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Holiday Ads and Spending Kick Off Early

If you’re getting into the spirit of festive ads while simultaneously feeling the holiday season may have started earlier this year, you’re not alone. Retailers around the world began kicking off their plans in October, hoping to beat the global fuel shortages and delivery delays threatening to put a damper on the merriest time of year. This advance prep coincides with projected spending increases from lockdown-fatigued consumers who are excited to splurge on trips and gifts for friends and family. Here’s what you need to know.

Spending Expected to Skyrocket
In happy news for marketers, US consumer spending is expected to jump by three percent this November and December, according to a new report from The NPD Group. Comprising October and projected January totals, that number could increase to five percent. This marks a turn from last year, when pandemic-related concerns shut down brick-and-mortars and kept customers at home. Now, 58 percent of holiday shoppers are reportedly open to in-store visits due to the wide availability of vaccines. What’s more, those excursions will be lucrative. In the US, 29 percent of consumers anticipate spending more this year compared to 2020. Online payments company Klarna projects that 34 percent of consumers will go big on gifts, increasing budgets between $101 and $500. Shopping is kicking off earlier too, as 51 percent of buyers intend to make holiday purchases before Thanksgiving, compared to the 49 percent who did so last year. “New optimism, along with underlying uncertainty, are fueling shopping expectations, making this a more complex holiday season for consumers and marketers, alike,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD adviser. “But retailers and manufacturers that remain flexible will be able to navigate the diverse landscape of consumer behavior and arrive at a successful holiday result.”

Similar positive projections are forecast in the UK, where a recent report from the Advertising Association and WARC Expenditure predicts brands will spend almost £1 billion more on Christmas advertising this year compared to 2020. That means ad spend may hit close to £8 billion by end of year, a record amount and 14 percent over last year. TV is expected to be especially popular, enjoying its largest growth in over a decade to £1.5 million, as companies go big on Christmas spots. “We can expect more stories about doing things together outside the immediate home, as the circle of connections may be far wider this year,” said Rachel Clark, founding partner at Strat House.

Made in America
To keep pace with the projected spending spike, many US brands are already debuting their holiday ads. Case in point: clothing retailer Gap, which released its “All Together Now” marketing campaign on October 25. The 60-second spot features singer Katy Perry waking up, working out and commuting to a music studio to shoot her cover of The Beatles’ hit track, “All You Need Is Love,” complete with cozy winter clothes and faux falling snow. Optimism, kindness and good vibes are the name of this holiday campaign game, with Gap pledging to donate $1 (up to $100,000) for every Spotify streamed download of Perry’s song to nonprofit group Baby2Baby, which provides diapers and other basic necessities to kids in need.

For online retailer Etsy, the global shipping issues plaguing other merchants with product scarcity and delivery delays is less of a problem. Because many Etsy sellers are small, independent merchants as opposed to big chain brands, they don’t “…have complex supply chains and are less vulnerable to these types of disruptions than many traditional retailers,” said chief marketing officer Ryan Scott. This year, the e-commerce platform worked with New York-based agency 72andSunny to release three touching spots as part of their “Give More Than a Gift” campaign. Each tells a different story about friendship, love and the importance of thoughtful gift-giving. “We wanted to focus on relationships—expected and unexpected—that make an impact on our lives,” said Scott. “These are universal stories that everyone can relate to and with more shoppers buying with intention and seeking out products with craft, quality, and meaning, we wanted to spotlight the powerful way a gift can say something truly meaningful.” Spots are airing on broadcast and connected TV, including Peacock and YouTube, along with digital audio and social channels.

From Europe, With Love
In perhaps the best sign of holiday campaigns kicking off early, British-based online retailer Very debuted UK’s first Christmas ad of the year on October 1. The tongue-in-cheek spot is self-aware: While a family sings carols, trims the tree and hangs ornaments, a group of trick-or-treaters ring their bell, then look confused when they get handed mince pies instead of Halloween candy. “Start Christmas early with Very,” urges an earnest voiceover. This intentional premiere 85 days before Christmas highlights the fact that Very reported holiday-related searches in August. “After Christmas was pared back for many last year by last-minute lockdowns, we wanted to get into the spirit early and unashamedly embrace the season as soon as the leaves start to fall,” said Carly O’Brien, chief marketing officer at The Very Group.

In France, Disneyland Paris invited fans to visit to celebrate the holidays at Europe’s most popular theme park following nearly 12 months of Covid-related closures. A sneak peek of its holiday ad was released on Twitter in mid-October, showing a family exchanging gifts around a Christmas tree when Dad accidentally opens a present meant for his daughter, then tears up to find Disneyland Paris tickets. The teaser spot ends with an entreaty: “This Christmas, give the most wonderful of gifts.”

Around the world, both companies and customers are gearing up for what promises to be a festive holiday season after last year’s isolated and subdued end-of-year. From upticks in consumer spending to bigger budgets for early-release ads, the spirit of Christmas could be felt as early as October. Here’s to a happy and healthy close to 2021!