John Lewis winning Christmas ad battle as ‘big four’ struggle

New data shows ad campaigns that generate social buzz, as well as a popular TV ad, are performing well with consumers this festive season.


John Lewis is way ahead in the Christmas ad battle this year as its popular TV ad featuring Buster the Boxer (above) and buzz on social media translates to high consumer engagement.

Thanks to the Buster the Boxer campaign, John Lewis has clocked up an impressive 203,199 mentions across social media since 4 November, according to Waggener Edstrom [WE] Communication’s brand agility index. To put this number into perspective, the closest competitor is M&S with 43,376 mentions.

Read more: Christmas 2016: Marketing Week’s best (and worst) campaigns

On the other end of the scale, the likes of Asda, Boots and Debenhams have all struggled for social buzz, generating just 3,411, 2,223 and 1,578 mentions respectively.

WE’s index is compiled by ranking brands out of five in areas including a campaign’s scalability, relevance, the speed in which it responds on social media, engagement, originality, personalisation and sentiment. WE achieves this by analysing all conversations and engagement levels from brands across news, blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and comments on YouTube during the festive period.

Brand Number of mentions [4 November to 20 November]
John Lewis 203,199
Marks & Spencer 43,376
Sainsbury’s 41,773
Waitrose 33,843
Aldi 12,457
Argos 10,031
Tesco 7,553
Iceland 4,730
Morrisons 4,047

With a score of 108, John Lewis is the most engaging Christmas marketing campaign out of a list of 15 retailers. Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot is also resonating with the discounter not too far behind with a score of 96 and way ahead rival Lidl’s score of 70. Aldi is closely followed by M&S (92) and Argos (80).

Gareth Davies, head of digital and insight at WE, praises Aldi’s approach of prioritising customers over the festive period.

“Aldi is working hard to answer as many tweets as possible. However, the brand is not just posting generic responses with each response tailored to the specific post in question and every answer seems to clearly articulate the cheeky Aldi brand character and narrative. Even when customers are apparently criticising the brand’s Christmas advert creative, the brand is responding in a humorous and sometimes self-depreciating way.”

Some of the worst performing brands are the big four supermarkets. Although it had only launched one ad from its Christmas campaign during the period of scoring, the early signs aren’t great for Tesco with a score of just 70.

Morrisons’ focus on family moments, meanwhile, has resulted in an even lower score of 65. And after spending millions on a big-budget CGI production, Sainsbury’s might be disappointed that it is currently sits behind Waitrose, Argos, M&S and Aldi.

Christmas advertising: The full list of 15 retail bands shows John Lewis is ahead

And according to Davies, the likes of Debenhams and Currys PC World are struggling due to rehashing old ideas and focusing too much on Black Friday.

He explains: “There is the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, Debenhams has clearly taken this to heart and has relaunched a successful tactic from Christmas 2015. It’s #FoundIt tactic where it asks customers to post photos of the perfect gift for the ones they love. While this approach helped Debenhams stand out last year, it seems that its fans and customers are having creative fatigue and we’re seeing lower levels of engagement and lower personalisation scores than in the previous years.

“And in terms of Currys, well, it clearly needs to focus a lot of time and effort on driving Black Friday sales, but they also need to keep their eyes on the bigger prize and also not lose sight of having to push the brand beyond Black Friday and well into December.”