The ads that won on social media

In conjunction with MMRI we’ve used sentiment analysis to dissect social media conversations and identify which of 19 major players’ Christmas campaigns have created most excitement.

This work reveals 5 need-to-know insights.

​1. Use stories to win hearts and get fingers typing

Trailblazer in the storytelling approach, John Lewis is now the benchmark for all Christmas campaigns – the 2016 advert’s No.1 status in terms of total conversations being attributable to two factors. Firstly, it arrived amid colossal ‘what will they do this year?’ anticipation, ensuring every detail was pored over online. Secondly, it fosters endless comparisons with previous efforts as well as those of every big-hitting rival who plays the same card – each entrant seeing a fresh spike in ‘is it as good as John Lewis?’ traffic. The format has such power to create internet sensations because it’s great at harnessing emotions – employing, in a highly condensed form, every trick in the Hollywood book, from loveable protagonists and stirring soundtracks to tear-inducing final scenes. Ultimately, emotion tips the audience into online action; emojis soon proliferating.


HIT: M&S succeeding via the double whammy of an empowered Mrs Claus and a cute brother expressing his love for his sister.


MISS: ASDA’s episodic approach and rather ordinary, unemotional stories proving too hard for viewers to piece together let alone comment on. 

​2. Create a mascot that’s a short-hand for the campaign

In the age of ever-shortening attention spans, mascots can play a role similar to that of emojis i.e. not summing up a feeling but instead consolidating a whole campaign in a single, fleeting image, and providing a focal point for social media chatter.


HIT: Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot representing a recognisable part of Christmas and a charming, underdog character – neatly combining relevance and feel-good sentiment.


MISS: Argos’s yetis being neither relevant nor loveable – colours not festive, yetis not linked with core message of speed, and not funny enough to create buzz.

​3. Play to the spirit of Christmas

Above all, people long for gifts money can’t buy – love, togetherness and reconciliation. After a year of divisions, many of 2016’s top adverts touch on this yearning and inspire more spreading of the love via online sharing – Amazon, Very and Sainsbury’s all successfully evoking this community vibe.

HIT: Amazon offering a message of hope around religious tolerance.

MISS: Tesco’s fake family looking very bogus in an era of authenticity.

​4. Avoid ‘product, product, product’

Whilst this tactic might keep accountants happy with good ROI on featured items, it’s not emotional enough to spark social media gossip.

HIT: Waitrose being brave enough, in its ‘homecoming robin’ advert, to show just one product – a mince pie.

MISS: Debenhams featuring a bag, a coffee machine and boots that, whilst all potential best-sellers, feel too materialistic to talk about vs. deeply held Christmas emotions.

​5. Tread carefully around negative connotations esp. if these hit Christmas spirit. 

While a little controversy can get social media forums crackling, this can easily shade into negative sentiment outweighing the publicity value.

MISS 1: Lidl shooting themselves in the foot by showing cute turkeys just ahead of the culling!

MISS 2: Boots excluding the police from their ‘women who work on Christmas Day’ advert, thereby inviting a storm of complaints.

Want access to the analysis that sits behind this? Just email us.