Which retailers' Christmas campaigns are crackers and which have proved turkeys?

PRWeek UK's Robert Smith and his panel of consumer PR experts are keeping a close eye on the big retailers' Christmas campaigns.

Cracker or turkey? Our Christmas panel decides... (©ThinkstockPhotos)
Cracker or turkey? Our Christmas panel decides... (©ThinkstockPhotos)

At what is always a critical time for the high street, we will be updating this page as more retailers launch their festive campaigns - and then looking back at which of them scored the biggest success.

Here we summarise campaigns' main themes and activities, and include highlights of commentary from the Christmas panel of Ready10 founder David Fraser (DF); Hotwire global head of consumer Emma Hazan (EH); Taylor Herring managing partner James Herring (JH); Unity co-founder Nik Govier (NG); and Lewis head of consumer UK Ranj George (RG).


Launch date: Friday 1 December

The campaign: Shot using a series of clips showing real people unwrapping Christmas presents, Iceland added a cheeky twist to each of the nine versions of its campaign film; editing the footage to include its Christmas food range. The supermarket also called in vlogger family ‘The Inghams’, whose present-opening antics last year were viewed over 40 million times on YouTube.

The verdict: NG: "I love this – it plays nicely into the parenting 'humblebrag'"; RG: "More intriguing than previous Iceland ad iterations." Read more analysis here.

Social success: Analysis from social media monitoring tool Brandwatch shows it was mentioned over 1,000 times between launch and 4 December. Roughly 85 per cent of mentions were positive in that time, and the audience was two-thirds female.


Launch date: Monday 27 November

The campaign: Primark made stars of its customers in Manchester and Liverpool in a campaign that captured video of people taking a ride in a quirky karaoke cab. Design agency Uniform used social media and local outlets to drum up interest in the stunt, with footage published across social media throughout the festive period. Unlike its rivals on the high street, there wass no TV advertising accompanying the Primark campaign.

The verdict: "Love the karaoke cab idea – but perhaps this campaign is not quite as low-cost as it may seem at first glance."


Launch date: Saturday 12 November

The campaign: This centres around 'Every Bit of Christmas', a catchy song written by rapping comedian Doc Brown. A film shows members of the public, Sainsbury's staff, and a handful of celebrities singing about Christmas traditions. A total of 25 versions of the black and while film are being launched across a variety of formats, with a karaoke version available on YouTube, and the tune itself available on Spotify. Unlike its rivals, there is no charity partner or merchandise accompany the campaign.

The verdict: JH: "Undoubtedly going to divide the room", NG: "Doesn't feel like it's trying too hard... different from the rest". Read more analysis here.

Social success: According to data from Brandwatch taken between 5 November and 4 December, Sainsbury’s was the least liked campaign among the major retailers, achieving fewer than 9,000 mentions, of which 60 per cent where positive.


Launch date: Saturday 12 November

The campaign: Shot completely in black and white, the central film in Waitrose's campaign sees village neighbours sharing Christmas dinner at the pub after being snowed in. It also includes a competition where five people can win a feast for their community group, is encouraging people to eat together in its in-store cafes, has organised a supper club for influencers and bloggers and a book based on the film is being sold to raise money for charity.

The verdict: NG: "Feels true to the brand"; DF: "They clearly know their market". Read more analysis here

Social success: Brandwatch analysis shows Waitrose’s campaign was a hit online. The campaign was mentioned almost 10,000 times between by the start of December, with 98 per cent of the conversation judged to be positive – the best score among the major retailers.

John Lewis

Launch date: Friday 10 November

The campaign: The hotly anticipated John Lewis campaign centres around the story of Joe and his friend Moz, a monster who lives under his bed, and again has a mellow song as its soundtrack. It was released across social media ahead of its first showing on TV. Amplification includes a storybook version of the tale, with this, as well as branded toys and mugs being sold in store to raise money for children's charity Barnardo's. There is also a customisible audio book-style recording of the tale, and a VR filter on Facebook.

The verdict: RG: "John Lewis has well-trodden path... it if works, why change it?"; NG: "I cant help but love this"; EH "innovative, fun ways of reaching a wider audience". Read more analysis and social stats here

Social success: While John Lewis’ #MozTheMonster failed to make PRWeek’s round-up of our top five Christmas campaigns, it was mentioned in excess of 110,000 times on social media by 4 December – more than double that of its nearest rival Marks & Spencer (see below). However, a little more than 80 per cent of mentions were positive, Brandwatch data reveals.

Marks & Spencer

Launch date: Tuesday 7 November

The campaign: The central M&S campaign film sees Paddington Bear save Christmas by helping a burglar re-deliver stolen Christmas presents. This tale forms the basis of a children's storybook, 'Paddington and the Christmas Visitor', costing £3 in M&S, with £2 of each sale going to Childline. Further content will launch, with the hashtag #LoveTheBear accompanied by a pawprint emoji, used on social. There are Paddington concessions and exclusive merchandise in stores.

The verdict: EH: "a nice escape... but then a bit cringey at the same time"; NG: "just the right level of poignancy"; DF: "unlike rivals, low on product and all about storytelling". Read more analysis here

Social success: M&S achieved over 45,000 mentions for its Christmas campaign up to 4 December. According to Brandwatch, 97 per cent of mentions had a positive sentiment, while the audience was almost 70 per cent female.


Launch date: Tuesday 7 November

The campaign: The PRWeek UK Award-winning Kevin the Carrot campaign is back - and this year, the vegetable hero falls in love. There will be 14 product-orientated films released across the Christmas period, and Kevin and his love interest Katie will be chatting to the public on Twitter. Soft toy versions and books on the protagonists go on sale in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. The campaign was teased with a profile of Kevin on the dating app Happn.

The verdict: NG: "The character-led approach is actually becoming quite formulaic"; EH: "clever integration". Read more analysis here

Social success: Of roughly 15,000 mentions for Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot reboot by 4 December, 95 per cent were positive, Brandwatch says. Data from the social media monitoring also shows roughly 75 per cent of the audience between 5 November and 4 December was female.


Launch date: Sunday 5 November

The campaign: A series of five films will focus on food, using the #EveryonesWelcome campaign slogan. Tesco will donate £1 to food charities FareShare and The Trussell Trust for every fresh turkey sold.

The verdict: RG: "Sits successfully in the middle ground". Read more analysis here

Social success: According to social media data provided by Talkwaker, Tesco’s campaign "created a lot of buzz", achieving well over 25,000 mentions between 5 November and 4 December. However, only 11 per cent of these were positive, while 46 per cent was negative. The remaining 43 per cent was neutral. Talkwalker said several people "attacked" the campaign for including Muslims and Sikhs, which in turn attracted "the anger of those upset at such divisive comments".


Launch date: Friday 3 November

The campaign: Eight films portraying a range of quirky characters with "tribal" behaviours typical of British families at Christmas are being released, with the aim of highlighting the firm's seasonal products range.

The verdict: RG: "astute in not trying to pull at the heartstrings"; JH: "the theme of 'tribes' is a hard PR sell". Read more analysis here

Social success: Lidl’s campaign achieved the fewest mentions (below 1,000) among any of the major retailers by 4 December, according to Brandwatch. Of the mentions the budget supermarket did achieve, roughly 87 per cent were positive.


Launch date: Friday 3 November

The campaign: Argos' Christmas campaign is a fast-paced affair, showing a hi-tech (fictional) Argos distribution centre, following one elf racing against the clock to get a stranded toy to Santa's futuristic sleigh. Hope&Glory is helping to run a social competition that will place three children in the TV cut of its client's film for a day each on 10, 11 and 12 November, with those not successful in the competition instead getting a personalised social media-ready version.

The verdict: DF: "It isn't pretending to be earnest"; RG: "I'm sceptical whether it will garner acquisition outside its core audience". Read more analysis here

Social success: While Argos was one of the first major retailers to lift the lid on its Christmas campaign, it only achieved roughly 4,100 mentions on social media a month after launch, Talkwalker said. Of these, one quarter were positive, while 73 per cent were neutral. The remaining two per cent were negative, and the audience for the campaign was 72 per cent female.

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