Brands that put social ‘at the heart’ of campaigns winning Christmas ad battle

John Lewis and Marks & Spencer’s have retained their positions as the top two retailers in the Christmas ad battle with their integrated campaigns that put social ‘at the heart’ beating out rivals, according to a new report.

M&S’s Christmas campaign is its most digital yet.


According to communications agency Waggener Edstrom’s Brand Agility index, which measured a range of metrics including engagement, originality, differentiation and relevance over the past 30 days, John Lewis’ campaign about a boy and his friendship with a penguin managed a score of 44 in the third week since the campaign launched, a point above where it was two weeks ago. That means it stays ahead of M&S’s fairies-themed ad on 42 and Sainsbury’s on 38.

Waggener Edstrom says John Lewis and M&S are “showing other retail brands how to do it [an integrated campaign]”, with strong content creation and audience interaction and quick responses. The creation of characters – for John Lewis the two penguins Monty and Mabel and for M&S the two fairies – for the campaigns and introduction of their own Twitter feeds has proved “enormously successful”, helping boost engagement with audiences.

That has helped them win share of voice on social media, with John Lewis seeing 200,283 mentions of its #MontythePenguin hashtag in November according to figures from We Are Social. In second place was Sainsbury’s with 33,819 mentions of #ChristmasIsForSharing while M&S’s #followthefairies had 24,520.

“John Lewis and M&S are demonstrating how to create an integrated campaign which may lead at first through above-the-line but which soon has digital at its heart, going beyond the initial splash to maintain ongoing dialogue,” says Waggener Edstrom.

Social media engagement


Waitrose and Lidl have also used social media to their advantage, helping to boost their Brand Agility scores. Waitrose saw its score increase by three points over the past two weeks as it launched its #bakeitforward campaign, which Waggener says has seen strong engagement on Twitter and Facebook and “generally good sentiment”.

Lidl’s score also increased to 29 this week, from 27 and bottom of the pile in week one. The discount grocer has used its #lidlsurprises tagline across social media where other brands have resorted to “generic Christmas conversations”.

Sainsbury’s, while maintaining third position, has seen its score slip from a high of 40 in week two to 38 in week three. While the ad creative and the controversy around it – the Advertising Standards Authority received 727 complaints about the ad – helped boost engagement initially it is struggling to maintain that interest, says the report.

The losers

At the other end of the table, Iceland has cemented its position at the bottom by seeming “unwilling or unable” to get involved in conversations on social media, meaning its scores poorly in terms of engagement and speed of response.

“The big question now is, as the campaigns all enter their second three-week phase, how will they maintain some sense of integrated momentum? For now it seems the brands with characters which people can engage with are going to be very difficult to overcome,” says Waggener.

The full results

John Lewis – 44
M&S – 42
Sainsbury’s – 38
Waitrose – 38
Boots – 33
Lidl – 29
Tesco – 28
Asda – 28
Morrisons – 27
Iceland  – 25



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