BITE Focus

BITE's Big Christmas Roundup

A growing number of brands attempted to spread more mindful joy this Christmas. In a bid to do the same, we’ve rounded up the best of the Christmas marketing we’ve seen this year.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


The end of the year always elicits a flurry of nostalgic articles on the year gone by, rounding up significant events, moments, people and of course, the Spotify wrap up of the year marking the soundtrack to the twelve months which just flashed by. Who doesn’t read through that roundup playlist with a mixture of horror and pride?

The end of this year, 2019 seems to feel even more poignant as we are about to enter the next decade, another round of Roaring Twenties perhaps, or something entirely different. Maybe this will be the decade where kindness and empathy prevails, where conscious consumerism goes mainstream and diversity turns from talk to action.

Wishful thinking perhaps but nonetheless themes and trends which have been reflected within this year’s Christmas advertising. While Christmas 2018 was the worst year for retailers since 2008, £6.8 billion will be spent on Christmas advertising this year, up 4.7% year on year according to data from the Advertising Association/WARC.

The ads themselves appeared earlier than ever this year, a race to be first rather than ‘best’ seemingly taking precedent. We’ve seen music as ever take centre stage with Argos’ drum solo to Simple Minds from The&Partnership, IKEA and Mother London bringing grime to the mainstream and a local brass band brightening up one family’s evening for Co-op.

It can be difficult to escape the idea of the ‘perfect’ Christmas that pervades our social media feeds and is often depicted in the marketing campaigns we’re bombarded with at this time of year. Yet CALM’s Christmas campaign in partnership with Twitter, empowered people to open up the conversation around the realities of Christmas using the hashtag #YuleSlog. This inclusive, important campaign reminded people to check in with their loved ones this year or on a neighbour who may be alone and to be honest about how they’re feeling.

It seems simple pleasures are at the heart of many a brand’s strategy this year whether that’s the Christmas queen herself Mariah Carey squabbling over a packet of Walker’s in AMV BBDO’s spot or FedEx telling parents to gift the box rather than the present. Elsewhere Vodafone and Haygarth created the VeryMe tree to send personalised digital messages, while Cadbury’s Secret Santa from VCCP invited people to post a bar of chocolate to an unsuspecting friend.

The festive season should be about spreading joy, however small or big those moments are. Whether that’s smiling at someone on the train as you all squash in to get home, particularly poignant with South West Trains stealing our collective Christmas cheer; giving someone else the last Quality Street; or packing up a bag of unworn clothes and taking them down to the shelter.

A growing number of brands attempted to spread this more mindful joy this Christmas. In a bid to do the same, we’ve rounded up the best of the Christmas marketing we’ve seen this year.

Be kind to one another

As BITE’s Managing Editor Nicky Kemp wrote for Shots magazine, “this Christmas, let’s park the masculine hyperbole and instead usher in a much-needed focus on empathy.” This seems to be what some brands have prescribed to this year as we’ve seen a renewed focus on community and on supporting those around you, even if you are a dragon with a lack of control over your fire-breathing capabilities.’s ‘Pass the parcel’ by St Luke’s focused on the role of community and on the beauty of getting more out of giving this Christmas. The heartening animated spot features Rudimental’s well known song ‘Feel the Love’ re-imagined by the Social Singing Choir, as we see a shining present being passed from person to person until it reaches its unexpectant recipient: Sidney. To combat Sidney’s feelings of loneliness, the community packs him a special Christmas gift and then celebrates the day with him. It’s a reminder that gift giving can take on a whole other meaning when what you’re giving is time rather than material possessions.

Combatting loneliness is at the heart of Age UK’s campaign from Brave, ‘No one should have no one’ aiming to support older people who have no one to turn to in a moment of crisis. According to the charity, more than 2.5 million older people say they have no one to turn to for help and support; during the festive season these feelings can be exacerbated by the scenes of celebration and excitement that abound. The imagery used for the billboards raises awareness of the challenges getting older can bring, inviting people to donate to the charity to support their free advice helpline, open 365 days of the year including Christmas Day.

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners’ hotly anticipated slot from adam&eveDDB this year brought kindness to the fore as we met ‘Excitable Edgar’ and his friend Ava. While Edgar loves Christmas, in his eagerness to please his lack of control over his fire-breathing ways wreaks havoc and destruction in his wake. Despondent and shunned by the villagers, Edgar hides away until Ava knocks to reveal she’s found a solution, and a present that will show him how much she cares: the fire to light the ever important Christmas pudding.

Spreading joy

While kindness is key at this time of year, particularly if you’re experiencing the horror of train strikes, brands also want us to remember the importance of spreading joy, of engaging our imaginations in the process of creating a more joy-filled festive season. Visa want us to do this by supporting our high streets in ‘#WhereYouShopMatters’ from Saatchi & Saatchi. Instead of focusing on what we’re buying, Visa want us to look at where we’re shopping, and turn our attention to the brilliant and often independently-run shops lining high streets around the country.

Amazon has brought the singing boxes back to our screen this year in ‘Let’s Smile Together’ from Lucky Generals. It seems the singing is catching as the song starts with a little girl on her keyboard and ends with a cacophony of singing boxes, delivery people, families, friends and flirtatious strangers on the bus. Even the song choice invites us to spread joy in a beautiful rendition of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love from Solomon Burke.

Frame’s Christmas campaign for shopping centre intu, ‘Where Christmas kicks in’ follows one shoppers journey to bauble-adorned joy. As she smiles at those around her or holds the door for people and is surprised by a mince pie from the barista, festive decorations appear on her coat, visual emblems of the joy she’s both shared and received that day.

Bringing the family together

There’s no escaping the festive focus on family every year, whether that’s the presents exchanged, arguments had or games won and lost. A few brands this year chose to highlight the beauty and uniqueness of sibling relationships. McDonald’s revival of ‘#ReindeerReady’ from Leo Burnett sees a little girl Ellie befriending Archie, the ‘reindeer’. Her big sister isn’t interested in playing but then, when she sees how happy Ellie is, she relents, and the family head out to McDonald’s to stock up on reindeer treats.

Similarly, in a story of an older sibling keeping the magic alive, Asda’s ‘Let’s Make Christmas Extra Special’ from AMV BBDO sees an older brother bottling sparkling lights for his younger sister. Proximity London worked with the brand to create a platform where people can nominate their extra special Christmas star, whether that’s a kind big brother or your next-door-neighbour.

Meanwhile Zalando, in their Christmas spot from Mother London, placed the spotlight on people’s relationships with their grandparents as we see a young man, dressed up in his finery, walking up to pick up his ‘date’ for the night. The camera pans around an equally glamourous individual before we realise that the young man is taking his granny out dancing. Cue a joyously filled village hall, exquisitely dressed older individuals paired with their younger friends, spinning each other around the dancefloor.

M&S brought the whole family together this year with their duo Christmas spots from ODD London, ‘Go Pyjamas’ and ‘Go Jumpers.’ Heroing one particular item, each slot saw friends and families dancing to the hip-hop classic House of Pain’s Jump Around, perfecting the shoulder roll, this season’s viral dance move of choice.

Rewriting history to create the next episode

Several larger supermarket chains celebrated significant anniversaries this year, choosing to focus on Christmases past to do so. In Tesco’s Back to the Future inspired, 100th anniversary slot from BBH London ‘Delivering Christmas’, we see a delivery driver visiting the ghosts of Christmas past as he appears in Dickensian England, a nineties rave and even in Buckingham Palace. Sainsbury’s decided to rewrite the Christmas story to celebrate 150 years of the brand in their ad from Wieden+Kennedy. Set in 1869, it tells the story of young Nicholas being expelled from a village on false pretences. With a cameo from Sainsbury’s founders, we realise we are being told the story of Saint Nick, or at least the one Sainsbury’s would like us to believe.

Thirty seven years after he wanted us to “phone home”, ET has returned to our screens in Sky’s Christmas slot from Goodby Silverstein & Partners in which we see him reunited with a much older Elliot, who he last saw aged 10. Elliot now has his own family and invites ET into his home to enjoy Christmas television, snuggled up on the sofa before ET reveals he has his own family waiting for him and, leaving light in their hearts, heads back home.

Aldi has brought back the nation’s favourite Kevin the Carrot this Christmas, this year putting him at the mercy of the ‘Leafy Blinders’ created by McCann UK. First appearing in the brand’s 2016 Christmas ad, Kevin the Carrot has become synonymous with Aldi’s festivities and this year has to fight for his place in the Christmas dinner table pecking order. With the help of Tiny Tom he escapes the clutches of Russell Sprout and delivers his Christmas Spectacular.

Think of others this Christmas

While family, friends and gifting can often seem to be the beating heart of the festive season, giving back to the community has also always been a stalwart at this time of year. One such long running initiative is Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day, this year taking place on Friday 13th December. This year the charity have taken over a prime time ad slot on Channel 4 to raise awareness of its annual fundraising day. After a dedicated ad from the charity, slots from Moonpig, John Lewis & Partners/Waitrose & Partners and Duracell amongst others will see characters donning their Christmas jumpers in support. Even Excitable Edgar sports a very fetching red number with pride.

‘A dog is for life not just for Christmas’ is one of the most memorable charity taglines in recent years. Developed by Dogs Trust, the line reminds us of the responsibility that getting a dog requires. In their Christmas campaign this year from And Rising, the charity wants us to recognise the other side of Christmas gifting; that behind the excitement of getting a dog lies the importance of knowing you can look after it once Christmas is over.

Co-op chose to work with a community group BTM Brass band in their Christmas spot from Lucky Generals to demonstrate how every item you buy from them helps to fund thousands of good causes around the country. As the band play a cover of the Pogue’s Fairytale in New York, we follow a nurse as she arrives back home from work, mince pies in hand to share with her partner and sleepy child. The band plays on and the warmth of the harmonious family scene prevails.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas

At this time of year, especially in a year such as 2019, it is impossible to ignore the hyper-consumption taking place, seemingly not much of it particularly conscious. But there are some brands that have chosen to use their Christmas spots to highlight the climate crisis and the importance of being more mindful in your consumption this year. Working with Nice and Serious, Greenpeace chose to use humour to highlight the issue in the ‘Ultimate Roast Battle Turkey vs Potato’. The setting is light-hearted, good-natured until the potato decides to expose the turkey’s dirty little secret.

In WWF’s festive campaign by Uncommon Creative ‘Adopt a better future’ we are invited to see animal adoptions as an important gift idea. The stop-motion animation highlights the real-life devastation inflicted on wildlife by deforestation. It also demonstrates the power that we can all have when united behind a cause; the reality that community and collaboration is what’s needed to tackle the climate emergency.

Although typically a thing of the past, Christmas cards are still a lovely thing to receive at this time of year. To keep positive attitudes towards climate protection alive at Christmas, Golin worked with Adobe to create the ‘#Cards4Change’ campaign. The aim is to try and reduce festive waste and support climate action by inviting people to create their own Christmas e-cards on Photoshop; Adobe will donate £3.50 to The Climate Group every time it’s shared.

The power of the right present

Sometimes, when all’s said and done, all you really want is the right present, one that says they were listening, they guessed correctly or just simply, they know you. This idea is at the heart of Boots’ Christmas campaign from Ogilvy UK, ‘Gift like you get them’ introducing a new e-commerce platform that allows people to curate and share their Christmas lists. The TV ad demonstrates the horror that is trying to think of the perfect present while the Bootiques, devised by Geometry, give people physical pop-up stores where they can shop for specific people.

Possibly one of the most joy-filled spots this Christmas came from Argos and The&Partnership with ‘Book of Dreams’, detailing the happiness that gifting the right present can bring to both the person receiving and the one giving. A dad finds a scribbled note next to a drum kit in the Argos catalogue; he follows his dreams, investing in a drum kit for his daughter before the two break into an epic duet to Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me).

TK Maxx want people to ‘Gift Different’ this Christmas in a spot from Wieden+Kennedy London that sees an off-piste skier delivering unexpected but no less desired presents. The skier dismisses the presents usually bought from the same shops in favour of delivering a surprise to each individual from a record player to a crab bell. Debenhams has similarly set out to position itself as the place to go for seasonal shopping by encouraging people to be more thoughtful this year, suggesting that you can find what you’re looking for in an affordable and personalised selection. While Bright Blue Day’s spot for Montezuma demonstrates what happens when you give the wrong present, especially to a hungry bear.

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