Christmas 2016: Marketing Week picks the best (and worst) campaigns

With Christmas ad season well and truly under way, the Marketing Week team picks their favourite ads and the ones that leave them feeling cold.


Michael Barnett, print editor

Cracker: Sainsbury’s
I hate this ad: it’s far too long, the song is annoyingly repetitive and I think James Corden really does believe that the greatest gift you could ever give is him. But like Gio Compario for GoCompare, it sticks in the mind and from what I can tell the investment in prime media is huge, so I’d be surprised if it doesn’t deliver the biggest seasonal sales increase of all the brands doing big-budget ads this Christmas.

Turkey: Asda
I’m not the first to tell Asda it’s going to take more than price to end its struggles and get shoppers back in stores, especially at Christmas when they have a reason to focus more than usual on quality instead. So it’s suicidal that not only are product and price virtually the only focus of Asda’s ads, but the 20-second spots, or “moments”, also seem designed to be ignored. There’s no brand salience and I can see even habitual Asda shoppers being tempted elsewhere.

Sarah Vizard, news editor

Cracker: M&S
It takes a brave retailer to admit it might have got some aspects of its Christmas marketing wrong in the past, but that is just what Marks & Spencer did this year. And having finally sat down and listened to what its customers want from its marketing, not what former boss Marc Bolland might have wanted to portray about the brand, it has got everything right with its tale of Mrs Claus.

mrs claus

She is modern, fun and sassy just like M&S’s core customer. And the tale at the heart of the campaign just pulls on the heartstrings enough to make you yearn for Christmas Day. The big brand campaign combined with its hugely successful more product focused ads should mean M&S sales, for the food business at least, come out on top this Christmas. And don’t be surprised if clothing does a little better than many were expecting.

Turkey: Asda
Oh Asda. Having been the darling of the supermarket industry a little over 18 months ago it now cannot seem to get anything right. And I can’t see this campaign helping to turn things around either. I don’t watch a lot of TV but I have seen almost everyone else’s on my screen. I’ve not noticed Asda’s, which either means its media spend has been miniscule or I’ve turned off before realising it is Asda’s ad.

Asda is a retailer in need of something big to turn things around this Christmas. This ad campaign isn’t it.

Lucy Tesseras, features editor

Cracker: John Lewis
Having not been a huge fan of John Lewis’s latest sentimental Christmas tearjerkers it was a welcome relief to see a slobbering dog bouncing on a trampoline in Buster the Boxer. The brand was wise to move away from the predictable format and instead focus on something altogether more uplifting, especially at a time when there is so much uncertainty in the world.

The fact everything in the ad – including the posse of woodland creatures and Buster himself – are available to purchase extends the legacy of the ad and reinforces John Lewis’s status as the top dog at Christmas. However, what makes the ad even better is watching other dogs share in Buster’s joy over on YouTube.

Turkey: Aldi
Aldi’s Christmas offering this year is terrifying. Borrowing from Seth Rogan’s movie Sausage Party, which tells the story of Frank the sausage who discovers what really happens to food after it leaves the supermarket, the ad follows Kevin the carrot on his quest to find Father Christmas. But it’s not the heartwarming tale you might hope for at Christmas. Kevin’s face when he stumbles across one of his relatives chopped into a baton and left for dead by the side of the turkey is horrifying, as is the moment his back gets shaved by an ill-placed grater. He also gets chased by a potato boulder and set on fire before being taken by Santa as bait to make Rudolph fly faster. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Thomas Hobbs, news reporter

Cracker: Waitrose
Even if John Lewis has stolen the lion’s share of headlines, it is Waitrose that has the best animal ad this Christmas. Showing the epic journey of a Robin in the wild, the ad has believable CGI opposed to the bad video game effects of some of those animals on the trampoline.

And the parting shot – of the robin being reunited with a teenage girl that feeds him mince pies – will easily convince people to trade up at Waitrose for food. It tugs on the heart strings emotionally, but not in an over-indulgent kind of way, and left this cynic smiling.

Turkey: Lidl
Lidl Surprises has been a massive success over the last few years and the decision taken in the summer to spotlight anti-advocates looked very clever. But unfortunately Lidl’s Christmas ad not only features a lot of turkeys but feels a bit like one as well.

While I’m not doubting the logic in convincing the public that Lidl sells sustainably sourced meat, hearing the story of a field full of joyous turkeys only to then see one carried out on a plate for carving was a ‘before and after’ I really didn’t need. Whereas Aldi’s carrot would have left most viewers entertained, Lidl’s turkeys left me feeling a bit mournful at the idea of my Christmas dinner plate. RIP feathery dudes. I hope there’s apples in heaven.

Leonie Roderick, news reporter

Cracker: Sainsbury’s
When it comes to creating a Christmas campaign to win over the masses, a good old sing-a-long goes a long way. This is why Sainsbury’s might be on to a winner with its ‘The Greatest Gift’ ad. The message is uplifting, and with a soundtrack produced by Flight of the Concords’ Brett McKenzie it can’t go far wrong.

Turkey: Tesco
Tesco decided to stick with what it already knew for this year’s festivities, with Ruth Jones and Ben Miller making another appearance in its Christmas campaign. The grocer had previously made the decision to dump the family’s fictional son, Freddie, as he was too annoying for viewers.

Sadly, I can’t seem to warm to the rest of the family either. And compared to the other grocers’ efforts, the whole campaign simply seems a little bland.

Charlotte Rogers, features writer

Cracker: Burberry
Burberry pulled out all the stops to celebrate its 160th anniversary with this lavish, cinematic tale boasting the top-notch production values to rival any Hollywood blockbuster. Enlisting the help of Oscar winning British director Asif Kapadia, Burberry travels back in time to meet brand founder Thomas Burberry, played by Domhnall Gleeson, as he introduces his revolutionary trench fabric to the world.


The period style feels very in keeping with the slew of TV dramas on air this year, including Amazon Studios’ The Collection, the BBC’s War & Peace and the forthcoming Netflix series The Queen. While it might not be the most obviously festive, the Burberry Christmas advert is certainly the most accomplished and visually stunning you are likely to see this year.

Turkey: House of Fraser
Opting for the vaguely threatening tagline ‘Christmas is coming for you’, House of Fraser has decided to go all out for the 2016 festive season – even if that means raiding a child’s dressing up box to grab attention.

Between the neon pink dry ice, glitter, gold body paint, lightning, giant chess pieces and frantic dance routines it is a real challenge to actually see the product. Each image flits by in a matter of seconds, and while this does reflect the ‘festive whirlwind’, the overall effect is dizzying to keep up with. Meanwhile Laura Mvula’s sped up, remixed version of The Fugees ‘Ready or Not’ leaves me cold.

This advert lacks the heart of rivals like Marks & Spencer or the comic touch of John Lewis, and in trying to be all things to all people has the sense of being a bit out of touch.