By now all major retailers in the UK have launched their Christmas campaigns, however, this year it seems more are ploughing their budget into online activity in an effort to mirror their audience's shopping habits.
While some argue that the kick-off for Christmas advertising gets earlier every year, things typically get underway just after Bonfire Night. It's a magical time of year, when retailers and virtually every other type of business commence their seasonal advertising campaigns to encourage shoppers to get in the mood for the celebrations and shell out some festive funds on their goods and services.
In this article, we'll look at examples of the UK’s bigger retailers Christmas campaigns and the results they have achieved with these so far. We'll also investigate why we think retailers might be looking at shifting their mindset to offer advertising campaigns for TV and online.
Christmas starts early
Many of us may be too ‘grown-up’ to admit, but one of the most enjoyable things about the approach of the Yuletide season is seeing what adverts the big retailers come up with in order to tempt us to spend our pounds with them.
According to market analyst Nielsen, in Q4 of 2013, retailers will spend about £390m on advertising, which is the same as in 2012. However, this year, much more spend will be lavished on TV advertising and online efforts, in an effort to influence shoppers searching for and buying their presents.
The major grocers, such as Sainbury’s, ASDA, Tesco and Waitrose are expected to spend nine per cent more on television than in 2012, with an expensive scramble for prized slots around the X Factor final in the second week of December and Downtown Abbey. Some retailers are understood to have booked entire commercial breaks to showcase epic three-minute adverts.
This year, however, retailers have started the battle of the best and brightest with a bang. As with last year, we saw some of the big supermarkets take a proverbial battering when they reduced their spend and rivals increased theirs. So retailers like Aldi got a larger voice than they would have usually managed, which in return increased profit over the Christmas period – according to digital agency Huge.
Creating the bigger picture
Creating a big splash has become increasingly important and Marks & Spencer is leading the way currently as it sets the tone for adverts this season with its glossy Alice in Wonderland theme.
According to interesting research from Marks & Spencer, this year more people are looking at ads on the web before they appear on television. So it’s no surprise that retailers are starting to understand that you have to make an ad interesting enough that people will search for it online, which marks a big shift in retailer’s attitudes.
In the last quarter of this year, the total spend for online advertising by all industries is expected to rise by 11% compared with the same period in 2012. Statistics from The Advertising Association show that online adverting spending has increased more than three times than the usual TV spend.
At home with the Jones’
The industry has found that people's TV viewing habits at home have changed with most people now sitting at home watching TV whilst at the same time are interacting with their mobile phones or tablets. And this trend is one of the driving forces behind retailers and advertisers increasingly integrating their TV campaigns with online efforts.
With so many people spending more and more time on their mobile devices, it would be foolish for retailers not to target them - and so the battle for the best Christmas has opened up a second online front in earnest.
The challenge retailers face is generating a genuine buzz that will engage consumers and keep their brand at the forefront of their minds when it comes time to research and eventually purchase a present.
How do you get customers to interact online?
This doesn't mean that traditional methods and newer ones can't be combined, though. For example, M&S, which initially launched its campaign online, is allowing its shoppers to vote across Facebook and Twitter on the name of the dog featured in the ad, with the winning name appearing on the dog's collar on the TV advert in December.
However, John Lewis appears to be leading the way with its 'Bear and Hare' advert, which is a complete tearjerker. Before the advert even aired on national TV, John Lewis ran a teaser campaign on TV featuring a single frame from the animated film alongside a Twitter hashtag (#sleepingbear) for people to engage with the rest of the story.
The result was enormous, with a social media storm being created. More YouTube views of the ad were created in just a few days than were achieved for its 2012 ad during the entirety of last year's Christmas season. This just provides a great example of how a retailer can use various channels to create a very memorable story and get everyone across the UK talking.
What are the results from creating a viral campaign?
Not only did John Lewis create such a heartwarming advert, which is perfect for this time of the year, but they put together something that got people spreading the word virally and went directly to the John Lewis' website as they sat in their homes watching TV.
As a result, it seems that consumers are also starting to look for their Christmas purchases sooner than in previous years. Indeed, Google announced that searches for Christmas gifts had begun four weeks earlier this season than last year. So will retailers consider bringing forward their campaigns in 2014 in-line with customer shopping habits? It seems our increasingly digital lifestyles have prompted retailers to follow suit, taking their traditional Christmas advertising fare into the online arena.
However, it remains to be seen if any of the new tactics being implemented by retailers this Christmas - particularly the focus toward digital teaser campaigns - will translate into sales, but we can’t ignore the fact that this move has proved fantastic in boosting brand awareness and encouraging customer engagement.
Now it’s time for you to have your say:
So tell us what's your favourite Christmas campaign this year?
Do you have any views about how campaigns are taking a shift more towards online? How do you think retailers should attract consumers to spend more with them over the Christmas period? Would you prefer to see more campaigns online and be much more interactive?
Don't hesitate to let us know what you think!