Holiday shopping season seems to start earlier each year, with 20% of consumers hitting brick-and-mortar shops and shopping online in October, according to a recent survey from Gartner research firm. The same also holds true for ads. Around the world, many brands began debuting their festive campaigns before Halloween, tackling topics ranging from the difficult global economic state to lighthearted cheer celebrating the joy of giving. Here are a few recent offerings.
German discount supermarket chain Penny didn’t pull any punches with its heart-wrenching, four-minute spot called “The Rift.” While “Silent Night” plays in the background, the film unveils action that’s anything but quiet. Instead, the ambitious campaign calls attention to many of the conflicts currently dividing our society, including sustainability vs. climate deniers, Covid vs. anti-vaxxers, BLM vs. racism, and more. It starts, quite literally, with a near crash: an older woman in a car almost hits a boy on his bike in the parking garage of their apartment building. From there, the building itself appears to fracture as more conflicts manifest before ending on a somber yet hopeful note. “At our Penny markets, all kinds of people come together,” said Marcus Haus, divisional marketing manager. “This year, however, we noticed people moving apart more than ever. Different opinions not only divide society, they also cause rifts in our private relationships.” The film—which is running in cinemas around Germany, on social channels including YouTube, Instagram and Facebook and via digital, print and OOH activations—aims to heal some of those hurts.
On a slightly lighter yet no less important note, English mobile brand O2 confronted the current cost-of-living crisis facing many UK residents with an animated ad about a snowwoman. Wearing glasses while looking cold and slightly downtrodden, the snowwoman is noticed by Bubl, O2’s robot mascot, and a young girl. They give her a SIM card inside a Christmas card, which she pops into her iPhone to reconnect with family—and as those loved ones appear on-screen, the snow melts away, revealing a grateful grandmother. Running for six weeks, the campaign points out that nearly two million UK households are now at risk of “digital exclusion,” which can lead to isolation that may have a worsening effect on mental illness. “We’re very proud to be launching a campaign that goes well beyond talking about an issue but actually does something to help those who need it,” said Jonny Parker and Chris Birch, executive creative directors at VCCP London. “The Snowgran is a beautiful, icy yet warm story of connection when people most need it—at Christmas.”
Tickling Funny Bones
Pivoting in tone from somber to side-splitting, UK retailer Asda debuted a TV spot that ingeniously used visual effects to show Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) from the 2003 hit film Elf getting hired by the grocery chain. Original footage from the film was cut and spliced into newly shot scenes to create a 90-second montage of Buddy interacting seamlessly with Asda employees. “For me this was a unique challenge, working with an A-list Hollywood actor, without him being there in person, and crafting other actors around his iconic performance,” said director Danny Kleinman. “It was important not only to make the action seamless but also convincingly transport him to a Christmas Asda store, creating a Hollywood feel to Asda’s Christmas celebrations.” Along with airing on UK television stations, Asda customers will be treated to in-store announcements from Buddy the Elf this season, along with exclusive Elf-themed clothing and food items.
P&G personal care brand Native also went the funny route, creating work to promote their six holiday-themed Naughty and Nice body scents that include spiked eggnog, fresh mistletoe, candy cane and yule log. In the hero spot, called “Traffic Stop,” a police officer asks a driver he pulled over if she’s been drinking, to which she replies that she smells like Native’s spiked eggnog body wash—then invites him to take a sniff. She in turn sniffs back, commenting appreciatively on the officer’s fresh mistletoe deodorant, and things get extra awkward when the woman’s husband interrupts the odd ritual from his spot in the front seat. “This holiday season we wanted to lean into humor to celebrate our quirky and highly crave-able scents,” said CEO Vineet Kumar. “For Native, Naughty or Nice is about recognizing that sometimes you can be both and embracing it.” Along with CTV placements, the campaign includes digital and social activations across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other channels.
Inspiring Warm and Fuzzies
Set against The Turtles’ 1967 hit song, “So Happy Together,” a new holiday ad from Louis Vuitton draws on nostalgic elements and rom-com movie themes to create a charming 60-second spot. It stars LV the teddy bear, seen wandering and frolicking through a series of magical landscapes that evoke images of classic Christmas films while in pursuit of his beloved Vivienne, a fellow brand mascot. Each 3D-animated scene shows off an array of artfully curated Louis Vuitton products. This is a “romantic comedy between two iconic characters of the brand,” said company executives, which ends when the two animated characters are reunited inside a snow globe as a troupe of beautiful guests enter the room for a party—and viewers learn that perhaps the entire enchanted fantasy took place inside a child’s mind.
Finally, New Zealand’s largest retail group, The Warehouse, teamed with DDD Group ad agency to deliver “Nigel’s Christmas Wish,” another animated spot about the power of believing that wishes can come true. The central character is a nutcracker named Nigel whose own seemingly simple, yet important heart’s desire gets granted with help from a little girl. “This campaign is all about what we can do for others this Christmas— and how helping someone accomplish their dream can light up their day—or even year,” said Chief Creative Officer Gary Steele. Running across multiple media formats including film, cinema, digital, social, OOH, print and more, this marks only the first phase of the campaign. Nigel’s next adventure is set to be revealed closer to Christmas. We’ll be on the lookout for more festive ads from around the world. In the meantime, wishing all our ER friends a happy start to this holiday season!
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