John Lewis wins first round of Christmas ad battle

Strong engagement helped John Lewis see off strong competition from both Marks & Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s in the first week of the Christmas ad battle but Asda and Lidl had a disappointing start.

John Lewis Christmas campaign about a boy and his penguin friend is topping the ad charts

According to 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 43. That puts it ahead of M&S’s fairies-themed ad on 42 and Sainsbury’s on 39.

John Lewis and M&S actually come in neck and neck in eight of the 10 parameters measured, but John Lewis pulled ahead in terms of engagement. John Lewis earned a score of 5 for engagement and standout, while M&S fell behind with scores of 4 in both categories.

This is mirrored in figures from WeAreSocial, which measured social media mentions in the three days after the ads’ respective launch dates. For John Lewis, the montythepenguin hashtag was used 146,674 times, with the misspelt phrase #montythepengiun being used a further 5,131 times.

That means John Lewis’ Christmas campaign garnered six times as many mentions as Sainsbury’s #christmasisforsharing and 10 times as many as M&S’s #followthefairies.

M&S wins out for originality

Where M&S loses out to John Lewis in engagement, it partly makes up for the shortfall in originality. Here M&S scored 4 out of 5 for “differentiation” while John Lewis came in at 3 out of 5.

“While the John Lewis ad is undoubtedly appealing, the originality of ‘cute-story, old-song-rearranged-and-sung-by-contemporary-singer, tear-jerker’ is beginning to feel formulaic to some even if they have had the class to scale back from cinema-launching it,” says Waggener Edstrom.

Sainsbury’s ad about the World War I Christmas day truce scored strongly across a number of metrics. However, controversy over the subject matter that saw people debating whether it was appropriate to use the First World War to “sell Christmas” pulled down its sentiment score.

Waggener said there was a “relatively even split” between people describing the ad as “beautiful” and “disrespectful”, giving it a score of 3. The Advertising Standards Authority received 240 complaints within 48 hours of the ad’s TV debut and is now considering whether to investigate.

The Christmas losers

Asda and Lidl are currently losing the Christmas ad battle with scores in the Brand Agility Index of just 27. Waggener Edstrom says Lidl’s Christmas showing is particularly disappointing, with their ad creative and social presence disconnected (their Twitter feed is talking about Christmas jumpers, not the quality of their food) and it has so far created low levels of interest.

Tesco is also struggling for engagement, with its story of a Christmas light display failing to create much chatter beyond the Wigan store where it was filmed.

The ultimate judge of the success of the Christmas ads will of course be sales over the festive period. So far there is little data on this, but John Lewis has said that sales of penguin merchandise have been better than expected while it also seems to have had an impact on sales of penguin biscuits at Waitrose.

At Sainsbury’s, sales of the chocolate bar that features in the ad have reached 5,000 an hour, with 50p in every £1 spent going to the Royal British Legion.

The full results are below:

John Lewis – 43
M&S – 42
Sainsbury’s – 39
Boots – 35
Waitrose – 35
Iceland – 30
Tesco – 29
Morrisons – 28
Lidl – 27
Asda – 27