Thought Leadership

Do we need more joy in advertising this Christmas?

With the world still facing uncertain times, marketers are navigating the festive period with cautious optimism.

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


Christmas 2021 feels like a uniquely precious holiday period; in the wake of the disruption and isolation that has come hand in hand with the pandemic. 

The pandemic has seen consumers flooded with messages of caution, social distance and warning and as we enter the holiday period many will still be wary of fully embracing old traditions.

However Christmas will be celebrated this year, be it alone with a film, a dialled down celebration with close relatives or a reunion of friends; here’s hoping that the season will bring with it some of those lost feelings of hope and joy. Joy, after all, is one of the most inclusive emotions of all. 

As we continue to tread carefully being mindful of the country's mood, brands are presented with a challenge as to how to tackle tone within advertising this Christmas. Whilst the industry must approach the festive season with care, after a year of being told to be cautious surely now is the time for some togetherness, fun and joy? 

With this in mind we asked a selection of industry experts; do we need more joy in advertising this Christmas?

Micky Tudor


Chief Creative Officer & Partner


Christmas is on! Given the last one was a total write off, this one is seriously going to count. It’s time to meet friends and family face to face, actually hand over presents in person, hug loved ones, and make up for the two years we’ve been through and all the Christmas memories we were denied last year. 

So, do we need more joy? The answer is a big, fat, hairy, (and red-robed) yes.

But the question is what do we think joy is? You can get huge joy from great beauty, joy from something that is profound, joy from something meaningful, joy from making a connection or from learning something new. You can have tears of joy and the more sadistic of us could get joy from something dark. In fact, sometimes there is great humour in our dark sides, great comedy to be had - it’s why it’s called dark comedy. 

So yes, we need more joy. Though perhaps not only the positive, fun, happy, joy, but rather a joy that appears in all its wonderful, glorious, myriad guises.

This Christmas may the advertising world spread its creative mojo - now that would give me joy.

Alex Hurley

Alex Hurley.jpg

Business Director

John Ayling & Associates

We all know that emotion in advertising works. The emotional revolution driven by the work of Binet and Field in the last decade has demonstrated to a generation of advertisers the power of emotional communication. Emotion wins when it comes to advertising effectiveness – be it buying a new product, changing your habits or donating to charity. Who can forget the ‘Don’t Drink and Drive this Christmas’ ads – shock, guilt, fear? Emotion was rife and seemingly they worked, perhaps changing an entire social norm for a generation.

Here at JAA we are big fans of joy, especially at this time of year. We work with a host of clients that have successfully used joy and happiness to drive sales over the Christmas period. In 2020 we enjoyed great success with Dog, Cat & Mouse’s ad for YuMOVE which scored 5.2 on System1’s scale for emotion and Cats Protection’s story of Casper, the runaway who returned home after 3 years. Our extensive work in the charity sector means we know consumers react to emotive campaigns, often they might be at the other end of the spectrum using more ‘negative’ emotions to gain traction.  However, this year we are delighted to be celebrating the joyous, fabulous and charming Kiera who features in the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)’s Christmas campaign. Her infectious smile and sheer excitement about receiving a braille letter from Santa cannot help but make you feel joy for this time of year.

For us, after the 18 months that precede this Christmas and with lorry driver and fuel shortages, who wouldn’t want more joy this Christmas?!

Lori Meakin

Lori Joint.jpg



We need more joy in everything! Joy is for life, not just for Christmas. Although there is a kind of joy in catharsis after the tragedy of lives and livelihoods lost again this year, in our second COVID Xmas I will appreciate brands giving us all a kind of joy that’s more Ted Lasso than Squid Game.

It must be done brilliantly, of course. Insightfully. Creatively. Authentically. Surprisingly. Please don’t be that smug bloke grinning at me on the street, suggesting that I “cheer up, love.”

Also, I do mean I’ll appreciate brands giving us ALL a warm, positive kind of joy. This season of goodwill to all men (sic), one of the greatest joys our storytelling could offer is making people feel seen. People whose workload - paid or unpaid - sky-rockets. People whose joy comes from moments of togetherness in their chosen family, not their official one. People whose Xmas has a very different flavour because their religious festival is not December 25th.

And this golden quarter, let’s enjoy selling some stuff too. It’s not either/or. The joy of great advertising is it can both build value for brands and give something of value to audiences, consumers and culture.

Caroline Paris


Executive Creative Director


With the rug being pulled on many festivities last year and restrictions being lifted in 2021, Christmas this year is more highly anticipated than ever. I saw two sets of Xmas lights go up the other weekend; the weekend of Halloween.

In the build-up to Christmas, “The Christmas ads” being on the telly and the anticipation of “who will win” has not only become a key moment for our industry, but also for the viewers at home. Not surprisingly, last year, it was all about brand sensitivity and vicarious joy as a method of escapism from the exhausting roller-coaster of challenges that made up.

But this year, I don’t think people will be looking to ads for their fill of festive joy.

While I’m sure they will still be talked about in pubs, anticipated, shared and critiqued, I believe, like my neighbour putting up her festive lights on Halloween would tell you, this Christmas will be all about seeking a different kind of joy. This joy won’t be created by brands, but by families being able to spend time with each other and by people globally feeling joy through a sense of togetherness that has been so badly missed. 

Jules Chalkley

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Chief Executive Creative Director

Ogilvy UK

Joy. A small word. A trite word I think. It’s a word that often promises much but delivers very little. And in a world where everything seems out of our control - the economy, Covid still being in our rear-view mirror and deep environmental anxiety - I can’t help but feel right now what we all need isn’t empty platitudes or unachievable fancy, but ideas that are meaningful and relevant and dare I say ‘achievable’. 

When a brand enters someone’s space they have a cultural responsibility to deliver. And this year more than any, people will be looking to brands as, what you could call, collective hope structures. The brands that will win Christmas this year will be the ones that not only help us actually navigate the costs, stress and uncertainty in the run-up to the festive period but help us bring tangible cheer and optimism into our own homes. 

This year shouldn’t be about promising the moon on a stick or the unobtainable, because I think the mere act of simply feeling good, given everything we’ve all gone through, will be good enough.

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