Iceland’s No Palm Oil ad has been crowned the most powerful advert of 2018 among a roster of ads that have this year has seen Elton John play a piano, Kevin the Carrot fight a parsnip and a child dressed as a plug launch himself into his socket.
According to Kantar Millward Brown’s annual consumer research into the effectiveness of Christmas advertising campaigns, smaller-scale, more relatable stories won through over the epic blockbusters this year, with Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Tesco, Boots and Amazon all performing better than John Lewis and Sainsbury’s.
Iceland’s controversial ad was best-received overall, with consumers scoring it top on 10 of the 12 factors including ‘involvement’, ‘brand love’, ‘enjoyment’, ‘persuasion’, ‘relevant’ and ‘different from others’.
Iceland also saw a large 29 point improvement in ‘offline influence’ (the degree to which consumer influencers are talking about it offline).
Ads from 22 brands and retailers were tested against 12 key factors: branding, involvement, enjoyment, made me love (brand), sets the trends, persuasion, new information, different information, relevant information, believable information, different from others, delivers main things I need. Eleven of the factors are scored on a scale of one-to-five, while ‘involvement’ is scored on a scale of one-to-10.
All 12 factors are proven to motivate people to buy and help build a strong brand in the long term.
The bigger more cinematic ads offer escapism, but may have seemed out of touch.
Graham Page, Kantar Millward Brown
Amazon’s Can You Feel It came a very close second, with the return of the singing boxes scoring well on engagement and relevance, while M&S’s product-focused food ad scored highly across all measures.
With a combination of emotional and rational messages, Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot and the Wicked Parsnip scored second-highest overall in ‘enjoyment’.
While John Lewis’s The Boy and the Piano blockbuster starring Elton John scored fairly well in ‘enjoyment’, ‘involvement’ and ‘brand love’, consumers felt the ad lacked relevance and credibility, and facial coding indicated that it failed to capture the feelgood factor of previous John Lewis spots.
Sainsbury’s The Big Night also performed highly on ‘enjoyment’ and ‘brand love’, but from consumers’ perspective it did not feel credible or have a strong enough link to what the brand does.
‘Big doesn’t mean best’
Viewers responded best to simpler, more traditional ideas and ‘real’ scenarios with families enjoying meals together and giving meaningful gifts, such as in Boots’s ‘Gifts that Get Them’.
These ads scored higher than those presenting a ‘fantasy’ Christmas, or which communicate a grand message.
The results also show that telling the right story well still works, but only if the story is clearly linked to Christmas and gives a starring role to the brand or retailer and what it does.
“This year the best-received ads are those consumers feel capture what Christmas should be about, which for many is simply families and friends coming together and having a good time,” explains Graham Page, managing director of offer and innovation at Kantar Millward Brown.
“These depict realistic, straightforward scenarios, and focus on giving gifts that have meaning, rather than costing a lot. This is partly driven by the tough times we’re in, and the increased awareness of the need to live more sustainably. The bigger more cinematic ads offer escapism, but may have seemed out of touch. Ads need to tap into the cultural and social reality.”
Facial coding results
Analysis of consumers’ facial expressions as they watched the ads revealed that Iceland’s is the most emotionally complex ad of the year – eliciting everything from frowns to surprise, sadness and smiles. Boots’ ad also generated a wide range of expressions due to the narrative including a number of highs and lows.
M&S’s ‘food porn’ continues to play well; its Christmas pud was a big hit with viewers, as were the stars of its ‘Must-Haves’ campaign, Holly Willoughby and David Gandy.
The Morrisons ad is another example of a small story landing well, with the moment when the boy asks “did you get everything you asked for?” and his mum looks around the Christmas dinner table receiving strong positive emotional reactions.
Smiles were much more muted for John Lewis, however, with viewers mostly finding it surprising and confusing.