Trick or treat for Christmas

I was sitting at home with a pumpkin, a sharp knife and a plan to create a menacing grimace. But I didn’t need to carve anything at all to create a truly terrifying expression. It appeared quite naturally on my own face when I spotted a Christmas advert on the TV in the corner. 

Yes folks, it’s true. The first of this year’s Christmas advertising campaigns are here. In fact, they hit our screens long before Halloween and the arrival of trick-or-treating children. So prepare to endure all those images of garish baubles, reindeer, carol singers and Santa for the next two months. Ho, ho, horrible!

Marketing’s “festive season” started a month ago when, an online store in the UK, kicked off its campaign with a 30-second TV ad with the message ‘Get Christmas planned early‘. Yes. In early October. Long before the pumpkins appeared.

The advertising activity is supported across digital, email, social and a so-called squad of #TeamEarly influencers. Unsurprisingly ITV, the UK’s largest commercial terrestrial television station, reacted positively to its early Christmas gift. “We are thrilled is bringing Christmas to ITV earlier than ever before and celebrating #TeamEarly,” chirruped Jason Spencer, ITV’s Business Development Director.

Similarly Very, another online store, started its campaign with an advertisement called: ‘It’s the very best excuse. Very is promoting the idea that the festive season is the best time to have some frivolous fun and buy lots of useless goodies like battery run decorative lights that are bound to run out before Santa hits town and ugly Christmas sweaters. Yup. In October, when the plastic skulls and dracula teeth had yet to hit the stores.

My first response was that the ads were so premature the consumer might find them annoying and exploitative. But Very’s data backs the idea that many of us are keen to make up for last year’s socially distanced Grinchmas. Christmas-related search terms – both on-site and via external search engines – started earlier this year, with numbers picking up from early August as families looked to rekindle their Christingle magic early.

 “After Christmas was pared back for many last year by lockdowns, we wanted to get into the spirit early and unashamedly embrace the season as soon as the leaves start to fall,” explains Carly O’Brien, Very Group’s chief marketing officer.”

So when is too early to start the Christmas cheer? The answer depends on your business sector. Online retailers like Studio and Very can start early as it allows consumers to spread the hefty costs of the festive season over a longer time period. I have a friend who boasts every year that she has bought all the presents months in advance. It’s kind of annoying but it makes lots of sense.

Brands in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries also need to try and beat rivals to vital Christmas bookings. As soon as the summer is over, many consumers facing a long autumn of hard work will start hankering for winter sun. Although not specifically Christmas events, winter skiing holidays, for example, can be pushed very early in the year.

For many in the B2B space, however, Christmas has a less important role. Even so, it can still be beneficial to put out Christmas related content to join in the conversation. Why not wait until the countdown begins and chip in with some festive yet intelligent content – from insightful blogs to festive promotions – that carefully enhance your brand identity/personality and hence boost brand awareness.

Choosing when to launch a Christmas campaign is always tricky. And if your brand is in retail, it is an even more complicated story. It is about achieving a balance between attracting the consumer who likes to plan and beat the crowd while not alienating the consumer who will interpret an early advertising blitz as a little tasteless or downright irritating. 

However, this year there is no doubt about the preferred tone. Consumers are ready for the return of good Christmas cheer in advertising, according to a survey (IPA, Opinium), with more than a third (36%) wanting a “festive” tone in advertisements. A quarter (24%) want ads that are “optimistic” while a fifth (21%) were looking for “funny”. With its focus on family, sharing and community, the worthiness of last year’s output is less popular.

But back to pumpkins! I finally did manage to cut a ghoulish face on the pumpkin, hordes of (mostly very polite) trick-or-treating children had huge smiles on their faces and happily Christmas was completely forgotten… until the next ad.

Need assistance leveraging some Christmas cheer into your marketing strategy? Contact us to learn more about our integrated programs and services.

oh hello you
creative agency.
Delivering high-quality projects for international clients. Ask us about digital, branding and storytelling.