Christmas content and the Grinch

Dec 16 2020

Christmas is all about the festive spirit, generosity and, of course, a guilt-free opportunity to have a very good time. Perhaps over-indulge a little. Enjoy an extra mince pie or two. Pour another glass of bubbly or three. And then hang about expectantly under the mistletoe…

But in this covid-hit year, it seems, some of the naughty-but-nice fun is missing. Many advertisers have been producing a feast of geniality – all covered with a merry sprinkling of over-sweet icing sugar. The Christmas copy is a bit of a cliché. The themes: family togetherness, stay safe, community, look after each other, we’re in this together, love thy neighbour, stay safe (not again!)…

The homely and neighbourly focus of Christmas content is unsurprising given the effect that COVID has had on our lives. Brands are keen to show their caring side. They want to demonstrate that their products can play a role in a better and more compassionate society. In all those creative meetings, when campaigns have been discussed or presented, no doubt everyone (even the cynic in the corner) nodded together with a warm sense of tender togetherness.

And it does work. In the UK Coca-Cola’s Christmas ad – ‘Holidays Are Coming’ – was crowned this year’s most effective by consultants Kantar. A resplendent film of illuminated Coke trucks, snowy trees, Santa images, happy and expectant children… you get the idea. It reveals it really has been a year in which tugging at the heartstrings has done the trick. 

But I’m sorry. I love Christmas – and all that giving and sharing – as much as anyone, but I could hear the Grinch muttering in my ear. Is Christmas really all sweetness and light? Couldn’t all this (often bland and samey) content be more, well, interesting? Risky even? A cracker with a jolt?

It’s an important strategic consideration. After all, if you want to stand out in a crowd (of like-minded do-gooders), then surely it’s worth taking a chance and ruffling a few feathers. How about a joke? Some irony? Yes, we are all enjoying the more touchy-feely ads this year, but I suspect the ones we do remember will be those that respect the audience enough to offer them more than pleasantries.

Playing safe isn’t always the best policy. To add some festive fun, here are a few examples of what the Grinch thought of Christmas content 2020.

Gap’s Dream the Future… er no thanks. 

‛Hope’, ‛Cosy’. ‛Trust’, ‛Love’, ‛Patience’, ‛Peace’, ‛Joy’… In the Gap’s Christmas ad, a studio of model types in colourful clothing smile and hug and hold up little signs bearing a long list of key messages.

It’s classic Gap. Bright and upbeat and wholesome. The theory? “For us, this holiday is all about hope,” a spokesperson says. “And when we look forward to the season ahead, we hope for a kinder, more loving tomorrow, where we see, dream, and think in color. And celebrate as individuals, together.”

But the Grinch says: “The words could have been ‛Fake’, ‛Pretend’, ‛Acting’… The real gap here is the word ‛Authenticity’. Today’s consumer is looking for brands that really stand for something substantial and are prepared to change the way they operate to prove it. Want to see an ad that looks real but cool, check out Burberry’s.” 

Woodie’s and fixing a gate

Irish DIY store Woodie’s released a Christmas ad that tells the story of how an elderly neighbour struggles with a wonky front-garden gate. One day she gets home and it suddenly works a treat. The close-knit community have fixed it. Social media liked it. Some said it was “heart-warming” and the more lachrymose admitted “it brought a tear to my eye”. 

Woodie’s was happy. “If ever there was a Christmas to look out for one another, this is the one,” explained a spokesperson. “So, we’re delighted to share our Christmas ad, which tells the story of how a simple act of homemaking becomes a beautiful act of kindness from one neighbour to another.” 

But the Grinch says: “I suspect the old lady was hoping someone would fix her a Black Velvet or a Dry Martini rather than her gate. Viewers would have loved the reverse – #wereallhomemakers was a good hashtag but #fixmeacocktail would have gone viral. Come to think of it, here’s a classic drinks ad from the vaults for Cinzano.”

Gucci Gift – a gift that just keeps giving

Unsurprisingly, Gucci loves Christmas, as it’s the perfect time to dress to impress. This year one of its film commercials is based on the classic topic of the Christmas office party, which is clearly going to be a rare event this year. 

The music is excellent – the original version of Yazoo’s iconic ‛Only You’ from the 1980s – which gives it a lovely authentic retro feel. The staff haircuts are quirky and even the office tech has a nostalgic 1980s allure. The staff are dressed in this season’s uber-cool Gucci pieces. And as soon as the clock strikes five the Gucci-clad workers turn into festive clubbers.

But the Grinch says: “The problem with this ad is, ahem, there isn’t one. The clothes look great and it gives us a clever, amusing and life-affirming insight into the good old days when a virus pandemic only affected software and parties were supremely normal. Spot on. Wow. I like Christmas after all!”

If you would like to talk to us about your content strategy, whether you are a happy Santa or grumpy Grinch, we would love to hear from you.

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