Are Retailers Too Focused on Christmas Advertising?
11 March 2019 • tvsquared
Marlene Grimm,
Data & Partnerships Manager

While we’re well into the new year, it’s always interesting to look back at retailers’ advertising techniques from the festive season. Nowadays, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the anticipated launch of retailers’ blockbuster ads – and it’s not hard to believe that Christmas ad spend for 2018 was at a record high of £6.5 billion.

But are advertisers too focused on Christmas advertising?

With competition growing fiercer, retailers should ensure any learnings from the expensive Christmas period are applied to other retail events throughout the year – from Valentine’s Day and Easter, all the way to Black Friday. By using data insights from 2018 Christmas and Black Friday advertising campaigns, retailers can understand performance and optimize spend to reduce waste, increase ROI and hit KPIs across key events throughout the year.

What Can We Learn From The Stars Of Advertising?

When it comes to airing Christmas ads, timing is everything. Festive offerings are debuted earlier each year, with Argos airing its seasonal ad for 2018 on Nov. 2. It’s essential for retailers to develop strategies focused on particular hours of the day, weeks or months. They need to be bespoke to the viewing habits of their target audience and to the retailers’ product or service.

Chris Rowe, chief executive at M&S, explained that moving away from the big blockbuster campaign, and taking a greater product focus, helped resonate with customers and improved sales. Take John Lewis’ approach for Christmas 2018 too – by releasing its Elton John ad digitally before it aired on primetime, effectively maximized its rebrand.

However, according to research, Sainsbury’s failed to capture consumer engagement with its Christmas ad and reported a 1% drop in sales for 2018.  Much of this comes down to the decision to reduce promotional activity around Black Friday. Barclaycard also released data showing a 12% drop in the amount spent on Black Friday. However, the volume of transactions was 15% higher than the previous year. This type of insight is vital when considering changing the hours, days and channels of a spot purchase.

To find out which slots are likely to perform best, retailers can use “time of day” and “day of week” reporting dimensions. This determines whether consumers search for a product after seeing it aired on TV at a specific time. It also enables retailers to see whether a target audience is converting late at night or early in the morning, maximizing ad spend during these periods.

Make TV Effective All Year

With a vast array of channels at the fingertips of savvy consumers, it’s more important than ever to get the right TV ad format. Traditionally, Christmas ads are long-form when first aired, but it’s common for complementary, short-form versions to be produced as well.

In 2018, Sainsbury’s reinvented the 30-second spot by enlisting the director of “The Greatest Showman” for its two-minute Christmas ad. These ads offer more time for narrative, emotional resonance and higher brand recall. Lidl, meanwhile, opted for a 20-second ad, which was more than enough time to showcase its budget price points. Short-form video ensures the versatility of an ad through enabling distribution across multiple platforms, particularly mobile.

Developing Omni-Channel Strategies

TV’s power to raise awareness, especially when combined with digital, was evident in Iceland’s 2018 Christmas ad. The brand repackaged a short film by Greenpeace, which depicted the destruction of an orangutan’s rainforest habitat due to palm oil growers. The ad was later deemed “too political” to air, but uproar followed across social media due to a demand to see it.

TV’s symbiotic relationship with digital allows brands to target and engage demographics that might otherwise be hard to reach. Second-screening behavior is instrumental to this relationship, with 90% of viewers using second-screen devices while watching TV. With TV’s mass audience, it’s also become a great driver of digital response.

While TV ads give retailers a boost in the festive season, they should also apply these learning to TV strategies year round. By gathering accurate insights on market behavior – search activity, purchases and social interactions – retailers can create targeted audience segments. This allows them to instantly match ad formats and content with consumer needs and current context throughout the entire year. It gives retailers the chance to maximize engagement, brand recall and, ultimately ROI for 2019.