All I want for Christmas is.... a mobile-first ad campaign
A view from Chris Hicks

All I want for Christmas is.... a mobile-first ad campaign

Chris Hicks reviews a selection from this year's crop of Christmas ads through a mobile-first lens.

Mobile search is overtaking desktop search globally. The reality is that many individuals will forgo the stresses of the entire Christmas shopping experience in favour of shopping almost entirely digitally.

Bearing this in mind, will there be a "best before" date in sight for brands investing the bulk of their ad budgets in TV advertising?

We need to reconsider where mobile sits within the hierarchy of the Christmas ad experience.

Christmas campaigns are high impact, brand-led, event-based happenings, which rival blockbuster movie releases and major news items in their cultural impact.

However, they still have a focus on TV as the primary form of communication rather than engaging in a two way communication in mobile or social media.

It's telling that most of the Christmas campaigns debuted in the same premium TV spots they've been using for the last ten years. And without a mobile destination (beyond bricks and mortar) it’s realistic to consider that without delivering high quality brand experience across all platforms a brand could be missing out on reaching a slice of its audience.

As audiences increasingly move their consumption from the prescribed TV schedule to a world where they determine when, where and how they consume event-media, we’ve reconsidered this year’s current crop of Christmas ads through a mobile-first lens.

John Lewis "Buster the boxer"

Britain’s best loved and most shared campaign every Christmas, John Lewis has once again produced a brilliant ad which was a clear winner in social media on day of its launch.

There were mobile-friendly videos rolled out to tease creative, leading to parody videos making use of the hashtag. Consumers were also treated to an Oculus rift headset in store, 360 experiences on YouTube, Snapchat lenses and filters and Twitter stickers.

However, this is still a similar ad template to ten years ago. The centrepiece is the TV ad, with mobile acting as an amplifier, but the template of the John Lewis Christmas Ad overpowers the messaging at its core – John Lewis is about family.

As the John Lewis student project spoof proved, the execution is more of a draw than the messaging, which is overshadowed.

In the mobile world, consumers put authenticity above anything else. Snapchat is 2016's top success, a platform sharing raw short-form footage. Raw footage seems ‘real’ and these days the "message" is what really matters.

Mobile can be used to help brands connect with the consumer on a deeper level – while families sit together at Christmas, physically they are all on their mobiles. A brand like John Lewis could take advantage of this to enhance a family’s Christmas with mobile games branded to the creative.

M&S "Christmas with love from Mrs Claus"

This is a glossy ad, with a lovely message. Its focus on a female protagonist makes it stand out against other Santa ads and it targets the heads of household who are making Christmas happen.

However, in terms of media, it was rolled out in a very traditional way, airing as Gogglebox’s first ad break. This was supported by social media takeovers, Mrs Claus experiential in stores and Channel 4 sponsored content with C4 stars and Mrs Claus.

The above works for its audience but underestimates the rate of change in consumption behaviours across all age groups (and not just millennials). Realistically, next year how many people will be watching Gogglebox in-schedule, versus on-demand where they’ll skip through the ads. How many already jump on their tablet or phone when the ad break comes on?

While TV still works and should form an important part of execution, a campaign predominantly featuring on television spots needs to consider the new behaviours a mobile-first world has ushered in.

With tablets saturating the market and attention spans short, it’s only a matter of time that the behaviour of mobile millennials become the norm with everyone.

M&S's social strategy involved a Q&A with Mrs Claus over Twitter. The invitation to "Come to Twitter at 4pm to talk to Mrs Claus" required audiences to go to the ad.

Mobile audiences expect experiences to be on-demand. Instead of having an official Mrs Claus Q&A, why not use the social platform to create a Mrs Claus hashtag, where any woman could be a Mrs Claus, inviting all to respond to queries or questions, using the hashtag? It would certainly bring back more of the authenticity to the campaign.

Boots "The gift of beauty"

Boots has moved from a product-orientated strategy to personal storytelling. The campaign is compelling and has an important message, with real-life stories and workers featured. This gloss-free, personalised execution seems tailor made for mobile.

However, its mobile presence is somewhat lacking. The campaign would benefit from a supporting series of short-form, snackable mobile videos, further disseminating its easy-to-comprehend message.

The videos currently on Twitter are lost in a product orientated feed. Dedicated channels to Christmas campaigns and specific executions are a must, to keep the message and purpose pure.

More to the point, its "Everywoman" message (reinforced by the Everyone is Free Kylie soundtrack) is limited to those in the ad. The many other stories people have about women who deserve special credit over Christmas remain untold. It's a one-way message; Boots talking to its audience, rather than listening to them.

Mobile would be the ideal connector here. A mobile site with a social hashtag and even an experiential pop-up pampering store could encourage consumers to share and tell their own version of the Boots stories? For such a personal campaign, the most personal medium is neglected.

Lidl however is an example of a brand that has nailed its social and mobile offering this Christmas. The idea of its Social Price Drop has kept consumers engaged, allowing them to dictate the prices of their favoured Christmas by products by tweeting at the retailer. Without a TV ad in sight.

Burberry "The tale of Thomas Burberry"

Out of all the big names this Christmas, Burberry played into the Christmas-ad-as-event-hype more than any other. It featured Hollywood stars and generated huge buzz online. Behind the scenes content supplemented the work and partially catered to the influx of fans demanding more content from the campaign.

The reaction may have taken Burberry by surprise (which could account for the lack of other supporting materials for the campaign.) But with the lavish productions and A-list cast, they had licence to be bolder.

Full scale feature film launches use every mobile format on the market to enforce awareness in the weeks up to launch, with teaser content, cast and crew interviews, and interactive rich media solutions designed to create viral opportunities.

The Burberry story is at the centre of this campaign too, a compelling story full of history, information and intrigue. A mobile experience – website, rich media content – to enforce the mystery and information, would work wonders for the campaign.

Chris Hicks is the creative services director at Fetch.