to the controversy surrounding part one, the Gravy Song. Overall GingerMay placed the ad in sixth, with a feeling the creativity and emotive storytelling wasn’t quite as strong as with other ads on the list, but opinion varied significantly across different segments of the team. The male contingent ranked it joint fourth with the John Lewis ad, while the over-30s placed it in third.
Seventh place: Aldi – Kevin the Carrot
Aldi’s Christmas ad featuring Kevin the Carrot was – it’s safe to say – not the most popular across the team. The ad was ranked in seventh place not just overall, but by any demographic split we could think of. Kevin the Carrot was a huge hit when he first hit festive screens in 2016, but perhaps his vegetably charm is wearing thin.
The team gave various reasons for putting the ad in last place. It was pointed out the Top Gun themed teaser was designed to coincide with the release of the Maverick movie – potentially a stroke of genius if it had worked but a bit of a headscratcher now the film is delayed by six months. Others mentioned they couldn’t help thinking about the inevitable – but understandably ignored – outcome: Kevin and his friends are getting eaten on Christmas Day. One respondent felt the ad was a jumble of movies that lacked a strong storyline, while another thought it was too similar to Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man.
To be fair to poor Kevin, Aldi may well not have been bottom of the list if other Christmas TV ads had been included in the poll. Morrison’s ad was cited as a least favourite by many, largely due to the number of times it was aired, which illustrates the vital importance of frequency capping. As one team member pointed out, “I’m noticing a correlation that the ads at the bottom of my list are the ones I’ve seen the most.”
Other Christmas TV ads the team were really positive about included the SupaValu ad, which made everyone bawl, the Portal ad with Ian Wright which is a favourite among football fans, and the Homebase ad which raised a few chuckles. Special mention goes to Nimbus Beds for increasing awareness of loneliness in the elderly, and to Boots for doing its part to fight hygiene poverty. But nothing quite came close to the appeal of a strutting Lil’ Goat in her beret and cravat, who well and truly stole the show.