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Do Christmas adverts increase sales?

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Any Christmas lover, and there are many out there, will be eagerly anticipating the advertising rivalry between Marks and Spencer and John Lewis. The companies’ legendary Christmas television commercials are more adventurous every year, with last year’s John Lewis advert taking the form of an animated children’s story and endearingly telling the tale of the hare and the bear at Christmas. Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ trickled over a melodic piano accompaniment helping create the childlike buzz of Christmas spirit as television viewers all over the country watched the hare help his friend, the bear, enjoy Christmas. John Lewis stores all over the UK continued the hare and the bear theme by recreating scenes from the story in shop windows, displaying bears, hares and other animals from the commercial, all made from John Lewis products. The hare and bear became a product range at John Lewis with the pair eventually having their own Twitter account.

But did John Lewis ‘Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget’ for all the wrong reasons? The Telegraph’s James Lachno criticised John Lewis for butchering classics in their famous Christmas adverts and picking the wrong backing track for last year’s animated special. So were Marks and Spencer last year’s festive favourites?

Sparkle the dog and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, last year’s model of the moment, recreated Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland on a glistening cobble backstreet. Sparkle the dog, acting as Carroll’s white rabbit, leads Huntington-Whiteley into an opening in the street. Tumbling gracefully and adorned in crimson lingerie, Huntington-Whiteley, Alice, lands in a chair at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, outfit change completed mid fall. Key items from all major ranges at M&S adorn the tea table, and Alice tumbles through a myriad of settings and adventures. Helena Bonham Carter undoubtedly took the advert from budget to blockbuster and looked set to take the company out of the sales slump suffered for nine quarters previous to the adverts release.

But the fairytale Christmas creation had little effect and Marks and Spencer revealed a sales decline of 2.1% for a tenth successive quarter. Unlike Marks and Spencer, John Lewis revealed an increase in sales in the five weeks leading up to the end of December, breaking a weekly target of £100 million in the week after the ad’s release.

Social media responses to the rival adverts have been mixed, with some saying both companies were topped by Sainsbury’s more emotionally engaging Christmas advert. Despite this, The Drum reported how Marks and Spencer’s advert earned them an extra 264,279 Facebook followers and 18, 677 new followers on Twitter, claiming the company’s decision to ask the public to name the dog in the advert might have generated such a huge response. But it would appear John Lewis smashed the social media stakes as The Drum were able to report 212,000 mentions of the advert on Twitter, compared to a low 37,000 for Marks and Spencer.

Can we expect the same animated hype from John Lewis this Christmas? Sara Spary, writing for Marketing Magazine reported Managing Director Andy Street’s response to the criticism of social media users after last year’s advert, claiming Street promised to take a “much more modest approach” this year. Despite reservations about an ostentatious approach to Christmas advertising surely the 6.9% increase in sales at John Lewis, reported by Russell Parsons for Marketing Week in January this year, is a clear indication of the value of investing in a unique yet traditional Christmas campaign.

Can festive Christmas campaigning beat the credit crunch this year or do businesses need to focus their attention elsewhere?

Published on Friday 31 October by Editorial Assistant
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