Opinion /

Christmas PR Campaigns – Do they really work?

The use of emotive content by brands in their Christmas PR campaigns has become part of the cultural zeitgeist. Once November comes around, we all eagerly await the first sighting of that tearjerker advert from John Lewis. But what is the long term impact of these campaigns? Consider where you are going to do your Christmas grocery shopping this year. Has your answer been influenced by that company’s TV advert? The answer is more than likely ‘no’. But that has never been the sole aim of these big budget productions. 

The AM O’Sullivan PR team has taken a look at some memorable Christmas campaigns of 2020 to see how organisations have adapted to the vastly changed world we now find ourselves in, and analyse how these emotive campaigns are far more than just another marketing stunt.

SuperValu Shines this Christmas

The proliferation of Christmas advertisements on television serve as a subtle reminder of everything we will miss out on this year – time spent with family, office parties and time spent with our friends. 2020 has been difficult for everyone, young and old. SuperValu highlighted this in its 2020 Christmas campaign, excellently curated by Dublin-based agency TBWA. 

As one of the first Christmas ads to appear on Irish TV screens this year, this approach stole the hearts of the nation. It tells the story a little boy looking for reassurance that this Christmas will be no different to any other; filled with its usual magic and a hug from his favourite festive visitor, his grandfather. The story is one that resonated with many who have spent time apart from loved ones throughout 2020, and provided an appropriate nod to the circumstances in which we find ourselves this Christmas. It also highlighted the difficult circumstances which have isolated many elderly people from their families this year. 

The impact of the SuperValu campaign reached far beyond a television audience. People rushed to share the ad online, and media were quick to note its wide reaching impact. At a time when everything is uncertain, SuperValu’s Christmas campaign served to remind Irish people that this is still the most wonderful time of the year.

2020 was a year that saw SuperValu at the helm of driving community spirit, reminding us of new ways to shop, of being considerate of other shoppers and, in a surprising move for a retailer, they told us not to empty the shelves, that its stock rooms remained full and deliveries of produce would continue as usual. It also served as a timely reminder to think about those behind us in the queue and to ensure that we followed Government advice when interacting with other members of the public.  Perhaps the goodwill generated during the year, allowed SuperValu to be one of the first organisations to mention Christmas!

SuperValu Christmas Advert 2020

An Post 

An Post’s Christmas 2020 campaign focuses on how important traditions can be in uniting people at Christmas. Set to ‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper, the TV advert sees a man find a Christmas card that his father gave him as a child, which immediately points to the nostalgia of Christmases past. The man then recreates the magic of what he felt as a child for his father by sending him a card from his granddaughter. The campaign focuses on spreading the message that it has never been more important to unite with families and friends this Christmas.

This TV advert, and its nostalgic message, represents a heart-warming follow-on to the wonderful work that the postwomen and postmen of Ireland have undertaken since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, especially older people living alone, the postman or postwoman may have been the only person who knocked on their door during the pandemic.  

This Christmas will be quite different to those that have come before, but An Post is reminding people that traditions are important and can still be enjoyed this year. In many ways, the campaign serves as a tribute to An Post workers. It underlines the crucial role that they have played in 2020, and is a celebration of their dedication and commitment to serving the public.

An Post Christmas Advert 2020

Woodies “We’re all Homemakers” Campaign

Much like An Post, DIY store chain Woodies used its Christmas campaign to highlight the importance of reaching out and helping one another. The advert follows an elderly woman who we see being greeted by her neighbours as she returns home every day. Her gate is broken and scraping the path, making it difficult for her to get to her front door. At the end of the advert, Mrs. Higgins walks through her gate and notices that it has been fixed. We then see a young man packing up his tools clearly having fixed the gate for her.

The campaign offers a playful recognition of the upsurge in DIY projects undertaken by people this year. In a bid to alleviate the boredom of COVID restrictions and spending so much time at home, Irish people picked up their tools and started renovating, remodelling and repairing anything they could turn their hand to.

At the heart of this campaign is a message that small acts of kindness are needed this year more than ever. With the upsurge in people spending time at home during 2020, we have become more aware of our neighbours, in some cases maybe even getting to know them for the first time. The example of this small act of kindness in the advert communicates the message that if you can reach out to help somebody, even if it’s something as small as fixing a hinge on a gate for someone that can’t, then it’s the neighbourly thing to do. 

Woodies Christmas Advert 2020

An organisation’s Christmas PR activity isn’t always about generating profit. It is about connecting with an audience on an emotional level, both internally and externally. From an internal point of view, being part of an organisation that is communicating a message of goodwill makes employees feel proud to represent that organisation. Employees will always be one of the most effective brand ambassadors for a company, so if they are engaged they will be a valuable asset. From an external perspective, Christmas PR activity can help to position your brand in the minds of your stakeholders. A nostalgic or emotional advert is never going to be as decisive a factor as price competitiveness, for instance, but it invites stakeholders to consider other differentiating factors – like whether a brand really embraces their values in a meaningful way. 

This year, Irish brands came to the fore in a really big way. Many ‘essential services’ became recognised as part of the community collective, adding to the ‘we’re in this together’ message that became a mantra throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these Christmas PR campaigns reinforced the national narrative, helping customers to see brands as more than just a name or a logo but as community supporters and allies in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. What more could a brand ask for at Christmas?

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