Is There an Expiry Date to the Seasonal Ads Scene?

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Article Takeaways:

  • Media consumption habits throw the usefulness of traditional Christmas advertising into scrutiny
  • Direct-to-Consumer brands could be next to join the slew of brands releasing big Christmas campaigns.

Every year we see the same retail brands contending through TV to win Christmas. Creatively different ads fill television screens across British households, officially kicking off the festive period.

This year, we saw nostalgia as a big theme. The winner of our annual rankings based on 4C artificial intelligence was Tesco, who charmed audiences with a ‘back to the future’-style ad that granted the supermarket a 146% social lift score. Meanwhile, the Christmas ad powerhouse that is John Lewis took the third spot with Excitable Edgar, in their first-ever collaboration with Waitrose & Partners.

Through all the holiday cheer, we can’t deny how the retail environment is changing. The truth is, Christmas ads as we know them are existing in a suspended reality.

2019 has brought the arrival of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands who don’t play to the same tune as traditional retailers and supermarkets. These brands are agile and versatile, bringing personality and creativity to the table all year round.

As the expansion of D2C brands continues, it is only a matter of time until they start thinking about joining the Christmas ads extravaganza.

A direct to consumer trend

Businesses used to invest big budgets into advertising that would drive sales in physical stores, but today, consumers’ media consumption has shifted to smartphones.

There is now a new breed of e-commerce brands that own the end-to-end customer experience by engaging with their customers using social, mobile, and digital channels. The likes of Casper, Glossier and Dollar Shave Club have proved that cutting the middleman can be extremely successful.

The key to this successful trend is data. Direct-to-consumers companies have triumphed thanks to their tailored business models built on the collection and interpretation of customer insights. This has allowed them to close the loop and create the ultimate relationship with their customers as part of an ongoing, direct conversation.

As these brands prepare for the next phase of their growth, tackling the holiday season might seem a bit daunting. But for those elves of the retail world looking to take on the dragon (Excitable Edgar that is), there are just a few things to bear in mind.

A holly, jolly D2C Christmas

First of all, competing in the annual ad extravaganza does not necessarily mean that we’ll see these brands take on television during the “golden quarter” of retail. Instead, we are far more likely to see a big increase in personalised ads bringing Christmas to each consumer when they are ready for it.

A brand cleverly tackling Christmas ads is Dollar Shave Club, who as a men’s razor company has played up its own inevitable lack of relevance as a gift for certain family members. This campaign highlights the enormous opportunity of social advertising to engage, entertain and inspire purchase ideas among specific audiences at this time of the year.

The other thing to bear in mind is the spirit of Christmas, which is something the major retailers and grocers have helped redefine for 2019 with a nostalgic twist. Being relevant to this agenda and creating content that deliberately speaks to a wider audience is also paramount in creating a surround sound for audiences experiencing ads across several different channels at once.

Ultimately, D2C brands will need to lean into the same tools that have delivered success to them so far, such as playing off audience engagement and live tracking. If they continue to base their advertising and marketing strategies on data and insights, there is no reason why they wouldn’t be successful when taking on the holiday season.

We have seen direct-to-consumer companies take the retail world by storm and we can certainly expect them to enter the Christmas ads scene soon in full force. The key to success will be focusing on taking to the next level those tactics that have already proven to be very effective for them. If D2C brands play their cards right, they could quickly change the entire dynamic of Christmas.

Karl Knights

VP Revenue EMEA at 4C Insights

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