In football (or “soccer” as it is called in most parts of the world), England has won only one World Cup – more than half a century ago, in 1966. But off the pitch and on TV, the Brits seem to win the title of “Best Holiday Advertisement” on the planet every year.
And again in 2022, there are some worthy opponents from other countries, just as there were losers who were successful in the fight against large artillery pieces in Qatar.
Ireland made a name for itself with an advertisement for the An Post postal service, where the Wizard of Oz-inspired Iron Man finds his heart.
Australia goes above and beyond offering a spot for the Aldi supermarket chain, talking about the fight over who gets the last shrimp (shrimp).
Denmark is all guns blazing with a holiday fantasy blockbuster that features superstar Katy Perry sitting on a Lego creation come to life, plus plenty of ‘fireworks’ visuals.
The Swiss told a clever story about holiday gifts for retailer Manor.
And in the US, there are flashes of genius, like Amazon’s Joy Is Made, the cherished snow globe story filmed by New Zealand prodigy Taika Waititi.
But it’s the Brits who end up winning the battle for the season’s big publicity once again. The best of the best are pulling consumers’ souls or tickling their funny bones (or both) by stealing buyers’ open wallets very carefully (while being aware of tough economic times in the UK). Emotions are more important than transactions.
Watch great storytelling in the National Lottery romantic comedy A Christmas Love Story, directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper.
Or a hilarious video about Landsec’s malls that shows how to deal with pesky relatives by “leaving them speechless.”
Like the World Cup, choosing the season’s favorite ad has become a sport for English spectators. The British pharmacy chain Boots took first place in the lists of the best publications. (Disclaimer: The ad was produced by the agency I work for, VMLY&R). The ad tells the story of a woman who finds magical glasses on the bus that open up a fantasy holiday world when she puts them on.
So why are the British so damn good at holiday advertising? For me, this is part of the culture, part of the calendar, part of the creative and part of the client (advertiser).
From cultural On the other hand, the English have always had a very sentimental attitude towards Christmas (and still, in the vast majority of cases, it is called “Christmas” and not “holiday”). The modern tradition of Christmas originated in England 500 years ago, revived in Dickensian times and lives on today.
From point of view calendarMarketers in the US need to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving before turning their attention to Christmas, Hannuk, Kwanzaa, and all the other holiday festivities. The retail calendar in England is simpler – and can mostly focus on Christmas from November (or earlier).
From creative From the point of view of British agencies, British agencies take their advertising seriously – in fact it is often referred to not as an “ad” but as a “film” which requires care and skill to bring it to life.
And finally, when it comes to client, there is one advertiser that has really created a tradition (and template) for British blockbusters during the holiday period, and that is John Lewis department store. Back in 2007, they launched their first big holiday ad. By 2011, the public began to look forward to John Lewis commercials such as The Long Wait, which sold the “feel” of Christmas (rather than merchandise for the price), often accompanied by a cover of the hit song.
As other advertisers reacted and tried to create their own mini-masterpieces, the seasonal ad in the UK became as hotly anticipated and talked about as the Super Bowl ad in the US. As Fast Company reports, Christmas is indeed the “British Advertising Super Bowl”.
Once again in 2022, the arrival of the annual John Lewis advertisement marked the start of the Christmas season for the British. And this year it’s more driven than ever, with a story about a middle-aged man who learns to skateboard in order to bond with a visiting foster child.
Who knows if England will claim the World Cup trophy. But in my opinion, they again win in holiday advertising.