BITE Focus

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

In our Big Christmas Focus for this unprecedented year, read about the ads that have captured the community spirit, delivered some festive magic and urged compassion and empathy from each and every one of us.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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It feels a funny thing to be writing about Christmas this year, to be drawing to the end of a year like no other. An unprecedented year which has seen a general feeling of pervasive uncertainty wrap its way around the world.

But amidst the hardship and the ongoing crisis have been moments of joy, moments of collaboration, of people working together to be better, to support one another and ensure that no one feels alone.

And this is the sentiment at the heart of much of the Christmas advertising this year, an approach that consumers have fully supported. With 74% of the nation saying they wanted to see light-hearted content in this year’s festive ad offering according to a One Poll survey. While 77% of grocery shoppers feel it’s important to have a good Christmas after the events of 2020 according to Mintel’s report, The Prospects for Christmas 2020.

At the heart of much of this year’s festive advertising is familial kindness, a focus on home, whatever that might look like, a desire for exploration and the almost universal desire for a moment of light relief and laughter. 

Ultimately what Christmas is and should be about, whether physically or virtually, is showing up for those who need you, supporting those around you, showing people that they matter, this year and every. So, in our Big Christmas Focus for this unprecedented year, read about the ads that have captured the community spirit, delivered some festive magic and urged compassion and empathy from each and every one of us. 

Community spirit

Perhaps one of the more positive outcomes of nations in lockdown has been the surge of community spirit. Of neighbours calling on one another where previously they may not have known each other’s names. Or of them celebrating the expertise of a young girl to prove that, as Amazon has this year, ‘The show must go on.’ In a slot from Lucky Generals, a community throws open their windows and lends their attention to a magical performance from a young ballerina, capturing the magic of Christmas for her audience. The ad was brilliantly supported by the Diversity Standards Collective who worked to ensure that the slot was as reflective of people’s reality as it possibly could be.

John Lewis and Waitrose ad this year was as joyous and hopeful as ever, capturing the spirit of giving this Christmas with ‘Give a little love’ from adam&eveDDB. At the heart of the campaign is a pledge from the businesses to raise £4 million for two charities FareShare and Home-Start, working to support families in the local community. The ad also served to support the creative community, by inviting eight different leading artists to lend their skills to different scenes.

The M&S Food campaign from Grey London is similarly simultaneously celebrating the delicious food the store has on offer while also highlighting the charitable donations the company is giving, this year amounting to £2 million spread across various charities.

And Asda this year celebrates the singular community experience of biting your tongue as your neighbours festive decorations begin to emerge. Or, as is the case in ‘Asda price Christmas’ from AMV BBDO, hearing negativity from your neighbour, and carrying on anyway. The festive slot sees Sunny return to help his family get Christmas ready.

Laughter is the greatest medicine

In times of crisis and hardship, there is no greater medicine than laughter. A joke and a smile are the great leveller, reducing everyone to fits of hysterics or simply just a little chuckle. And this year’s ads have humour in spades. Whether that’s TK Maxx’s fashion forward ‘lil’ goat’ from Wieden+Kennedy London demonstrating the power of a new outfit; Terry’s Chocolate Orange celebrating, in a slot from BETC London, the wonder of being ‘unsquare’; or even Greenies and adam&eveDDB showing what happens when man’s best friend meets a snowman for the first time.

Pizza Hut, working with Iris, also chose to put a smile on people’s faces this year with the reappearance of the brand hero Parker J Parkerson although this time, he’s transformed into a chorus of Dickensian characters to laud the arrival of ‘The 55 Days of Christmas Pizza’. The brand is once again demonstrating the power of a lovable, popular character to connect with consumers this festive season.

Similarly Tesco have chosen to take the nation’s word for it and deliver them the light hearted entertainment they are asking for this year. In a slot from BBH London, Tesco wants to highlight that, after the year we’ve had, there is no need for a naughty list. Not even if you overbought on loo roll or have terrible video call etiquette. The brand wants consumers to throw aside the guilt that so often abounds at this time of year and instead embrace indulgence. 

Family values

Possibly one of the hardest things about Christmas this year is that consumers are not sure whether families will be able to come together to celebrate it. Because that’s what the festive season is all about; families joining together to celebrate, exchange presents and argue about the TV remote. One of the joys of Christmas, as Very.co.uk’s spot from Grey London captures, is the build up to the day itself. The skeptical family criticizing perfection on TV, the tree that’s always too tall and the neighbour’s lights that  blow the fuse.

The art of giving is celebrated by several brands this year, not necessarily in demonstratively showy ways but instead its the beauty of those little, quieter moments that brands have chosen to capture. McDonald’s ad from Leo Burnett focuses on the inner child in all of us as we see a mother desperately trying to engage her son in festive preparations. It is only a snowball to the back of the head that seems to jolt him out of his malaise, waking up his inner child to the endless magical possibilities of Christmas.

It’s a similar story for Coca-Cola this year as we see a dad undertaking an epic adventure to deliver his daughter’s letter to Father Christmas. It is only on arriving back home, having been delivered there personally by Santa that he realises her wish all along was to have her dad back with them for Christmas. 

Because the simple act of being there for a person can be a gift enough itself, a sentiment Disney captures in its festive slot, ‘From our family to yours’ about a young girl’s relationship with her grandmother, and her Mickey Mouse teddy. Similarly Sainsbury’s trio of Christmas campaigns from Wieden+Kennedy London aren’t about physical gifts but about the beauty of bringing the family together around the wonder of a Christmas spread. This is something that Facebook Portal also wants to demonstrate its prowess at, in a campaign from TBWA\London starring footballing legend Ian Wright and his family. Although they might be physically separated, they can still come together to mimic their dad.

Morrison’s Christmas campaign from Publicis.Poke celebrates families coming together, however they are able to this year. Set to Levitating by Dua Lipa, we see families serving up delicious feasts, enjoying some karaoke and donning their Christmas jumpers. The ad also references the supermarket’s food banks with Morrison’s selling special pre-packed bags of products for food banks, available to buy in stores.

A little bit of festive magic

Christmas is perhaps the one time of year that we are all granted permission to suspend reality, if only for an evening at the behest of younger members of the family. Because there’s a reason it’s deemed the most magical time of the year, as Argos have chosen to demonstrate in their festive slot from The&Partnership, ‘An evening with AbracaDaisy and the Incredible Lucy’. This year more than ever it feels as though the UK could do with a little bit of magic to lift people’s spirits.

Suspending reality to engage fully in the magic takes some imagination, a reality that is at the heart of LEGO’s Christmas campaign, ‘And I think to myself’. Created in-house by LEGO’s creative team showcases the bricks’ ability to encourage creativity in every age group, set to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. The ad captures the nostalgia and warmth of playing make-believe on the kitchen floor, a sentiment that is sure to land with consumers desiring these qualities from the advertising being produced.

Burberry also stepped into the festive frenzy with an all-singing, all-dancing piece that sees beautifully dressed dancers traversing the streets of London to a reworking of Singing in the Rain. The campaign is also one part of Burberry’s festive announcements, revealing a partnership with footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford to finance a network of British youth centres.

Compassion and empathy

At Christmas, alongside presents and food and family comes the feeling of giving back, of showing empathy and compassion for those around you who perhaps don’t have as much or who perhaps need someone to speak for them. The latter thought is at the heart of Uncommon Creative Studio’s festive ad for WWF, ‘Space to live’ that focuses on the importance of home, and of respecting every animal’s respective space. As a little girl comes face to face with an elephant in the heart of the city, the ad declares, “we would all be lost without a home, let’s protect theirs.”

A soundtrack that captures this sentiment so beautifully is that of Boots’ Christmas spot from Ogilvy, ‘What the world needs now’. At the centre of the campaign is a charity-focused push, revealing that Boots will be donating £1 million worth of products to The Hygiene Bank to help fight hygiene poverty and is encouraging its customers to donate while they shop.

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