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UK Insights

Who won the Christmas ad battle 2016?

Claire Davies

Former editor and head of content

Brands 19.12.2016 / 09:40

M&S Christmas ad screen grab

Clue: it's not John Lewis!

We now know who has won Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor and Sports Personality of the Year 2016... but what about the annual Christmas advert competition? Our teams at Kantar Millward Brown and Kantar TNS have been noting the novelty factor, researching the relevance, and establishing the emotional impact of this year's Christmas ad crop. And they're agreed, the winner is not John Lewis!

According to Kantar TNS the M&S Christmas ad won Britain's hearts and minds, while for Kantar Millward Brown Lidl's ad is most powerful.

Kantar TNS found M&S's ‘Love Mrs Claus’ advert scored cumulatively highest of all retailers on novelty, emotional impact and relevance. It generated significantly higher motivation and engagement among consumers than last year’s The Art of Christmas (70% vs 51%), surpassing efforts of competitors including Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Helen Rowe, Kantar TNS’s Head of Brand & Communications Research, commented: “With an emotional story and novel approach to the traditional Christmas story, M&S has come out strongly in this year’s battle of the adverts. With the weight of expectation around these ads, brands need to ensure that they are striking the perfect balance to unlock a consumer desire to buy.”

While for Kantar Millward Brown, Lidl’s Christmas Turkey – which features a sceptical social media commentator spending a day with a Lidl turkey farmer – achieved the highest score in 9 of the 12 areas they measure, making it the all-round strongest performer. Consumers found it highly involving, and felt it was the most relevant, believable, well-branded, different and informative ad. Most importantly, it scored top in ‘persuasion’ – making it the ad most likely to motivate viewers to buy from the brand.

Jane Bloomfield, Head of UK Marketing at Kantar Millward Brown, says: “After an eventful year 2016’s Christmas advertising serves to entertain and lighten the mood, with many returning to a traditional style. However, Lidl’s ad makes an impact by communicating a very single-minded, relevant and compelling story with no bells and jingles. It successfully challenges perceptions about product quality, and makes us feel good about choosing Lidl for our Christmas shop, which sets it up well to repeat the sales increases it reported last year. This ad is definitely no turkey!"

As for the much anticipated John Lewis advert, Kantar TNS analysed the social media conversations generated by the Christmas campaigns, paying attention both to the amount of sharing, and whether conversation patterns showed people identifying with the story. John Lewis achieved more than four times the Twitter mentions of its nearest rival – and this reach built extremely quickly, with 50% of all tweets happening by the day after the ad was released. In terms of conversations, there is strong evidence of autonomous sharing across networks, with communities taking ownership rather than simply retweeting brand content.

However, as Helen Rowe from Kantar TNS says: “In a crowded space, the temptation can be to prioritise novelty to stand out, which John Lewis achieved this year with Boxer the Buster. But we found this to be at the expense of relevance or emotional connection, where other adverts shone through.”

Source : Kantar TNS, Kantar Millward Brown

Editor's Notes

Kantar TNS measured Christmas ads on three criteria: novelty factor, ability to tug at the heart strings and relevance. The team also tracked social media impact.

Kantar Millward Brown used its AdExpress performance measurement tool to test 2016 Christmas advertisements from 19 brands and retailers against these 12 key factors: Branding, Involvement, Enjoyment, Made me love (brand), Sets the trends, Persuasion, New information, Different information, Relevant information, Believable information, Different from others, Delivers main things I need. In addition, facial coding analysis was conducted on ads by John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and M&S.

To interview one of our advertising experts please contact us. You can download the full press releases above.

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