Coke's 'Holidays are coming' outperforms all of this year's new Christmas ads

However the brand’s new ad by Taika Waititi, ‘The letter’, was one of the next-best performers in Kantar study.

Holidays are coming: ad is often described as the 'unofficial start of Christmas'
Holidays are coming: ad is often described as the 'unofficial start of Christmas'

Coca-Cola’s long-running Christmas ad “Holidays are coming” has outperformed 19 of this year’s festive spots in consumer response research from Kantar – including the brand’s own high-profile new film.

“Holidays are coming” finished top in seven out of 10 measures in the study, which evaluated the reactions of more than 3,000 consumers.

On two of these – the ads most likely to cause viewers to remember the brand, and create branded memories – it received a percentile score of 100, meaning it is in the top 1% of all ads in Kantar’s database.

Coke’s latest film “The letter”, created by Wieden & Kennedy and directed by Taika Waititi, was one of the next best performers, scoring 99 on those same two measures (meaning it is in the top 2% of all ads), and ranking second in another three measures, including long-term return potential.

When the scores across all 10 measures are averaged out, “The letter” was the third-strongest ad, behind Disney+ spot “Make Christmas wonderful”, which comfortably led the pack on the question “Will it be immediately motivating in the short term?” (The study did not include Disney’s well-received brand film "From our family to yours", which finished top of a ranking from Unruly).

Among the big retailers, the best performers were Tesco and Aldi. Tesco’s “No naughty list” finished first on ability to make viewers feel emotional with a score of 100 – though it was a measure in which most of the ads included did well, with Amazon, Argos and TK Maxx all scoring 99.

Tesco also finished in the top three for being enjoyable, engaging and well branded. Aldi’s latest adventure for Kevin the Carrot, “Long way from home”, also made the top three on four of the 10 measures.

Sainsbury’s, in contrast, performed poorly, with both of the two ads included – “Perfect portions” (the worst performer) and “Gravy song” – landing right at the bottom of the pile.

Both received scores above 70 on emotional impact, but did badly across all other measures, with “Perfect portions” averaging a score of just 16 across the 10 meausures, placing it in the bottom fifth of all ads.

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners’ “Give a little love”, meanwhile, was in the bottom half of the list, scoring below 50 on all measures apart from being enjoyable (69) and making people feel emotional (93). The outcomes were similar for McDonald’s ad “Inner child”.

“Getting it right this Christmas was always going to be tough, as brands and creative agencies tentatively walked the tone of voice tightrope,” Lynne Deason, head of creative excellence at Kantar UK, said.

“But this year’s Christmas ads show us that there are many ways to crack the Christmas advertising effectiveness nut. The top performing ads use very different approaches, including nostalgia, escapism, humour and fantasy.

“Sadly, though, it’s not all joyful; the least-effective ads are upsetting people in view of the current crisis. Any attempt to reference coronavirus was always going to be tricky. Some brands have triumphed, while others, although very well intentioned, have been misunderstood.”

Kantar suggested that Sainsbury’s two spots had failed to resonate because “while well intentioned, with the idea that we can all enjoy Christmas no matter the circumstances, the message is misunderstood or misinterpreted. People find it hard to relate to (because the stories are so personal), unrealistic and depressing.”

It also noted that a number of retailers – including John Lewis/Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons – had featured charity partnerships in their ads this year, but that these had been missed by many viewers.

In contrast, it said that Walkers’ ad “Sausage CaRoll” – one of the best performers in being attention-grabbing and memorable – had conveyed its partnership with The Trussell Trust very clearly.

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Simon Gwynn

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