Is it time to set a ‘gold standard’ for digital Christmas campaigns, and what this might look like? Dominic Tillson, Head of Insight at Inskin Media could hone in on the creative opportunities that digital platforms offer advertisers during the festive season, and how these can match or even exceed the emotional experiences created by traditional channels.
It seems as though every year, the Christmas ads on our TV screens get bigger and better. When we think about a ‘gold standard’ in festive campaigning, it’s usually these big-budget TV experiences that first come to mind because advertisers so often prioritise this medium over digital campaigns. However, with one in five of us now actively searching for our favourite Christmas ads online rather than waiting to catch them on TV, there’s a real opportunity for brands to get to grips with replicating this impact across online channels.
Legacy brands are starting to adapt their media strategies to account for the uplift in online viewership. John Lewis, for example, released this year’s ad online first, before airing it on ITV. But there’s so much more brands could be doing to drive digital engagement from users. Digital can play a unique role in delivering in-depth experiences that can match and even sometimes enhance those offered by traditional media. Giving the channel its due acknowledgement at the beginning of the planning and creative processes could allow advertisers to amplify the emotive response of their festive campaigns across multiple channels.
With the right planning strategy there is an opportunity for brands to amplify the impact of their media plans without increasing overall budgets. A recent study we conducted revealed that high-impact formats generate 15x more attention than regular formats. More importantly however, it was found that standard MPU formats attracted a lot more attention from viewers when they were preceded by a high-impact format, with the time consumers spent looking at the MPUs increasing by 39%. Perhaps even more significantly, the number of standard display ads that were looked at for a second or longer increased by a substantial 140%.
This is particularly notable considering we also found that higher levels of attention paid to an ad has a direct correlation with increased conversions and sales. Longer visual engagement and ‘attention’ is key to driving brand recall, which is particularly important at Christmas, when the competition for consumers’ attention is at its most fierce. If brands are able to visually and emotionally engage consumers for longer periods of time, they are more likely to make a lasting impression that will continue to flourish beyond the festive season.
In terms of creativity, digital activations shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought in the process either. This year, Iceland made waves – particularly on social media – with Rang-Tan, their socially-conscious ad about the controversial use of palm oil. When the spot was banned from broadcast for being too political, the publicity this received sent the ad viral online. The content spread far and wide via a series of celebrity social media posts, and Iceland took the opportunity to create spots exclusively for online channels. This drove further engagement with the ad and the brand’s message, which led to the spot becoming one of the most-viewed Christmas campaigns of all time.
Iceland reportedly spent far less on this campaign than some of their competitors, and popularity of a Christmas film produced for just £50 demonstrates how impactful narrative and thoughtful creative can be more crucial to an ad’s success than big budgets. The fact that both of these ads have been so successful is also evidently testament to ensuring quality advertising works well on digital platforms, as well as on traditional channels.
It’s clear that festive advertising is increasingly becoming a matter of multi-channel strategy – there’s huge potential to generate an emotive response across all channels, devices and screen sizes through a coordinated approach. Likewise, prioritising quality starts with a more nuanced understanding of different formats, how they work, and how audiences interact with each of them meaningfully. It’s important for brands to continue pushing the boundaries of creativity and strategy in this way, and in doing so could mark the beginning of a new and exciting era for festive advertising.
By Dominic Tillson
Head of Insight