November 24, 2020

How Christmas ad marketing strategies for brands have changed

Christmas as we all know will be different this year and the major consumer brands, who have become ‘famous’ for their Christmas ad campaigns, have also encompassed this change in mood. The majority have said goodbye to the traditional Christmas messaging of  spend, spend, spend and gone with a very different tone. A lot of people have been hit hard financially this year, and brands had to take that into account – and their focus has become the act of kindness.

Some friends and families will still be able to get together over the festive period but not every country or area will have the same rules, due to restrictions in place to protect each other. Therefore, Christmas ad campaigns needed to include an extra touch of thoughtfulness and togetherness. Gifts may still be bought, and there will be meaning behind them, while for some, simply being in the same room as a grandparent or on a virtual call with them, will be meaningful enough.

Getting the tone right for these campaigns has taken a lot of thought from the companies and the agencies who work for them. The tone needed to match how people will be feeling while still being true to the company’s core brand values.  This has led to a great number of the companies concentrating on showing their valued customers that they value kindness and togetherness over everything else this year.

We have taken a look at some of these campaigns and the thinking behind what will be a very different year from those that have gone before.

John Lewis

This season, the John Lewis campaign focuses on kindness rather than gift-giving. The ad, which is always a perfect ratio of emotion, joy and nostalgia, features nine different types of creative delivered by different artists, offering support to the creative industry that has struggled throughout the course of the pandemic. ‘Give a Little Love’, which says it all in the title, is a chain of giving, with each scene connected to the next.

“The first was fear of being the Grinch that stole Christmas. And secondly, we talked to our two charity partners (FareShare and Home-Start) that said the gift of awareness is beyond the gift of financial support.” said Peter Cross, director of customer experience for Waitrose and John Lewis.

The go-to Christmas advert and company behind it has promised to be a much stronger force for good. Inspired by the response of the British public to the pandemic during the first wave and the ‘acts of kindness‘, this advert is sure to resonate with people across the country.


Boots is another company that has centred its Christmas advert around acts of kindness. The ‘What the World Needs Now’ campaign focuses on the importance of hygiene, and that not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to essentials such as soap and shower gel.

Committed to helping, Boots will provide hygiene essentials to millions of people living in hygiene poverty in the UK, while also also urging customers to donate what they can to combat the issue.

Coca Cola

When we first see the Coca Cola Christmas ad, we know the festive period has started. This year, the soft drink giant has created an emotional ad that pulls on the heartstrings. Titled ‘The Letter’, the advert tells the story of a father on a desperate mission to give his daughter’s letter to Santa, only for Santa to give him a lift home, and handing back the letter. The heartwarming message behind this ad? His daughter just wanted him back home for Christmas. This truly affirms the message that it’s who you can spend Christmas with, rather than what you receive.

Coca-Cola explains: “This Christmas, give something only you can give. Be it in person, over an awkward video call, or just a quick message, making time for the ones you love is what makes Christmas truly the most special time of year, no matter how you do it. Wherever you are, we hope you have a good one. Merry Christmas.”


The McDonald’s Christmas advert is one that will resonate with many parents. ‘Inner Child’, which has the soundtrack ‘Forever Young’, tells the story of a mother desperately trying to encourage her teenage son to take part in the family fun leading up to Christmas. The ad ends with the son remembering the reindeer treats from McDonalds, and together with his mother, placing them in front of the fire, ready for the reindeers to tuck into when they deliver his presents with Santa.

“Our heartwarming tale of Tom and his mum aims to reignite the magic of Christmas across the UK and Ireland this winter,” says Michelle Graham-Clare, Vice President, Menu and Marketing. “That moment as the pair reconnect over the reindeer treats, saved from their trip through the Drive Thru, represents the common truth of children determined to grow up but swept up by the festive spirit. I am sure it is a feeling that will be familiar to so many families and in this year we are proud to be spreading some much-needed Christmas cheer with this multi-channel campaign.”


Another Christmas ad that is certain to tug on the heartstrings is Disney’s. Inspired by traditions and family togetherness that is much-needed this year, the animation explores the relationship between a gran and her granddaughter. The company wanted to focus on family and nostalgia, as it believes these two notions would resonate with people all over the world.

“We knew having a story that placed tradition and togetherness at its heart would make it feel relevant and relatable to people all over the world,” says Angela Affinita, Brand and Creative Marketing Director at Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing in EMEA. Pointing to the fact that amid the pandemic a focus on these was “more crucial than ever” for the brand.

Wherever you are this Christmas, and whoever you get to spend it with, we hope these adverts have underlined the fact that this year it is not about material goods, but in fact the things that cost nothing – kindness, family, friendships and thoughtfulness. If you think there are any other particularly stand out adverts this festive period we would love to hear your thoughts – let us know. We know we all love a good Christmas ad!