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A year in Christmas ads: John Lewis, Sky and Amazon among 2019 Christmas crackers

This year advertisers have brought an excitable fire-breathing dragon, a time-travelling delivery man, and even ET to screens as part of their Christmas campaigns.

In the lead up to the big day, The Drum has been crunching the numbers to reveal which newly unveiled seasonal spots have resonated most with UK audiences each week – now we can reveal the top five best and worst performing ads of the season.

It’s all over bar the unwrapping, with most brands running their Christmas spots since early November. And it’s fair to say it’s been a vintage year for Christmas ads. We’ve had some Christmas crackers along the way, and a few turkeys too.

When it comes to effectiveness, John Lewis’ ‘Excitable Edgar’ has been crowned the number one ad for the 2019 Christmas season. The retailer’s joint effort with sister brand Waitrose, which tells the story of a cute dragon, is back at the top for the first time since it debuted ‘Monty the Penguin’ in 2014.

As each piece of seasonal creative has been rolled out, market research firm System1 has been gauging viewers’ emotional responses to campaigns, as well as testing how quickly and strongly they recognise which brand an ad is promoting.

Audiences were asked to determine how they felt about an ad and how powerful that emotion was by giving it an IPA-verified ‘star rating’, with System1 saying this indicates long-term growth potential. Short-term sales growth was predicted via a ‘spike rating’ which takes into consideration how quickly and strongly people identify which brand a video is promoting. 5.9 is the top score in the star category, while a spike score over 1.2 was considered high.

John Lewis triumphed with the highest star rating awarded to any brand so far this year with a score 5.8. It’s spike score, meanwhile, was an impressive 1.51.

Nostalgia and tradition dominated the top five ads this year, with Amazon’s all-singing ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’ spot coming a close second behind John Lewis along with Joules’ Wallace & Gromit-fronted spot, ET’s return to the big screen for Sky and Coca-Cola’s classic ‘Holidays Are Coming’ creative.

In total, eight ads this year have hit five stars, indicating an uptick in effectiveness for brands over 2018.

When it came to the worst ads this year, the bottom 10 were dominated by charity and luxury retail brands. Dog’s Trust powerful but upsetting ‘A Dog is for Life’ performed the worst – indicating that while the ad was noticed it would have been more impactful had it had a happy ending. Cat’s Protection League, Greenpeace, handbag maker Loewe and Selfridges completed the top five worst ads.

“It's interesting this coincides with so many big brands and CMOs talking about a pendulum swing back to brand-building in their marketing,” says Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1. “We're seeing that here with a bunch of ads which are winning the public's hearts but not at the expense of short-term impact. Let's hope this brand-building Christmas spirit lasts into 2020.”

Scroll down to see the top five best Christmas ads of 2019.

1. John Lewis & Partners/Waitrose & Partners: 'Excitable Edgar'​

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The heartwarming story of a little girl, Ava, and her friendship with an excitable young dragon who struggles to control his flame breathing (much to the chagrin of the townsfolk) has helped John Lewis and Waitrose secure the highest star rating of any Christmas ad this year at 4.8.

A spike score of 1.51 underscores the ability for a short-term sales uplift, as well as long-term brand impact.  

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2. Amazon: ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’

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Amazon stuck with its strategy of celebrating the merriment the holiday season brings with its 2019 effort. The retailer’s Love Actually-style spot features a little girl playing Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, a flirty couple and its hallmark singing parcels.

Amazon has the second-highest combined score for both emotional response and brand recognition. With a star rating of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.6 it looks like the brand’s expansion on 2018’s toe-tapping effort will pay off both long and short-term.

3. Joules: ‘Christmas At The Click Of A Button’

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Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman came in third with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules' festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

4. Sky Television: ‘A Holiday Reunion’

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Sky and Comcast have brought a dash of movie magic to TV screens this Christmas after summoning ET back to Earth for the first time in 37 years.

The family-friendly campaign sees ET embark on a 3 million mile journey to catch-up Elliott, the boy who rescued him from the US government. Now, the extra-terrestrial bonds with Elliott's kids and is introduced to the tech of the moment, including when he 'calls home' - which is much easier in 2019 than it was in 1982.

It was a newcomer for this week, with a star rating of 5.4 and a spike score of 1.44.

5. Coca-Cola: ‘Holidays Are Coming 2019’

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The 2019 version of Coke’s ‘Holidays Are Coming’ ad got an excellent 5.2 stars. It regularly gets a 5-Star rating and shows no signs of wear-out after almost 25 years (the reverse, if anything). Its 1.77 spike score is also high.

The spot is part of the brand’s biggest ever Christmas push, which has seen it pump record media spend into a global campaign.

Featured by The Drum

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