What heralds the ‘start of Christmas’ is many different things to many different people. For some, the festive season is officially here when Christmas lights start to appear and seasonal gifts hit the shops. For others, the yuletide only properly arrives after the release of a much- anticipated Christmas advert from their favourite brand, such as John Lewis or Coca Cola. Bearing this in mind, over the past few years we have seen an increase in competition to create the ‘best’ Christmas advert of the year. But as consumers, what do we actually want from our Christmas adverts?

Most of us are switched on enough to realise that the main purpose of any Christmas advert is essentially to sell products and ensure that the brand message reaches the largest audience possible. Despite this, it’s obvious from the nation’s leading campaigns out there right now that as consumers we want more than just sales tactics from our Christmas adverts – we want to hear the message of Christmas interpreted in many different ways. Throw in some cute animals or a festive tale with real meaning behind it, and the better the advert performs it seems.

John Lewis

This is a brand that in recent years has left audiences counting down to the release of their advert in a similar way they would likely anticipate the official opening of their advent calendars. This year we all got to meet Buster, a plucky boxer dog with an enthusiasm for his owner’s trampoline gift that serves to remind us that there is a child in all of us, whether we walk on two legs or four. Just 24 hours after the launch, this latest video attracted 28.5 million views. According to digital news hub The Drum: “A facial recognition study by RealEyes, which measured people’s reactions as they watched the ads, showed Buster scored better than 95% of the 5,700 ads the company has in terms of emotional engagement.” So the secret behind this advert is most likely that it makes us feel good, which is exactly what we want in the lead up to Christmas.

Marks & Spencer

This year, Marks & Spencer brought in the power of the Claus family to bring to the magic of Christmas to their audience. Mums are the key target demographic for most Christmas shopping adverts and this year, Mrs Claus is proving to be very popular with this particular audience. According to The Drum, 40% of mums said they would be more likely to shop with Marks & Spencer as a result of this advert – a pretty clever strategy to try and knock John Lewis off the top spot.


Did you notice a familiar voice in the Sainbury’s advert this year? Enter James Corden, a beloved household name in Britain, who was recruited to win over the hearts of the British public. And what says ‘feel-good Christmas advert’ more than a famous name like James Corden? Well only a favourite household name singing the musicals, of course. Without mentioning any of the Sainsbury’s products it is there to promote, the advert uses its regular festive tagline ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ to reinforce the message that the importance of Christmas is being around your family. They did cleverly also insert a small bottle of Sainsbury’s Prosecco and other goodies you can buy to make your day together even more special into shot too, but that’s as far as it goes.


The UK’s most famous London airport delivered a video advert this year that has created an emotional response from their audience. Enter two teddy bears who are flying home for Christmas and we are watching their journey through the airport. As it turns out, the teddy bears are a representation of grandparents flying home to see their grandchildren at Christmas. Sounds like a simple concept, but in just a week, this video has had almost 4 million views on YouTube alone.

As a whole, it seems that what we want most is for our Christmas adverts to make us feel something. Amidst the hustle and bustle of festive shopping and the stress of organising various festive gatherings, we want to be reminded of the true message of Christmas. Through clever marketing tactics, the biggest brands have spotted the commercial gain to be had in tugging at our heartstrings by telling poignant stories and becoming memorable in the process. Stories are incredibly important for marketers. 79% of UK adults want brands to tell a story through their advertising, with older consumers in particular 30% more likely to be able to recall a brand story than millennials.

Such stories become even more important at Christmas. No one wants to be pushed into a store to do their Christmas shopping – they want to believe it was a choice to be made, and above all they want to believe in the true spirit of Christmas.