Warburtons’ Muppets campaign is the Christmas TV ad ‘most likely’ to result in a purchase

Warburtons’ campaign ‘The Giant Crumpet Show’ has been crowned the most successful Christmas TV ad of 2015 as new research shows that consumers are falling out of love with Christmas advertising clichés and that brands should instead look to make sure their ads are relevant to their brand message.

According to research by Millward Brown, viewers found the ad, which sees the likes of Kermit and Miss Piggy promoting the brand’s new Giant Crumpet product, the most engaging as it scored consistently highly across 12 categories.

The ad scored highest on involvement (whether the ad made the viewer feel a part of it), with its score of 7.16 out of 10, well above the average of 4.53. It also scored highest on branding (4.5 out of 5) and on persuasion (3.5/5) – the ability to persuade consumers to buy.

The top 10 Christmas ads for persuasion (resulting in a purchase)
1. Warburtons = 3.49
2. Cadbury = 3.43
3. Argos = 3.33
4. PayPal = 3.31
5. Lidl = 3.17
6. Asda / Debenhams = 3.15
7. Cadbury’s Celebrations = 3.11
8. Sainsbury’s = 3
9. Very.com / M&S = 2.99
10. John Lewis = 2.96

Millward Brown evaluated 18 TV ads, testing each with over 1,000 consumers via its AdExpress performance measurement tool across key categories such as branding, enjoyment and persuasion.

The research shows a clear trend of consumers connecting more with branded campaigns over the efforts of retailers, with Cadbury, the second strongest performer overall with its Free The Joy campaign, voted the ‘most-loved’ ad by consumers.

The TV ad was particularly strong in generating an emotive response as it scored highest on the ‘love’ category (with 3.6/5) and on enjoyment (3.8/5).

Argos, meanwhile, was voted the most improved brand, with its ‘Just Can’t Wait’ ad achieving higher scores across all 12 key categories in comparison to its 2014 effort.

Is emotion drying up?

The strong performance of Warburtons proves that emotionally charged adverts aren’t always what the audience craves, according to Amanda Phillips, UK head of marketing at Millward Brown.

“Warburtons’ success shows you don’t have to make people cry to win their hearts, or shower them with Christmas to make an impact.

“Their ad is highly branded and humourous, and cuts through the festive noise to build emotional loyalty and motivate people to buy,” she explained. “The UK public loves The Muppets and loves crumpets, and together they’re a winning formula.”

John Lewis' Christmas ad for 2015 (pictured) was lost on Lord Sugar
John Lewis’ Christmas ad for 2015 (pictured) was lost on Lord Sugar

Despite considerable hype, John Lewis’s ‘Man on the Moon’ failed to perform to the same standard as its 2014 Penguin-starring Christmas campaign, scoring lower on enjoyment, affinity (how much people liked the campaign) and persuasion.

Phillips added: “While last year’s John Lewis ad created warm and fuzzy feelings, 2015’s didn’t perform as strongly; perhaps the Man on the Moon left us a little melancholy.

“The storytelling was powerful, however, and there can be no denying the ‘buzz’ it produced.”

Moving away from Christmas clichés

Warburtons is set to continue the comedic story-led process of using celebrities to pitch ideas to chairman Jonathan Warburton in 2016. Speaking to Marketing Week, Warburtons’ marketing manager Nebula Norman said the success of the campaign hints at a wider trend.

Norman says the breadmaker is “struggling to fulfill demand” for the Giant Crumpets following the ad’s launch on 14 November, which she claims saw it generate six tweets per second that same evening.

“There is a wider trend around episodic storytelling in marketing right now, the meerkats [for Compare The Market] are doing it with their film adverts and it’s working really well for us too,” she explained.

“Continuous campaigns help consumers with gaining familiarity for a brand and allow them to pick up where they left off so brand communications feel more relevant and less intrusive.”

Nebula Norman, marketing manager, Warburtons

Ultimately, Millward Brown suggests brands should step away from familiar Christmas tropes in order to truly connect with consumers.

“Only the ads from Warburtons, PayPal, Argos and Cadbury feel different and stand out for consumers among the other Christmas advertising,” adds Phillips.

“You have to step away from Christmas to win at Christmas and by using the Muppets, Warburtons stepped away from the cliché sea of sameness of the other ads.”