‘Brits can be a cynical bunch’ – what to expect from the big Christmas campaigns

Creative directors are planning their festive seasonal marketing campaigns. What tone do they expect them to take this year?

(Bec Parsons/GettyImages)

PR Week asked some creative comms experts to predict some of the main trends in christmas campaigns for 2022.

‘The doom and gloom news agenda’ – Olivia Mushigo, senior creative at Talker Tailor Trouble Maker

“Brands will be conscious of the cost-of-living crisis and activate more corporate social responsibility lead campaigns, showing socially conscious consumers the brand cares and understands the current climate. These CSR campaigns will be joyful and hopeful, a contrast to the doom and gloom news agenda.”

‘Campaign messaging may be more pragmatic’ – Greg Double, creative director at MHP Mischief

“Expect ‘essential’ brands to go big on togetherness, but with added pragmatism on price and value. When money is tight, there’s strength in communicating values you can’t put a price on. For consumer brands, quality, sustainability and giving back will come to the fore. Even in recessions, people still spend but they get more selective.

“You may think tough times mean less creativity, but when the consumer is more selective, creative excellence is more important. Campaign messaging may be more pragmatic, but campaign delivery can still be full of fun, innovation and feeling.”

‘Brits can be a cynical bunch’ – Dan Lambden, creative director at Red Consultancy

“Like our favourite comfort foods, I think we’ll see a slice of humble pie from the big supermarkets, opting for themes of tradition and cosiness rather than opulence and luxury.

“Like the wave of saccharine ads we saw in the first wave of lockdown, I predict there will be a host of beige and dry campaigns, too. The World Cup has meant prime-time TV slots are expensive and many media agencies will have talked brands out of the usual big-budget TV showcase.

“I also think we’ll see a sweep of nimble digital and social-first brand campaigns over Q4, looking to give back and uplift the nation’s spirits through sentimental, but ultimately safe, campaigns. Humour will be a much-needed antidote in these tough times, but crafting these campaigns will need to be careful and measured – and I think only the bravest brands will play in this space.

“Brits can be a cynical bunch. We want awe and wonder from festive campaigns, but also don’t want the Fair Isle wool jumper pulled over our eyes.

“Multimillion-pound campaigns pushing themes of frugality and sincerity will not ‘win’ Christmas if the nation is literally going cold and hungry. Plus, throw in the drama of the footie, and spirits will be fragile and violently fluctuate from high to low as the tournament progresses.”

‘Focus on the cost of living’ – Paul Stollery, creative director at Hard Numbers

“Brand messaging is often led by public opinion and the press. But with any crisis that’s the wrong way around. Most messaging this Christmas is likely to focus on the cost of living. However, if these campaigns aren’t built on top of tangible policies to support their customers through it, they risk a backlash.

“I suspect we’ll also see a divergence between brands willing to contribute to the political conversation and those who would rather stay clear. A saccharine campaign for a brand that doesn’t talk about the tough stuff isn’t going to be as effective as a campaign for a brand that’s tackled this head on.”

‘A skew towards tradition’ – Lora Martyr, creative director at Taylor Herring

“It will come down to two themes: purpose and escapism – ‘We’re here to help’, or ‘Let us entertain you’. The political and economic uncertainty will put laser-focus into any purpose-driven campaign. Authenticity will be key, as will demonstrable action. Similarly, high-budget campaigns may be seen as frivolous. But I think the aim will be to create something fun, joyful and funny. Brits are known for their sense of humour in difficult times, and I think many brands will leverage this.

“In terms of aesthetics, there will likely be a ‘leaning away’ from Champagne popping and ostentatious celebration, with more of a skew towards tradition, family and ‘wholesomeness’ – but ultimately it will be about providing some relief! But whichever way you look at it, I suspect the main message will be ‘We’re in it together.’”

‘Expect to see humour’ – James Gordon-MacIntosh, co-founder and chief creative officer at Hope&Glory

“I think we’ll see a divergence this year where brands will either embrace the cost-of-living crisis and go all out with the offer of a budget-pleasing Christmas, and play up their cost-saving credentials, or they will play hard on indulgence and hope consumers use the festive season as an opportunity to escape the doom and gloom and splash the cash with them over their competitors.

“For those in the sticky middle, I think we’ll see value messages loom large through their activations.

“Expect to see humour deployed as brands that don’t want to play the price game seek a way to inject a little fun. For brands that have little if anything meaningful to say, but want to be part of the festive occasion, I think we’ll see plenty of positive purpose campaigning.

“It’ll be a year in which we see businesses supporting those within society who might otherwise be excluded from the occasion.”

‘Jump straight in and go big on patriotism’ – Poppy Lewis, creative director at Aduro Communications

“Brands will need campaigns with real purpose – tangible ways of helping their consumers this winter. Even the usual ‘silly season’ lighter, joyful stories need to be rooted in something genuine.

“Our research found over eight million adults are expecting to go without a hygiene product this winter, as they can’t afford them. So the reality is that the traditional Christmas scene of piles of presents and a heaving dinner table is unachievable for many, when essentials like nappies are missing.

“This year we have the first winter World Cup, which is truly unknown territory for businesses around the world. There are various approaches to help you win – jump straight in and go big on patriotism, be brave and challenge the Qatar status quo, or ignore it altogether and focus on something else with meaning to your consumer.

“With so much positive action happening around football right now, there’s a real opportunity to stand for something.

“We have an England team to be proud of, on and off the field. Gareth Southgate has become the ultimate everyman, cultivating a young team who are passionate about the things that affect their community – embodied by Marcus Rashford, who has been vocal about everything from mental health to immigration. There’s a fantastic opportunity for brands to align themselves with these individuals and the collective positive sentiment this Christmas.”

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