Aldi’s ‘A Christmas Carrot’ advert is the Star Performer this year

Our 2021 Christmas ad research, evaluating 24 of this year’s festive adverts, provides inspiration for more effective advertising all year round.
08 December 2021
lynne deason

Head of Creative Excellence, UK

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Christmas ads, with their powerful storytelling and prominent use of chart-topping music, are infamous for their power to evoke emotion. Compared to the average advert, Christmas ads are typically more enjoyable; they take us on emotional journeys filled with surprises, sentimentality, sadness, and lots of smiles. The balance of those feelings is usually on the positive side, so whilst we may be taken on an emotional rollercoaster the experience is an enjoyable one, with a powerful feel-good factor.

These positive feelings provide a halo effect for the brand, helping to build predisposition to choose the brand over others in the long term, not just a short-term hit in the golden quarter.

In the UK, Christmas ads awaken our festive spirits and are part of the fabric of the festive season. 46% of people say they love them, and 43% wish the ads through the rest of the year were as good as they are at Christmas.

Capture the mood

Whilst they still make us smile more than the average ad, this year’s set of Christmas ads have less of a feel-good factor, on average, than previous years.

The ads are likely to be less effective in both the short-term and the long-term – but it’s not all doom and gloom. Data from Kantar shows that 35% of people feel this Christmas is more important than last, with a particular emphasis on friends and family, and less focus on extravagant spending. The most successful ads have captured this mood while making it highly relevant to their brands and products. Those that have struggled to get resonance have been the ones with sad or complex storylines, where the intended happy ending doesn’t stand out, or the audience is left feeling confused.

There is, however, still much to celebrate and find all-year-round inspiration from – and 2021’s Christmas ads continue to prove that there’s more than one way to crack the Christmas creative effectiveness nut; creativity and originality are essential. What did our ad testing and analysis reveal?

The top ads of the season

Aldi’s ‘A Christmas Carrot’ takes the crown as the best Christmas ad of 2021 and is their best one yet. A Christmas Carrot is one of at least six ads attempting to tap into kindness as a way to build meaning and earn attention, but it is by far the most effective. Retelling one of the most well-known and loved Christmas stories of all time (A Christmas Carol) and then ending on a strong simple message (‘if you want to be happy you need to be kind’), is good for our lazy brains. We don’t have to work hard to figure it out.

Understanding your audience and tapping into the zeitgeist helps ads earn attention, but you need bravery, creativity, originality, and effective storytelling to unleash its power. Whilst Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a very familiar story, there is so much about the way it is brought to life in this ad that makes it feel original. Whoever would have imagined Ebenezer Scrooge to be ‘E’banana! It is the “most distinctive” ad of the set researched in 2021, falling into the top 6% on this measure, and it’s the “most festive” too.

Humour can be a winning ingredient

A Christmas Carrot is an inspiring example of how a brand can convey serious messages about purpose and social impact while still being authentic to the brand: in this case, delivered with fun and light-hearted humour, which is true to Aldi’s ‘jester’ personality. This is why it also tops the charts as the “funniest” and “most enjoyable” Christmas ad.

Many ads with a purposeful intent fall into the trap of being too sombre, as demonstrated by the wave of sadvertising we saw during COVID in Spring 2020. The storyline and details in the execution of A Christmas Carrot fill it with light-hearted inoffensive humour, from Cuthbert the Caterpillar being arrested by the sour lemons, through to vegetable puns like ‘peas and good will’. The clever inclusion of ‘Marcus Radishford’ adds to the humour, but most importantly it borrows from Rashford’s fame in fighting food poverty, enabling the ad to intuitively convey how Aldi is making a difference in a similar space, through its partnership with Neighbourly. And this is yet another accomplishment of the ad, as it is the most successful of all the festive ads this year at conveying that the brand is making a difference to society. The brand’s purpose has been brought to life in a brand-centric way.

Authenticity is a key to success for purposeful brands

Dickens would be delighted to see his story being used to bring to life the positive social impact that Aldi is seeking to achieve. He lived his life by what he called his “Carol” philosophy: He walked the streets of London late at night to really see what life was like for the poor, so that he could be truthful in his story telling; appreciating that his story would resonate more powerfully with his audience and make a difference.

A Christmas Carrot also serves as a great example of the power of consistency; when you have a great creative platform, stick with it. “Branding” has improved year on year: whilst not the top performer, Aldi’s ad sits within the top quartile of all ads in the UK on this measure. Kevin and friends are becoming distinctive brand assets for Aldi. The ad is in the top 6% when it comes to the “power of brand cues” in the ad, according to our research. We saw during COVID that his appearance in Aldi’s ad was seen to be very appropriate, adding a lighter tone to a serious message and helping people to identify which brand the message was from.

To find out about the ten gifts of inspiration from this year’s Christmas ads in the UK, covering Aldi and top performing ads this year, such as M&S, Celebrations, Lidl and Coca-Cola, please do get in touch.

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