- A banned advertisement from Iceland known as "Rang-tan" was ranked the most powerful Christmas ad of 2018 in a new analysis from Kantar Millward Brown. The ad, a reworked piece of creative from Greenpeace that was made with the agency Mother, depicts the environmental devastation wrought in the production of palm oil, with a young orangutan relating the destruction of his home and family to a little girl whose bedroom is full of products that contain palm oil.
- Other ads that performed well include Amazon's "Can You Feel It," which placed in "close second" and shows the company's signature smiling boxes singing with holiday cheer; M&S Food's "Discover your M&S Christmas Favourite," which asks consumers about their favorite product from the marketer; and Aldi's animated "Kevin the Carrot and the Wicked Parsnip." Consumer respondents reviewed ads from 22 brands and retailers and rated them on 12 criteria, including "Enjoyment,""Involvement" and "Brand Love." Kantar Millward Brown also analyzed their facial expressions when viewing the ads to measure complex emotional responses.
- U.K. department store John Lewis, which runs a closely watched holiday campaign every year, received a relatively cool reception for its latest push tracking the life story of Elton John. "The Boy and the Piano" took a hit to relevance and credibility when stacked up against the marketer's previous Christmas efforts. Supermarket chain Sainsbury's "The Big Night" was similarly dinged for credibility and not clearly connecting back to what the brand does.
Kantar Millward Brown's findings highlight what's resonating with consumers for the 2018 holiday season but also emphasize a few thematic trends that have emerged in marketing this year. Iceland's ad, banned from TV in the U.K. for running up against the country's advertising code, has still managed to rack up more than 30 million hits online, pointing to the power of digital in drumming up buzz and engagement. The campaign, however, might have gotten a head start by launching in August.
Beyond the impressive reach of "Rang-tan," its messaging around a hot-button political issue — the environment — clearly captured attention at a time when brand purpose and bravery are in high demand from consumers. The effort was shared by social influencers, receiving a tweet of support from celebrities like James Corden, and increased Iceland's offline influence by 29 points in Kantar Millward Brown's assessment.
Less sunny reception to efforts from John Lewis and Sainsbury's, which usually see high marks for their seasonal pushes, points to other shifting consumer tastes. Going "big," a staple of typically sentimental holiday marketing, appears to be resonating less this year, while smaller, simpler stories depicting relatable scenes, such as families at dinner, are scoring wins instead. The change-up underpins the growing importance of authenticity in marketing that breaks with glossy or overly fantastical creative that doesn't link back to a human element, the brand or the season.
It's also possible that John Lewis' celebrity focus failed to resonate with key consumer segments, though the video still had more than 11 million YouTube views at press time. Millennials, for example, have expressed growing indifference to celebrity endorsements, and tend to prefer ambassadors like social media influencers in their marketing. In a survey from last December, Roth Capital Partners found that 78% of millennials either don't like celebrity endorsements or are, at best, indifferent to them.