Comment: What early Christmas ads tell us about consumers

The first Christmas ad of the season aired last week as retailer Very once again beat all its rivals in kicking-off the festive season – and we haven’t even had Halloween yet!

With the UK economy and consumers facing the toughest of times amid the cost-of-living-crisis, high energy costs and soaring inflation, brands are keen to get their seasonal marketing out there early. But will it pay off?

We asked our adland experts:

Roxanne-HarleyRoxanne Harley, Head of Strategy and Client Development, Azerion

“This year, Christmas will undoubtedly be different for people, with research showing that 37% of consumers will be spending less on presents this year. 

“What’s more, consumers are looking to spread the cost of Christmas by spending earlier and making the most of offers available during Prime Day and the upcoming Cyber weekend deals. 

“As a result, we’ve seen brands launch their campaigns earlier to align with this shift in consumer behaviour.

“After the disruption of Covid the last few Christmases, consumers are looking for traditional and uplifting messaging from ads, so brands need to think about how they can creatively inject humour and keep things lighthearted with their festive campaigns. 

“Lastly, consumers expect brands to align with their values, be authentic, and highlight social causes, so there will need to be greater collaboration between media partners and advertisers to understand how they can better understand audiences and creatively engage with them.”

Artiom-EnkovArtiom Enkov, Head of Insights & Analytics, Nano Interactive 

“It might only be mid-October but we shouldn’t be surprised that the first Christmas TV ad is already live. 

“And this is because autumn is the time where demand for gifts often begins to spike – in fact, our own insights from previous years have seen related content impressions increase by as much as 500% from August to October, before rising another 300% from October to December. 

“As such, brands need to prioritise building brand awareness now ahead of the spike in demand next month.

“Our research also shows that the overall impression opportunity for Black Friday increased 34% from 2020 to 2021, with interest in Black Friday beginning at the tail-end of October, which is followed by a sharp and short peak in November. 

“Therefore to maximise the opportunity, brands should start to be tailoring their campaign creative now to mention Black Friday and current offers / deals and bolster consumer association to the event.”

James_Leaver_multilocalJames Leaver, CEO, Multilocal

“This year’s festive period will certainly see many households and many businesses facing difficulties caused by the growing cost-of-living crisis. 

“Brand communication – including Christmas campaigns – must be sensitive to this challenging context and this is partly why contextual approaches are coming to the fore.

“Marketers will also need to leverage channels and formats which reduce complexity and friction in order to reduce costs and media wastage and to ensure they get their messages in front of relevant audiences and in appropriate environments.

“Opportunities do still exist and programmatic approaches are helping to generate value at scale, but the danger for brands this season is that their ads miss the mark or appear tone deaf. 

“Marketers must therefore take particular care to ensure that campaigns are targeted appropriately.
“The key is also to focus on efficiency. By streamlining programmatic ad placements, and leveraging cutting edge technologies, it is possible to accelerate growth – with new technologies enabling optimisation of the programmatic advertising supply chain. 

“Marketers must outsmart, rather than outspend, competitors and navigate challenging market conditions by promoting brand visibility across digital channels. 

“However, do take particular care with messaging and ensure that it is reflective of the climate your target audience finds itself in.” 

Mateusz Jedrocha, RTB HouseMateusz Jędrocha, Head of Upper Funnel Solutions, RTB House

“It might feel early for some but online retailer Very.co.uk has already released the first TV advert of the season and we should expect others to follow suit soon. 

“In fact 32% of consumers plan to start shopping earlier for Christmas this year. 

“As a result, it is vital brands capture consumer attention at this early stage and remain top of mind by sharing relevant, engaging creatives that build resonance between customers and the brand.

“The spirit of this year’s festive period is likely to be dampened by the cost of living crisis and with many UK households having less disposable income than previous years, it’s important brands tailor their messaging to be empathetic to the current situation and express solidarity with consumers to evoke positive responses to campaigns.

“With this in mind, many brands are likely to offer small concessions on products but there’s lots of innovative ways brands can encourage sales and bolster customer loyalty; making a special offer to potential customers for instance or surprising them with great discounts, free shipping, or small, fun gifts.

“In such a competitive retail environment, it’s vital brands differentiate themselves this Christmas for all the right reasons. 

“Marketers can determine which ad creative to present and the desired action it’s likely to trigger by implementing Deep Learning, which uses advanced AI algorithms to help advertisers maximise their campaigns and make the most out of every single ad impression.

“When it comes to Christmas, there’s no time for complacency, and brands must act now to secure a place on this year’s gift lists.”

Amanda-TushinghamAmanda Tushingham, Industry Director Retail, Teads

“Research suggests that 56% of UK consumers are planning on reducing their spend this Christmas. 

“The want for a “normal” festive season remains high, with the usual high-value presents like clothes, footwear, laptops, tablets, TVs and smartphones featuring frequently amongst surveyed consumers’ wish-lists. 

“But thanks to the cost of living crisis, shoppers are having to be more frugal and selective this year. 

“They’re also intending to purchase gifts much earlier as well as use discount moments like Black Friday to a greater extent.

“For marketers, the challenge this Christmas is two-fold. They must first ensure that their messaging is striking a supportive tone, communicating value above all to cash-strapped consumers in an helpful, inspirational and genuine fashion. 

“And they must maintain this message throughout the quarter, delivering attention-grabbing campaigns, particularly on high-trafficked digital channels during these promotional events. 

“If brands can reach the right audience, at the right time, and with the right campaign, then their products will be the gifts under the Christmas tree this year.

Peter_Wallace_GumGumPete Wallace, General Manager, EMEA, GumGum

“With storm clouds forming over the global economy, brands are feeling the pinch. Retail sales are falling in many European markets and over half of US consumers plan to pull back on their spending for the remainder of 2022.

“But with the all-important holiday season imminent and the first Christmas ads already making their debut, savvy marketers are aware that tough times call for smart measures. 

“They simply cannot afford to lose out at this critical time of year.

“This means that CMOs must make the most of their marketing budget with precisely targeted campaigns that resonate with consumers in the moment, moving in pace with their fluctuating mindset.

“The most effective way to do this is to target their digital campaigns based on the content they are viewing. 

“By making the ad message relevant to the content, advertisers are able to tap into the active mindset of a user without using their personal data, ensuring that the message will resonate. 

“The traditional way that advertisers have targeted audiences online has been to track their past browsing data. But what someone searched for yesterday, last week or a month ago won’t tell what they are interested in here and now. 

“Using browser data is also unpopular with consumers because it requires the use of their personal data and is out of step with evolving data regulations.

“Struggling consumers will be even less tolerant of ads which fail to deliver value in the moment, and which infringe on their privacy.

“That’s why targeting based on content is a much more effective approach for today’s ad ecosystem.

“From past recessions, we know that consumers become less brand loyal in tough times and more willing to shop around for new products and services that offer better value. 

“Advertisers can take advantage of this shift in consumer behaviour. Rather than targeting typical audience segments using personal data or audience data, contextual can help a brand to broaden its reach by targeting new content categories that help to unlock new customer segments. 

“Let’s not forget, either, that lessons from the past indicate that brands that go against the grain, and continue to invest during downturns, reap greater rewards than competitors.”