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Editor's Comment: Christmas ads sweeten looming Black Friday

Retailers’ Christmas campaigns started in earnest this week, and have provided a welcome distraction from the inevitable chatter about Black Friday

For many retailers, autumn trading got off to a slow start and it has been a tough few months. So, with fears from some indies that Black Friday is becoming “Black November” (news, p2), it is a relief that many retailers are planning a more strategic approach to the US-imported discounting event this year.

In previous years, many retailers have offered deep Black Friday discounts, and etailers such as Shop Direct and Amazon look set to continue. But others are becoming much more targeted. Rather than offering blanket discounts, they are promoting certain product lines or offering free delivery. They are starting to think about what discounting does to their image and are being more considered in how they communicate Sales while retaining their brand values.

Black Friday seems to have lost some of its appeal, on the high street at least

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to Black Friday. It seems to have lost some of its appeal, on the high street at least. The same cannot be said for the Christmas campaigns, which have generated as much interest as ever: the fight for top spot this year is between #lovemrsclaus and #bustertheboxer.

At first I was put off by Marks & Spencer’s focus on Mrs Claus. It reminded me of chief executive Steve Rowe’s misguided decision to label the retailer’s core customer as “Mrs M&S”. But that aside, the cinematic production ticks many of the boxes of a good Christmas advert. It taps into a sense of family and showing love.

Also good is its clear but understated use of product. Mrs Claus’s red coat will surely be an M&S bestseller and the reminder of its food offering comes in the form of mince pies. Links to buy at the end of the online video work well.

The John Lewis advert, with its trampolining boxer dog, is also entertaining and feel-good, and for me it is a vast improvement on last year’s saccharine Man on the Moon.

Both campaigns are fully multichannel. At M&S, a dedicated social media team was on hand to engage with customers in character as Mrs Claus when the ad debuted during Gogglebox last Friday.

The hashtag #bustertheboxer appears at the end of the John Lewis ad and a quick Twitter search shows it is generating a lot of engagement. The retailer is also encouraging viewers to send in photos, on to which it will superimpose the jumping animals. And where John Lewis perhaps wins, albeit unintentionally, is in the number of parodies it has inspired. This year’s spoof featuring the Obamas, Hillary Clinton and US president-elect Donald Trump is well worth a watch.

But the question is, will the marketing spend result in more Christmas sales? We will know when Christmas trading updates are released in January.


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