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Hit or miss: a look back at this year’s Christmas marketing campaigns

Love them or hate them, Christmas marketing campaigns have become an unavoidable part of the festive season. While the arrival of the Coca-Cola trucks used to signal that Christmas was on the horizon, now the big budget, high concept ad campaigns from John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, M&S and others represent something of a festive event themselves. The folks at the PMG design studio know a thing or two about marketing, so we thought we’d cast our eye over some of this year’s most high profile Christmas marketing campaigns and see whether they hit the mark or went off like a damp Christmas cracker…

John Lewis: Man on the Moon

The big one. John Lewis arguably holds the crown where Christmas ads are concerned, with their annual heart-warming, high budget mini-features setting the standard where Christmas marketing campaigns are concerned. As usual, John Lewis pulled no punches with a suitably tear-jerking entry featuring a young girl who buys a Christmas gift for the lonely man on the moon. Depending on your point of view, the latest John Lewis campaign is either innovative and touching or soppy and schmaltzy. As usual, however, the brand has combined the TV spot with an integrated marketing campaign including a range of man on the moon products, print marketing goods and even a dedicated app. Certain John Lewis stores are holding events to support the charity Age UK, which we think is a lovely touch.

PMG verdict: HIT

Sainsbury’s: Mog’s Christmas Calamity

Sainsbury’s stole John Lewis’ thunder last Christmas with an excellent – if controversial – campaign drawing on the WWI Christmas Day truce. This year’s campaign resurrects a beloved Children’s character in Judith Kerr’s Mog, who wreaks havoc in a family home before the supermarket can save the day with last-minute Christmas goods. The campaign has a print element too, with Judith Kerr releasing a new Mog book to coincide with the Christmas ads. The campaign has a degree of wry humour and unarguably excellent production values, but seeing a CGI Mog dragged up for the purposes of selling pigs in blankets and cartons of milk is a little heart breaking for anyone who loved the character as a child.

PMG verdict: MISS

Vodafone: Terry the Turkey

Vodafone have also gone for humour over sentimentality, with a campaign involving a family’s attempts to raise a turkey for the table come Christmas Day. However, the family falls head over heels for the friendly fowl, and ends up eating nut roast for Christmas dinner instead. It’s undeniably funny and a little touching too, without hitting the big budget heights of John Lewis or Sainsbury’s efforts. The PMG team found this one difficult to call, as the ad’s copy (bring your family closer together this Christmas) is only tangentially related to the content. That said, we decided the campaign is memorable enough to be deemed a hit.

PMG verdict: HIT

Lidl: School of Christmas

As you’d expect of a budget supermarket chain, Lidl has opted for a suitably low budget Christmas marketing campaign. The School of Christmas campaign is a fairly humble one, but the concept is sound. The Lidl school of Christmas provides classes to overcome those little festive obstacles, such as eating up leftover Christmas dinner, reacting to an unwanted gift or fitting a huge turkey in a tiny oven. It features Lidl products without resorting to the hard sell, and there are a few genuinely funny lines in there as well. We like it, and it shows that a super high-concept campaign isn’t essential for a successful Christmas marketing push.

PMG verdict: HIT

Sky Movies: Step into the adventure

Sky Movies’ Christmas ad employs some clever editing and video manipulation to insert a young girl into some of the year’s biggest family movies. The girl can’t leave the table until she finishes all of her sprouts, so she visits a number of movie universes to surreptitiously destroy the unloved veggies. The campaign looks great, and with the rights to some of Hollywood’s biggest films you’d expect it to. The problem is we’ve seen things like this before, and as the campaign is video-only, we’d have expected better from Sky.

PMG verdict: MISS

Whether they’re print, digital or TV campaigns, the year’s best (and worst) Christmas marketing campaigns have huge budgets to play with. Here at PMG we’re dedicated to helping our clients achieve marketing success whatever their budget. If you’d like to plan a Christmas print marketing campaign for 2016 or simply improve the response rates of your direct mail marketing efforts, speak to our design studio today and find out how we can help.

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