A surprise entry for Christmas Advert of the Year 2023?

Categories: Salford Business School

This year’s Christmas advertising campaigns have already begun to hit our screens, with some key themes which run across the major big hitters. But there’s a surprise entry for the best advert of the season, argues Dr Angela Byrne, Lecturer in Marketing at Salford Business School, for Prolific North.

Dr Angela Byrne portrait

It’s that time of the year for the big Christmas ad spend and this year Tesco seems to get it right with their festive campaign.  The ad centres around bringing those who may not be feeling like getting into the Christmas spirit well and truly part of the festivities – literally! 

The story focuses on the teenage son who watches everyone around him starting to transform into seasonal representations such as baubles, decorated trees, snow(woman), Christmas puddings, reindeer and so on, whilst remaining reticent about joining in with the build up to the celebrations.  When his dad gives him a paper star that we assume he made as a younger child, he remembers his childhood belief in Christmas and starts to take on the appearance of a Christmas tree and the seasonal joy is fully embraced by all. The approach by Tesco is in stark contrast to how Marks and Spencer’s campaign (now pulled) set out to throw out traditions.  Equally, John Lewis with their Venus fly trap plant suggests we embrace new traditions too.  Deliveroo tells us that there are no rules at Christmas so put sprouts on your pizza. Our traditions may be changing but what makes for a good Christmas advert? 

This year’s adverts suggest that need to be reminded of what the season is all about. Money maybe tighter this year against the backdrop of the unstable economy, and big brands want our share of wallet to help ensure that they make the most of the time of year when we are encouraged to splash out.  Waitrose certainly seem to be emphasising that Christmas is the time for decadence and indulgence but for a different target audience than the big four supermarkets. 

The big surprise for me was JD Sports with their mix of Peaky Blinders style youth on a horse in an urban setting rearing up to switch up the mood and embrace the energy.  The fast-moving ad shows the camaraderie of friends set against gritty backdrops and a great vibe of music, community and belonging. Sustainability is an underlying message here too as the classic yellow plastic duffel bag for life from JD is centred in most scenes with the tag line of ‘Forever Forward’. 

Whilst the ad may not appeal to all as it is clearly targeted at a youthful target market, there is a clear sense of how the brand mirrors youth culture and the importance of belonging.  There is some great choreography.  We can see a good range of the products offered by JD and there is an authentic feel about young people enjoying themselves. Most importantly, we see young people in their family settings too and thereby see how they connect with their families. Emerging against the soundtrack you can hear snippets of the aspirations of those in the ad which suggests the older generations must look again at the youth of today. One young man says about his friend that they deliver flowers for a living which counters the driver passing by remarking ‘kids nowadays’ in a derogatory tone. A young female says she wants to travel.  Here are the hopes and dreams of our youth. 

The JD bag for life has been around for 25 years and this is a stark reminder too for the generation that has gone before to remember what was important in their youth. ‘Forever Forward’ resonates with the need to recognise that our youth have good values, aspirations and maybe the bag for life is symbolic of the memories and friendships that they are creating currently. Yellow is synonymous with hope and joy and this bag symbolises a positive offering this for the youth audience and for us all.

In a competitive market, it feels like JD Sports have captured the mood and subverted messaging to offer something a little different this Christmas.

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