So, it’s time for the grand unveiling: the annual marketing set piece in which supermarkets attempt to outdo each other with their Christmas ads. When marketing departments can release the tension from running endless lowly tactical spots - pointing out that Finish Quantum costs £5 this week, versus £10 at its ‘rivals’ (the big four only, obviously) etc etc - and finally advertise ‘the brand.’
This year they’ve done us all a favour and released them in short order - so we can get them out of the way in one issue. At best, Christmas ads cleverly capture the essence of a brand, conveying qualities that speak to a core proposition. Like Lidl’s ad. But many are deeply naff. At worst, they are just marketing department vanity projects. And quite a lot fall into the latter category.
Everyone has gone googly-eyed over the John Lewis penguin ad. To me, it’s not only sentimental. It’s an elaborate pester power: a BOBBA - buy one (overpriced penguin), blackmailed to buy another.
“Christmas is war: what the ads tell us about the supermarkets”
As an allegory, what does Sainsbury’s use of a First World War football match teach us? Sure, it’s cause-related marketing. As supermarkets slug it out in so-called ‘wars,’ here’s some context. But it’s all too easy to link the temporary truce with its own battle with the German discounters. A bit like Christmas ads, the truce was only a game. Just 24 hours later, it was back to bloody business.