It’s time for advertisers to think imaginatively beyond Christmas – and I don’t mean New Year. Other celebrations have considerable commercial value. And even in today’s Brexit-straitened times, brands that recognise that the diversity of our nation is baked in and not a passing fad have much to gain.
Yes, Christmas is the traditional advertising playground for brands with mega bucks and this year is no exception. Brands are forecast to spend a whopping £6.8bn in the run-up to 25 December. But it’s also saturated due to so many advertisers looking to make the bulk of their annual sales by piggybacking consumers’ propensity to spend in the festive "last quarter" – so much so that media is at a premium.
For many, the struggle is to see a way to compete with the noise generated by John Lewis & Partners and other retailers as they launch their Christmas campaigns. But all is not lost. For there are plenty of other spending peaks in British shoppers’ calendar where the "ethnically diverse celebration pound" is readily available.
Events such as Eid al-Adha. Yom Kippur. Diwali. And, outside of religion, the likes of Chinese New Year and the Notting Hill Carnival. All these and more provide opportunities for brands to play a role in people’s lives not just for a few days a year but all year around. On top of that, when you are targeting a minority – albeit often a considerable one – digital media’s targeting effectiveness and smaller budgets mean lavish TV investment on the John Lewis scale just isn’t necessary.
Advertisers won’t have to wait long into 2020 either. Sikhs celebrate Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday on 5 January, accompanied by food, prayers and singing. Hindus rejoice at Rama Navami on 2 April – a great opportunity for community events and charitable contributions. And then Ramadan month begins on 24 April – an event all too often overlooked by mainstream retailers that miss out on the chance to help Muslims celebrate with friends and family as they enjoy traditional food and gifts.
To some extent, brands’ preoccupation with Christmas is understandable. In the current climate, brand owners might feel it’s a risk to recognise and celebrate the global nature of our nation. But Brexit Britain should not be a reason to ignore the multicultural and multi-ethnic opportunities on offer. For the diversity of our nation is not some zeitgeisty trend. Rather, it has always been the case, given our history as a sea-faring, trading nation.
With this in mind, it’s encouraging to see calls for brands to invest more heavily in culturally relevant advertising throughout the year.
Sky, for one, has urged marketers to be "braver" in targeting specific ethnic audiences and offered £50,000 of airtime to the brand that best embraces "cultural relevance". Focusing on the opportunity of targeting British Asians, Sky’s head of multicultural, Debarshi Pandit, said: "77% of British Asians feel mainstream advertising has no relevance to them – that’s four million people. This should be a wake-up call to advertisers."
Of course, it’s important that advertisers work to identify the real commercial outcomes of this activity. And, in doing so, it’s worth noting that many products and services from other countries and cultures have the potential to break through into a wider, mainstream audience.
First, it was chicken masala and tonic water. But then it was multicultural hair and skincare imports and the boom in sales of kombucha (drawing companies including Red Bull and PepsiCo into the market) and kimchi (driving the wider popularity of fermented foodstuffs already popular in countries such as South Korea) more recently.
So it’s time that advertisers look beyond Christmas and think more imaginatively about all the other celebrations that have commercial value. For brave brands willing to lead the way by demonstrating their values of inclusion and celebrating the positives that an open door to our nation can bring, there is a real opportunity here.
Zaid Al-Zaidy is group chief executive of The Beyond Collective