Emotion Is Key To Winning Christmas, Not Elton John

Now the unwritten rule of not mentioning the C word until after Halloween is over -- it's time to prepare for a raft of Christmas ads and predictions over which will win our hearts and which will grate on us so badly we switch over before November is even out.

I've been taking a sneak peek at some statistics Unruly has put together before they're more widely released -- and it seems that, as one might imagine, Christmas ads are all about emotion.

In fact, Christmas ads are twice as likely to make you cry as any other spot throughout the year -- but they're also 86% more likely to make you smile. Ultimately, they're twice as likely as other ads throughout the year to leave the audience coming away with a feeling of warmth. 

Of the nine emotions Unruly measures ads for -- happiness, amazement, exhilaration, warmth, hilarity, pride, sadness, nostalgia and inspiration -- only exhilaration is lower at Christmas. All the others are heightened. 

The good news is that advertisers are 7% more likely to share a good Christmas ad that will give a 13% lift to brand metrics.

Which, of course, brings us onto John Lewis. Which other brand has come to be the face of Christmas advertising more than the co-operatively owned retailer who brought us Elton John as a child, a toy penguin and a hare who couldn't wait to wake up his pal, the bear, for a yuletide celebration?

Further research from Unruly shows that if, as it suggests, Christmas is all about emotion, then the aforementioned "The Bear And The Hare" spot is the most successful Xmas ad from the retailer. Strangely enough, spending millions on a fancy production with Elton John failed to deliver. In fact, it's seventh out of the eight ads rated. Research at the time showed that he did not connect well with the retailer's audience and the only part of the ad they like was when he was portrayed in his early years by a child actor.

Another interesting point that the only ad to engage less well emotionally with an audience was the "Moz The Monster" spot that ran the year before. As the table below shows, all the retailer's ads beat the UK average but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that John Lewis has been losing its touch when it comes to making us cry and then feel all warm inside. 

Here's Unruly's table of John Lewis ads that shows the past two years have seen a big dip in emotional engagement. 




Emotional engagement


“The Bear And The Hare”




“Buster The Boxer”




“Monty The Penguin”




“The Long Wait”




“The Journey”




“Man on The Moon”




“Boy And The Piano”




“Moz The Monster”



UK Norm


Rumours abound as to when John Lewis will drop this year's spot with the middle of November being a good prediction, to coincide with the launch of "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". There will be others likely to be launched next week but the big moment will be when John Lewis airs its masterpiece for 2019. For a retailer that has posted poor figures all year, it will need to be thirty seconds that get us emotionally engaged if it wants to turn round its fortunes and buck the trend of the last two Christmas campaigns. 

1 comment about "Emotion Is Key To Winning Christmas, Not Elton John".
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  1. Gary Carp from Pepperebbe Ltd, November 6, 2019 at 3:36 p.m.

    It might be me. It usually is. But there is something deeply depressing in the terminology of 'Winning Christmas'. The incongruence of 'save the planet' mantras along with selling (& consuming) as much as possible and "winning" perhaps sum up the confusion of our age. Who will win Christmas is a much less interesting question than considering what we are we losing.

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