Christmas Ads 2017 - It's War!

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

A definitive of ranking of the winners and the losers this Christmas season.

It’s the hottest contest of the year. Brands across the land are scrambling to prove that they can spread the most Christmas cheer.This year’s crop of Crimbo ads introduce a whole motley crew of adorable characters, settings and situations, all with the aim of endearing themselves to us so much that we’re moved to spend all our dosh in various shiny stores.  We ran this year’s Christmas adverts through our SoundOut insight platform, powered by our 2 million strong panel of consumers. The outputs culminated in this definitive ranking of 2017’s very best, and very worst Christmas adverts. Spoiler alert: despite being the founding father of Christmas ad frenzy, John Lewis has been ousted from the top spot. But who now wears their paper crown?! To view the full interactive results for each adverts simply click on the links in this post.

9th Place: Sainsburys – Every Bit of Christmas Dead last, across all demographics. The general consensus is that the Sainsburys ad… well, it sucks. It’s easy to see what they were going for; real people! A song! Black and white! Sadly, sometimes a mixture of ingredients that should, theoretically, turn out super tasty, can leave a sour taste in your mouth. Among our reviewers, one of the most mentioned elements of this ad was its length, with only 2% of those mentions being positive. Clocking in at just 1.49, it’s hardly a Lord of the Rings movie, or even the longest on this list. But seems that when the advert is this annoying (another frequently mentioned keyword!), anything over 30 seconds is torture. Oh yeah, and Kermit the Frog pops up at the end (was this a desperate random afterthought by the agency to salvage a sinking ship?).  He almost saves the day with engagement spiking upwards for both of his brief appearances, but its too late and sadly he doesn’t deliver the Paddington impact. (view results)

8th Place: Waitrose – Christmas Together Crashing in second to last overall is the monochrome Waitrose advert. Shooting in black and white is a time-honoured means by which to nudge an audience towards nostalgia (just ask Woody Allen). But, unfortunately, nobody told Waitrose that it shouldn’t be wielded just to paper up the cracks. No matter the aesthetic similarities to old newspaper and PVA glue. The advert features a random pub-full of snowed in punters (or really, just the demographic population of Waitrose on a Sunday afternoon). For many, being trapped inside a wooden booze-shack in the midst of a snowstorm might be a cause for concern. But this rag-tag group of middle class Waitrose customers whip out – seemingly from nowhere- an endless stream of packaged mince pies, carrot cakes, turkey and an actual Waitrose cookbook. From the literal ether, they find enough Waitrose delicacies to feed 20 people.   On one level this is more a loaves and fishes story reimagined for Cheshire than a Christmas ad – but despite the lack of universal appeal, it is actually 2nd overall with the target 35-44 year old females.  Nice one Waitrose. (view results)

7th Place: Tesco – Turkey, Every Which Way  A frank, no-frills and heart-warming look at all the different ways to do Christmas. This advert is full of candour and forensic levels of human observation: there’s good-natured kitchen squabbles, backseat cooks, sleepy turkey sarnies, roast-veggie thieves, and more Turkey than there is oven. Though, most controversial has been the three-second inclusion of a Muslim family. Tesco received a barrage of backlash for this scene, but hit back, contending that “Everyone is welcome at Tesco this Christmas and we're proud to celebrate the many ways our customers come together over the festive season”. If anything, this measured and compassionate response is a far superior indication of their values - and potential booster of sales - than any cloying Christmas ad ever could be. What's more, our reviewers agree! (view results)

6th Place: Asda – Best Christmas Ever This Wes Anderson-esque advert is a sweet and smart mixture of old-school charm and quirky modernity. Asda paint a picture of a technicolour ‘Christmas factory’, visited by a young girl and her grandfather. So far, so Charlie and the Chocolate factory. The factory is filled with all manner of whizzing, whirling and swirling contraptions, to the wide-eyed amazement of our protagonists. A moose running on a very large wheel powers an equally large food mixer. Miniscule elves construct canapes and a tin-foil clad worker bee shoots shots of gin into truffles. At the advert’s close, the young girl and her Grandfather ride a Great Glass Elevator and ascend into, we assume, orbit. Now, I’m not saying that shopping at Asda is just like visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory… But Asda, is literally saying just that.  (view results)

5th Place: Argos – Ready For Take Off Shedding the conspicuous manipulation that John Lewis and M&S trade in, Argos’ addition to the roster is a high-energy, contemporary take on a Christmas Elf (or embellished Argos factory employee, depending on your levels of cynicism) and her sincere determination to return a stray gift to Santa’s sleigh (Or, again, if one allows cynicism to take the reins, the root of her desperation may be the threat of being fired should that Argos order not be delivered within 4 hours flat). One of our reviewers even remarked in earnest that they “appreciate the way Santa's workshop almost looks like an Argos”. Whatever works! (view results)

4th Place: Debenhams – You Shall Find Your Fairy Tale Christmas This modern-retelling of the Cinderella story comes in at number 4. In Debenhams’ version of the classic fairy tale; boy and girl lock eyes on a packed-out commuter train, girl loses shoe on train, boy tracks down our chilly-footed heroine via twitter hashtag. How nifty! How millennial! Despite ranking 4th overall, the advert was actually exceedingly popular with 16-24 year-old females. Having come of age during the 2000s- the golden age of Rom-Coms – this makes perfect sense. Through no fault of their own, millennial women are a generation of hopeless romantics. With the advert’s Bridget Jones vibes and Ewan McGregor’s dulcet tones on hand to narrate, Debenhams have ensnared their target demographic with acute accuracy. (view results)

3rd Place: John Lewis- Moz the Monster Rounding out the top three is John Lewis’ sweet, but woefully misunderstood Moz the Monster. Despite being THE most hotly anticipated Christmas advert of the season, John Lewis’ 2-minute blockbuster only reached number three in the SoundOut charts. The advert stars Moz, your friendly neighbourhood monster, who lives under a little boy’s bed and keeps him up at night. Despite being characteristically charming, and directed by an Oscar-winner no less, the John Lewis ad failed to set audiences alight as it has done in previous years. Some complaints from our panel include “I found it a little strange and confusing” and “I was a little bit confused… was [I] supposed to feel sad at the end because the monster had gone, or was I supposed to be happy he was gone?”. This is reflected in our element analysis – of all the adverts tested, Moz the Monster scored second lowest for its execution of plot and concept. Essentially, the ad left viewers puzzled. We all know that we’re supposed to feel emotional after watching a John Lewis ad, it’s practically gospel! But that central sentimental nugget seemed to be lost in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. 

Still, Moz the Monster resonated strongly with those aged 35 and over. In fact, our results from male 35-44 years olds alone place the John Lewis advert in the top spot. Interesting, yes, but not all that surprising. This simply confirms the sneaking suspicion that we’ve always had – John Lewis ads aren’t really made for the kids after all, despite what the increasingly treacly mascots will have you believe. The ads are dependent on the wistfulness of the older generations; those with the deepest pockets.

(view results)

2nd  Place: Aldi - Kevin the Carrot Not all heroes wear capes and Aldi’s teeny, tiny, cape-less crusader returns for another year. In an underdog victory for the history books, Aldi’s Christmas advert proved more popular with our panel than juggernaut and bookie favourite John Lewis (hold tight for a bevvy of adorable, sentient root vegetables come next December). This year, Kevin the Carrot takes on the perilous dinner table in pursuit of a glamorous orange lady love; Kate the Carrot. A torpedo of peas strike Kevin as he dives to protect Kate- and he exclaims, in that endearing northern twang, “I think I just peed myself”. It’s the joke of the season. Our element analysis reveals that audiences responded with great warmth to the tiny hero, specifically enamoured with just how darn cute he is. (view results)

1st  Place:  M&S - Paddington and the Christmas Visitor A worthy winner, M&S really knocked it out of the park this year. With the release of Paddington 2 in cinemas, the use of the old bear to front this Christmas campaign is a killer combination and an incredibly shrewd move by M&S. The two brands are steeped in heritage, cut from the same cloth really, and they blend seamlessly.Over the last two years, Brexit and a scrappy snap election fight have seen British heritage exploited to advance the forces of extreme nationalism. The M&S advert is a return to an earnest celebration of Great Britishness. Gone are the tired and grubby finger marks of politics. Marks and Spencer's have captured the unifying spirit of Christmas and enraptured a nation. Indeed, no woman on our panel over the age of 35 rated this advert less than a 6/10. Which is staggering. 

The plot is appropriately heartfelt - a burglar who finds redemption when a naive Paddington mistakes him for Santa and the two take off together and save Christmas.According to our engagement graph, Paddington’s adventure is a classic Man (or Bear) in Hole story arc. Man (and bear) get into trouble. Man and bear get out of trouble. The rapturous rewards of redemption are reaped. It’s a real classic. 

Whichever way you want to spin it, M&S are the top dogs this year and everyone else is playing catch up. (view results) See all results side by side here To round off this conclusive Crimbo countdown, we asked our panel which of the ads most captured the spirit of Christmas. In an all-mighty fall from grace, John Lewis came in dead last, with frankly meagre amounts of Christmas spirit being captured by Moz the Monster. In an almighty rise to the top, the M&S advert is the embodiment of Christmas spirit this year, scoring a whopping 82%. 

Better luck next year John Lewis!

*Testing carried out on the SoundOut reviewer platform over 5 days in November 2017 with 600 balanced demographic respondents (UK) per advert

Copyright © 2017. Tiffany Amuah

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