All I want for Christmas... is a Covid-free Christmas ad

A recent Campaign Live UK article asks the question of whether brands should hold back on the blockbuster Christmas ad in 2020, citing key retailer cutbacks and a consumer survey that suggests it may not be well-received due to the pandemic.

Key points:

My Takeout

Rather than ditching the big Christmas brand ad, it is likely to be advantageous to keep it if you’ve got a good one planned.

Recent findings shared by Brittain & Field in the AUNZ Advertising Rules of Effectiveness, have shown that in times of recession, the most effective brand ads are those that focus on the essential tools of brand building: empathy, human connections, humility and humour. And what seasonal ritual has all of the above in spades? Christmas. 

While Christmas doesn’t have to be cancelled, it is critical that brands understand what people are seeking from a festive message because Christmas is going to look and feel very different this year for many households.

For years, the Big Christmas Ad has been a feel-good moment for brands to tell their stories of togetherness and giving. We have seen brands turn wonderfully whimsical (e.g. John Lewis), child-like (Coca-Cola), or cheekily patriotic (Aldi Australia). 

But how will these brands strike the right tone this year? 

With many families struggling financially and emotionally coming in-and-out of lockdown, it won’t be an easy task to capture the spirit of a nation that has been parochially divided, exhausted, stressed and just eager to see the backend of 2020. It’s an obvious truth, but one to remember: getting together is just not that simple anymore and may not be for a long, long while.

Yet the real power of the Christmas narrative has never been one of pragmatic realism. It has never reflected the real world. It’s about symbolism, folklore, and the magic that lifts us out from the everyday to connect with one another – and that’s why Christmas ads, songs and movies are so beloved. It’s a fantasy that we wholeheartedly buy. 

And don’t we need fantasy more than ever? We don’t want to see a Covid Christmas reflected; we will undoubtedly live it. While holiday spending may be reduced this year, wouldn’t it be nice to escape to a Christmas of yesteryear when we weren’t all worried about the economy, jobs and our health?

The power of fantasy-based storytelling in culture to lift spirits and help us cope and recover in tough times is already evident. Take the new Netflix original series, Emily in Paris. It’s a cliché, predictable and unrealistic portrayal of an American girl in Paris yet, since its launch in October, it continues to sit at the top of Netflix’s most watched list globally.

Stuck inside our homes, our local communities and neighbourhoods, one could argue that there has never been a more suitable moment to bring a bit of Christmas fantasy back in our lives on our screens.

Let’s give everyone a welcome salve to end a very long year and help show how the joys of Christmas can still live on, even in a much smaller and cautious world.

Originally published on Mi3 here.

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