Celebration, COVID-19 and kids: the winning ingredients of 2020’s retail Christmas ads

To inspire the development of your 2021 Christmas campaign, Kantar has identified the top ten 2020 Christmas ads from retailers around the world.
16 February 2021
christmas ads kids 2020 covid
daren poole

Senior Director, Creative Domain

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For consumers, Christmas is in the rear-view mirror. But if you’re a marketer you have either just briefed-in or are about to brief in your 2021 Christmas campaign. So how can you maximise your campaign effectiveness?

To inspire the development of your 2021 Christmas campaign, Kantar has identified the top ten 2020 Christmas ads from retailers around the world. Kantar colleagues submitted their best and favourite local ads and, using the power of artificial intelligence, we assessed their creativity and effectiveness. Link AI has been trained using ads from Kantar’s Link normative database of over 210,000 ads, to predict how consumers would rate the ads.

In a year where most categories were challenged, there were multiple uncertainties around the Christmas retail outlook. The acceleration of ecommerce sparked by the pandemic presented an existential threat to bricks and mortar stores. In markets where people were in lockdown, but supermarkets remained open, competition for the consumer wallet was going to be intense. Advertising would play an important role in coming out on top.

The Kantar Creative Effectiveness Awards illustrate that there is no single route to creative effectiveness. And that is confirmed in the top Christmas ads. Beyond featuring children and music, either well known or specially created, there are no common creative traits across the ten ads; several themes do emerge, however.

The top-ranked ad, for Brazilian department store, Leader, evokes feelings of a true Brazilian Christmas. The ad features Alcione, arguably Brazil’s most famous singer, delivering a culturally relevant and festive Samba song to accompany scenes of a summer Christmas, complete with secret Santa. This provides a welcome and winning contrast to ads from brands that take a northern hemisphere approach to Christmas by highlighting cosy wintry scenes.

The Leader ad shows scenes of families celebrating together: a theme common to some, but not all, of the top ten ads. The second-ranked ad from New Zealand supermarket, Countdown shows some traditional scenes of family togetherness at Christmas dinner but embeds that in an animated story, read by Father Christmas/Santa Claus. It highlights what people could enjoy doing in a COVID-free country and the role that Countdown and its staff play in that. In the Polish ad for Biedronka supermarket, animated Christmas decorations help bring people together to cook traditional treats and to celebrate.

COVID-19 appears in the winning ads to greater and lesser extents. In the Leader ad, a super at the end assures viewers that it was filmed under COVID regulations and we see one mask-wearing woman in the ad. In other ads the reference is more overt: the ad for Lumine shopping centres in Japan opens with the voiceover “in 2020, we became stronger” and encourages people to reward themselves as they have done a good job getting through a difficult year. Rather than showing more traditional Christmas scenes, it reflects back a series of vignettes of how normal people spent their year.

Several of the ads revolve around children’s innocent selflessness during (a COVID-19) Christmas. In Dutch drugstore Kruidvat’s ad, a girl makes a Santa lookalike neighbour a face mask, complete with beard, to help protect him from the virus. Chilean department store Falabella tells a heart-warming story of a girl writing to Santa Claus, asking him not to come, but to stay at home, because he is too old and it could be dangerous for him. She doesn’t want any toys or superheroes because there are plenty of them doing their best in real life during the pandemic, like doctors. She received her real gift throughout the year, being with her family all day long. And in an Italian supermarket Conad’s ad, a girl shares a cake baked by her mother with neighbours; they highlight that while people can’t be with families, they can still be together.

As we start planning for the 2021 festive season, key creative themes might include reflecting back on another difficult year, as different countries emerge at different paces (wellbeing and economic) from the pandemic. As in 2020, over-indexing on the importance of familial bonds, or perhaps grasping the optimism of having fully emerged from the pandemic, will be potentially successful strategies. Whatever themes creative directors pitch to their client CMOs, Link AI gives marketers a read on the effectiveness of their creative treatment in under 15 minutes and is complemented by a range of survey Link solutions that help advertisers to optimise their creative before it goes to air.

Get in touch to find out how we help you discover the best recipe for your Christmas 2021 campaign.

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