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Seasonal sentimentality best channelled through quality campaigns

David Brooks gives his take on the Christmas campaigns released so far.

Debenhams’ first Christmas advert in six years is a polished, high-budget affair following a woman in a red coat on her way home for Christmas. Set against snow-covered, festive scenery, a mother returns to her child and a cottage draped in Christmas lights, though not before we are run through much of Debenhams’ winter collection.

Elsewhere, Matalan’s new campaign shows a family Christmas from the perspective of a young boy. The boy’s view of wide-eyed wonder is beautifully filmed against a sentimental piano track as the ad moves through a festive family scene. Dressed in a donkey-hooded onesie (imagine a better behaved Max from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’), the boy comes across his family, all of whom are clad in the retailer’s clothes.

So far so very John Lewis for both these quality campaigns; although to be fair, it is only a light pull on the heart strings rather than the department store’s hard tug, and there is also no cleverly-chosen downbeat cover of a pop song.

Celebrities haven’t been entirely forgotten, as Littlewoods casts brand ambassador Myleene Klass as Santa’s helper, possibly in a bid to make up for implying last year that old Saint Nick doesn’t exist.

Bucking the trend of embracing Christmas to the uttermost is Marks and Spencer’s new campaign, which apart from its opening ten seconds, could run anytime during the cold months.

Likewise, the new interactive campaign from Asos featuring US rapper Azealia Banks, pop singer Ellie Goulding and model Charlotte Free banks on a combination of fashion and exclusive music being more alluring to its fashion-conscious twenty-something target market than festive fancy.

It’ll be interesting to see if fashion retailers as well as brands continue to leverage sentimentality and picturesque festive scenes over price promotions and other tactics in the run up to Christmas.

If there is one lesson to learn from John Lewis, it is that brands can go even further. By making story and character centre stage of a creative, emotive ad with high production values, businesses don’t need to hammer home brand messages of quality, design, and so on; an engrossing ad people actually want to watch will generate more goodwill for the brand and move shoppers through their doors.

For now, appealing to the heart with quality campaigns during the ongoing downturn might ironically be the better approach than appealing to consumers’ heads with price promotions.

 

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