In football (or “football” as most people around the world call it), England only won one World Cup – over half a century ago, back in 1966. But off the field and on “television” the Brits seem to be around to win the title of “Best Holiday Ad” in the world every year.
There are some worthy contenders from other countries in 2022 as well, just as there have been breakaways who enjoyed success against the big guns in Qatar.
Ireland makes a strong showing with an ad for the An Post postal service, where a tin man inspired by the Wizard of Oz finds his heart.
Australia is at its best with a spot for supermarket chain Aldi, featuring a gymnastics-driven narrative about the battle over who gets the last shrimp (prawns).
Denmark fires up all the cannons with a blockbuster slice of holiday fantasy, complete with superstar Katy Perry on a Lego creation that comes to life and plenty of visual effects, a ‘fireworks display’.
The Swiss share a clever story about giving away Christmas gifts for retailer Manor.
And the US has flashes of brilliance, like Amazon’s “Joy Is Made,” the story of a treasured snow globe directed by New Zealand prodigy Taika Waititi.
But it’s the Brits who ultimately triumph once again in the battle for the big ads of the season. The best of the best tug at consumers’ hearts or tickle their funny bones (or both) while ever so gently opening shoppers’ wallets (despite being aware of the UK’s tough economic times). Emotion takes precedence over transaction.
Watch the great story of The National Lottery romcom commercial “A Christmas Love Story” directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper.
Or the hilarious spot for Landsec’s own shopping malls, showing how to deal with annoying relatives by “stunning them”.
As with the World Cup, voting for the most popular commercial of the season has become a sport for English viewers. UK pharmacy chain Boots topped the ‘Best of’ lists of several publications. (Disclaimer: The ad was produced by the agency I work for, VMLY&R). The spot tells the story of a woman who finds magical glasses on a bus that reveal a fantastic holiday world when you put them on.
So why are the Brits so damn good at holiday ads? For me, it’s part cultural, part calendar, part creative, and part customer (the advertiser).
Of a cultural Seen from this perspective, the English have always been very sentimental about Christmas (and it’s still mostly referred to as ‘Christmas’ rather than a ‘holiday’). The modern Christmas tradition began in England 500 years ago, was revived in the days of Dickens and lives on to this day.
Regarding the calendar, Marketers in the US need to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving before they turn their attention to Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and all the other holidays. England’s retail calendar is simpler – and may focus largely on Christmas from November (or earlier).
Of a creative From perspective, UK agencies take their advertising seriously – in fact, they are often referred to not as ‘ads’ but as ‘films’ that require care and craftsmanship to bring them to life.
And finally, when it comes to the client, there is one advertiser that has really created the tradition (and template) for British blockbusters during the holiday season and that is department store John Lewis. Already in 2007 they started their first big Christmas advertisement. In 2011, the public began to eagerly await John Lewis ads like “The Long Wait,” which sold the “feel” of Christmas (rather than merchandise at a price), often accompanied by a cover of a hit song.
As other advertisers responded and tried to create their own mini-masterpieces, seasonal ads in the UK became as hotly anticipated and discussed as Super Bowl commercials were in the US. As reported in Fast Company, Christmas really is “The Super Bowl of British Advertising”.
Also in 2022, the arrival of the annual John Lewis advertisement marked the start of the Christmas season for Brits. And this year it’s more purposeful than ever – with a narrative about a middle-aged man learning to skateboard in order to bond with a visiting foster child.
Who knows if England will lift the World Cup. But in holiday advertising, I think they’re winners again.