New survey shows what consumers really think of Christmas ads

18 Dec 2012  |  Keith Eadie 

After Dominic Mills delivered his verdict on the best and worst Christmas TV ads this year, Newsline asked TubeMogul to see what consumers thought. The results show some recessionary cynicism and a dislike of celebrities says Keith Eadie, VP of Marketing at TubeMogul.

The ability to tell a charming, memorable and sometimes heart-rending story has become an annual gauntlet laid down for brands wishing to make the same impact as the "Coca-Cola truck" ad that viewers look forward to at Christmas time.

UK retail brands have embraced the need to make a lasting statement with their seasonal advertising and to impress a memorable brand message upon consumers watching TV, online video or other content outlets. The 2012 Christmas season has proved no exception in the race for brands to have the most creative, fun, memorable or best produced TV ad.

TubeMogul, a digital video ad buying company, was keen to find out what UK consumers really thought of the brand messages vying for their attention, and asked 2,568 consumers throughout England what they thought the most memorable ads were.

Using their BrandSights survey tool, the company also asked whether the ads played a role in pushing them to shop earlier, or to shop with a certain brand.

The most memorable ad, by quite a clear lead, was John Lewis's 'Snowman Journey' with 53% of the vote, followed by ASDA's 'Behind Every Great Christmas, There's a Mum' ad, with almost 26%. Marks & Spencer came in third (8.8%) followed by Waitrose's and Morrisons' efforts - both with 6%.

This year the adverts focussed largely on the human aspect of the Christmas holidays. They variably touched upon the enormity and complexity of the work that goes into a successful Christmas, the sense of family that pulls the season together and the sacrifices we make to ensure our loved ones have a good time.

One element that the respondents found particularly agreeable was the lack of celebrities used to endorse the brands' messages and products. In an interesting backlash against the use of celebrity endorsement, 69% of respondents thought that having fewer celebrities on our screens was a positive thing.

Rather than making the adverts all about the celebrities within them, ASDA and Morrisons chose - successfully - to take the approach that Britain's 'all-suffering mums' would be the celebrities of 2012.

However, these success stories are best viewed in context: consumers are on edge. 67.7% of respondents believed that, overall, the adverts didn't strike the right chord of sensitivity during a period of recession. Many also complained that the adverts started much earlier than usual (82.9%), and few reported shopping earlier.

Although the British public largely voted in favour of a more sensitive approach to Christmas advertising, when it came to remembering the ads in question the slick production value and bitter-sweet humour of John Lewis's advert clearly won out.

Overall, almost two in ten (19.2%) reported being persuaded by brand messaging - perhaps not bad given the economic context and the fact that consumers are likely to downplay how persuadable they are.

Despite recession sensitivities, sales results reveal ads may have worked better than some hoped, as retailers celebrated record sales in the run up to the typically busiest shopping day of the year - 17th December.

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