Even 12 weeks of Christmas isn't enough now
The Ozone Project's client director examines two Christmas trends for consumers, publishers and advertisers across their portfolio.
Long gone are the days when the 12 Days of Christmas was enough time to build up to the big day, as every year our anticipation for the festive season appears to appear earlier - with this year being no exception.
Christmas-loving consumers are bullish after having festivities taken away from them last year, with one in three saying they are confident all will be back to normal by Christmas – a huge jump compared to just one in ten this time last year.
As 2020 was a Christmas like no other in recent times, this rise in consumer confidence might not be overly surprising, and it’s certainly reflected in the reader consumption patterns we are seeing across the Ozone platform.
Across our portfolio of publisher websites, we have seen our Christmas audience – those reading content specific to the festive period – growing earlier and quicker, currently at a rate of about 9% faster than last year.
This is due to a combination of factors: we’re seeing more inspirational Christmas editorial in preparation for a more celebratory 2021 holiday season; and advisory editorial about the impact on Christmas of supply chain pressure caused by Covid, Brexit and the fuel shortage.
So, while it might not all be good news, it’s certainly placing the season of goodwill front of mind.
Above: Ozone’s monthly Christmas audience, which stands at 19m unique users in October, has grown about 9% faster this year than last as consumer and brand festive planning is brought forward.
What we’ve unwrapped from our unique view of reading behaviour across the vast majority of the nation’s most read websites, are two key trends that we believe marketers and agencies alike should be putting on their Christmas advertising wish list.
Trend 1: Getting in earlier
Our consumption patterns show the number of consumers reading Christmas-related content is up +29% in the past four weeks versus the previous four weeks, with the number of pages they’ve visited rising even faster by +44% over the same period.
With the Golden Quarter for many advertisers now in full swing, we are already seeing a growing audience of festive fanatics consuming even more relevant Christmas editorial.
Above: Ozone’s Christmas audience and their engagement with seasonal content is building, with average weekly page views in the last four weeks up 44% versus the prior four-week period
There’s no doubt some of this premium content will have been focused on supply chain pressure and concerns over stock availability, be it toys and games or food and drink.
Most notably we have seen a 230% increase in the consumption of content related to frozen food in the past fortnight alone. Perhaps this is a sign we should all be getting those turkeys in the freezer early.
Yet, at the same time, there’s already a wealth of inspirational content being written and read about. As consumption rises, so too will content volumes.
From festive gifting and seasonal recipe ideas to events and party planning, our audience is already turning to our content to ensure they have a Christmas to remember (or at least one that buries the ghost of last year’s damp squib).
Above: From the beginning of November to the final week in December, average weekly page views and unique users grew by +74% and +48% respectively
Trend 2: Staying in longer
What we’ve seen in the past few years is a prolonged stretch of seasonally-driven categories increasing dramatically from around October time all the way through until the end of January.
These categories include festive favourites such as technology, video gaming, home decor and style & fashion editorial.
For example, in 2020 we saw the audience for these seasonal categories begin to build at the start of Q4 with significant growth through November in the build up to Black Friday, and an acceleration for the remainder of the festive season to levels that were sustained into the winter sale period.
From the beginning of November to New Year’s Eve, the number of seasonal pages consumed grew by 42%. With these highs sustained well into January, this offers brands a potent opportunity to reach highly engaged consumers in the aftermath of the festive frenzy.
It feels almost certain that Christmas 2021 is going to be a bumper affair.
Looking at our readers’ consumption patterns, what we saw happen last year is already in full swing this year, just significantly earlier than we’ve seen previously.
At the beginning of October, our Christmas audience was already 116% greater than it was at the start of November 2020.
And while it’s true that our alliance of premium publishers has also grown this year, with the likes of City AM and HELLO! joining Ozone to both expand our content offering and bolster our audience profile, the 200% increase in engagement with Christmas content is driven by editorial features across the entire portfolio.
When thinking about the acceleration in audience engagement we saw last year in the build up to Black Friday, we expect to see an even more dramatic increase in 2021 as consumers look to capitalise on the sales and promotions on offer during the annual event that is fast becoming a pre-Christmas gift buying extravaganza.
So, while we’re not suggesting getting the tree out of the attic just yet, we would certainly recommend activating those festive marketing plans while audience appetite is on the rise.
Sophie Raptis is client director at The Ozone Project