For the past two weeks the UK has seen the Christmas TV ad rush begin. John Lewis have launched their ad, which some (amazingly?!) now consider to be the official launch of Christmas. Whilst the vast majority of brands and businesses can’t afford the advertising budgets these guys have, there are some interesting things to learn on brand stand out from what we see on the TV.

John Lewis: the Christmas gold-standard

For a few years now, John Lewis has set the Christmas TV ad gold standard. Their formula: a 90 second+ blockbuster that goes for the Mums with a huge tug at the heart strings. The result: Mum is left in tears, whilst hopefully ordering presents on the John Lewis web site.

Here’s what they did in 2011 so you get the idea:

So the great British public have reacted so well to these that now, every year, the John Lewis Christmas TV ad launch is hugely anticipated. This year we got a film called ‘Bear and the Hare’. Lilly Allen sings, and we see a great bit of (hugely expensive) retro-Disney comforting animation that takes you back to Jungle Book and Snow-White…

It’s a great ad. John Lewis must be pleased with it. There’s a but though.

The magic formula is being copied

Over the last two weekends of big rating shows it seems like we were hit with a few too many John Lewis copycat ads. It wasn’t that we had so many bears and cartoons that Yogi and Boo-Boo were brought out of retirement, but all the ads felt like they were copying the formula.

The thing is, now John Lewis have their magic formula other advertisers are trying the same kind of things:

  • Long blockbuster ads
  • Emotional sound tracks
  • Emotional story-line

The new promotional ad from Sky typifies the trend so we’re at the point where watching an ad break feels like an festive emotional roller-coaster:

And then there’s Tesco…

There are others too, along with a whole range of Supermarket ads that all look a bit ‘samey’.

Cadbury: the art of brand stand out

There was one ad that really stood out. We watched it and it grabbed our attention. It kept our attention too. It was fun, it was Christmassy, celebratory and packed full of kids enjoying themselves. In other words all the magic ingredients for a totally joyous Christmas…

Lessons for any brand

The Cadbury ad stood out because it was different. It was bang on brand too. Seamlessly feeling part of their positioning to make their choccy a ‘joyful event’ (remember the drumming Gorilla).

Chocolate is chocolate. Everyone knows it tastes nice and it’s a bit of a treat (it’s a necessity here actually). Cadbury have spent time developing a positioning that allows them to promote, develop and live a brand achieves brand stand out: Joy.

That joy shows in the Christmas ad, as much as it does in the drumming gorilla, their Tweets, right through to the Marvellous Creations Popping Candy chocolate bars. It’s a piece of brand thinking that makes the decision to film the ad an easy one as it’s bang on brand, but also stops anyone in the company thinking they should ‘do a John Lewis ad because everyone likes them’. So we say well done Cadbury, thanks for not copying John Lewis.

And then there’s America

One last thing. We found this. Bet it stands out in the ad breaks too, so well done America.

Happy jingling this season. And don’t forget to tell us what you think about the ads.

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