Aldi’s Christmas offering, showing Kevin the Carrot rescuing his family after they are kidnapped by an evil parsnip, is the public’s most-liked Christmas ad of 2018. The spot, created by McCann UK, gained a likeability score of 55%, according to Campaign’s Adwatch of the Year survey.
Kevin is now into his third Christmas season. McCann Manchester’s executive creative director, Dave Price, said: "We wanted to do something different from most retailers by taking the humblest product – a carrot – and turning him into an iconic character. When we first suggested it, the client said as long as we could make the carrot instantly lovable, they would buy the idea… so we worked hard with Psyop animation and production to develop Kevin.
"Clive Davis, who with Andy Fenton has worked on every Kevin campaign, is actually the voice of Kevin in the ads. And, from year one, the campaign snowballed. Last year, we gave him a girlfriend, Katie, and this year we gave him an enemy in the form of the wicked parsnip."
Aldi has a history of parodying other retailers’ Christmas advertising; in previous years, McCann has spoofed John Lewis’ "The journey" and "Man on the moon" commercials. In 2018, the agency changed the formula a little by launching Kevin’s latest escapade with a 40-second "tease" echoing the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck, leaving Kevin in a literal cliffhanger with the hashtag #SaveKevin.
Social media exploded as soon as the Coke spoof hit the airwaves. Price said: "We get so much pleasure seeing the tweets when the campaign breaks… it’s an instant gut reaction – which of course could be bad as well as good… there’s always an element of risk involved."
However, now supported with plush toys, a Kevin and Katie storybook and novelty gift mugs sold in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust, Kevin has become a seasonal advertising highlight. One of his biggest strengths is that – unlike characters being adopted by retailers – Kevin is totally "ownable" by the brand. Kevin has become a Christmas symbol, with the ongoing excitement of will-he-won’t-he when another Christmas season approaches.
And Zavalis said that Kevin's return was by no means a foregone conclusion this year: "Before deciding whether to turn Kevin into a trilogy, we had a big debate and researched many different ideas… but commercially there was just no choice. There was overwhelming love and demand for Kevin."
So will he grace our screens for a fourth year? With retailing changing so rapidly, it is far too early to tell, Price said – although he conceded that "the pressure starts in January". And with arch-rival Lidl having appointed a new agency to start its own 2019 advertising offensive, that pressure will be greater than ever.
In a very close second in our list of most-liked Christmas ads is Sainsbury’s spot that features the now-famous "plug boy". It begins with a nervous girl singing on stage, before the curtains behind her open to reveal an energetic school play. The ad, by Wieden & Kennedy London, is second by a narrow margin – it achieved a 54% score.
In third place is Asda’s offering in which Santa Claus sets off a cannonball to launch a snowy downhill race to a young girl’s home, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. It gained a score of 48%.
John Lewis & Partners' film, which took a different approach this year and featured Elton John, came fourth with a score of 45%, while Boots, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer shared fifth position.
Best-liked 2018 Christmas ads
This table shows the winning TV brands in the likeability battle of the Christmas ad break.