Why the Christmas Video Campaign Is a Mainstay for Brands

A selection of 15 festive videos to illustrate the power of visual content and its impact on marketers during the holiday season

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Sainsbury’s set a new standard when they released their 2014 Christmas advert, inspired by real-world events that took place over 100 years ago, during WWI.

Other brands made a valiant effort a year later, like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis. They wanted to raise their game in the seasonal space. Why? Simple — Sainsbury's attracted millions of views.

Video source

So what can a well-constructed video advert bring to the table for a brand? The best way to answer this question is to look at the data:

  • 2014 — Sainsbury’s: 22 million views
  • 2015 — M&S: 2.7 million views
  • 2015 — John Lewis: 2.6 million views

As you can see Sainsbury’s 2014 ad clocked up 22 million views to date. Soon thereafter video advertising during the festive season was hot.

This article will discuss how brands are embracing video to tap into human emotion in order to connect and influence consumer sentiment.


In the past decade, video proved to be a game-changer for brands at Christmas time. Two years after the 2014 Sainsburys advert, which attracted 22 million views, John Lewis set a new standard — 44 million views.

Video source

Lily Allen’s angelic version of Keane’s song, Somewhere Only We Know, was magnified through animated videography and seasonal images.

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So, tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don’t we go?
Talk about it somewhere only we know
This could be the end of everything
So, why don’t we go?
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know

Think about it, somewhere only we know is a phrase that’s constructed to strum on basic human emotions. It conveys connection and belonging. The song is not particularly Christmasy, but the animated video is, so it works.

The Video Tsunami

Lots of brands are jumping on the video bandwagon nowadays, flooding our senses and emotions with evocative triggers like nostalgia.

According to Biteable.com,

[If] “you haven’t started video marketing yet, now is the time. With the effectiveness of traditional marketing dwindling and the popularity of video skyrocketing, video marketing has become a must-have for every business.”

A powerful statement, yes, but it’s backed up with data:

  • Hubspot found that 78% of people watch online videos every week, while 54% watch videos every day.
  • Google’s research shows that 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television.
  • YouTube states that its users view more than 1 billion hours of video each day on the platform. — Biteable.com

The metrics are undeniable, which explains why brands are crawling all over video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.

The flood gates have opened this year as more brands recognize that the Christmas video is a timely opportunity to connect with consumers.

So let's take a look at six of the best out there right now.

1. Waitrose

The advert by Waitrose celebrates kindness. The two-minute campaign displays acts of kindness. The message is that the impact of kindness can make the world a better place if we all give a little more love.

Video source

As you can see this advert captures simple moments of kindness.

2. Sainsbury’s

The marketing team at Sainsbury’s were hard at it again, only bigger and better, releasing a trilogy this year. Yes, three video ads.

The three adverts are:

The Gravy Song Sainsbury’s Advert source

This year is the first time that a big grocery brand has produced a campaign with more than one video advert for a single Christmas season.

Celebrating culinary experiences with loved ones evokes Christmas nostalgia, so they nailed it.

3. Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer’s 2020 Christmas campaign focuses on charities.

In total, this retailing goliath will produce nine adverts for this year's festive season, releasing weekly ads leading up to Christmas.

M&S Christmas food advert video source

The M&S marketing team enlisted famous names for video-voiceovers. The star-studded cast includes house-hold names like:

  • Dame Helen Mirren
  • Eddie Redmayne
  • Tom Hardy
  • Dame Julie Walters, and
  • Jeremy Irons

The best part is that each celebrity got to choose a charity close to their heart, coupled with a donation from M&S to their nominated charity.

4. Amazon

Then there’s the online retailing mammoth, Amazon. This festive advert follows a ballet dancer forced to practice at home during the lockdown.

The video features a 17-year-old French dancer, Taïs Vinolo, whose dreams of performing were canceled due to the pandemic.

Amazon Christmas ad source

With the support of her family and the local community, Vinolo got to perform to Queen’s The Show Must Go On.

5. Lidl

Lidl’s advert this year has a satirical undertone, poking fun at the more traditional food retailers.

Source: YouTube

The discount retailer retains its core value as a cost-leader market player by ensuring that price-points were included in the advert.

6. Sports Direct

2020 saw Sports Direct release its first-ever Christmas advert. A celebration of sport, health, and fitness all wrapped in an energetic mashup of activity.

Sports Direct Christmas video source

This advert adopts diversity and equality by following a young woman when her mother asked: “What do you want for Christmas?” before exploding into a collage of sports, delivered through a visual array of sporting potential.

Other Brands

There are dozens of other brands that have produced excellent video content this year and worthy of a mention, so here’s another eight.

  1. Barbour: Fashion retailer — Father Christmas To The rescue
  2. Tesco: Food retailer—No Naughty List
  3. Aldi: Discount retailer—Kevin’s Out In The Cold
  4. Asda: Food retailer— That’s An Asda Priced Christmas
  5. Zalando: Online retailer— We Will Hug Again
  6. JD Sports: Active fashion retailer — JD Wonderland
  7. Supervalu: Irish food retailer— Grandad
  8. Woodies: Irish DIY provider — Mrs. Higgins

The 14 video adverts listed above are indeed wonderful in their own right, tailored to suit each audience. But for number 15 on Santa’s list this year I’ve chosen something special and unique, so read on.

The Toy Show

In a few days' time, millions of people across Ireland will tune into our national broadcasting channel, RTE1, to watch the famous Toy Show.

RTE Christmas “Toy Show” advert source

The Late Late Toy Show started back in 1974 and has become an annual event ever since. Every Irish person knows The Toy Show — we’ve grown up with it.

Almost five decades later it continues to capture the hearts of our nation. No Irish Christmas would be the same without the spectacle known simply as The Toy Show. Don't forget to tune into Ryan this Friday.

Final Thoughts

Every year, big brands invest heavily in their Christmas campaigns. Video ads have become a competition, an event in its own right as consumers (and brands) anticipate who will create the best festive advert.

In the UK alone, Christmas advert spending this year will exceed £6 billion.

So why do brands splash out such vast sums of cash every Christmas?

Return on investment

Christmas brings a unique opportunity. According to Creativeminds.com the impact of Christmas adverts success goes way beyond the seven-week run-up to Christmas. The success of a Christmas marketing campaign can have both short-term and long-term effects in terms of sales.

Popularity creates a buzz around a brand name, a brand-buzz is generated by a creative video ad.

The impact on a brand can ripple for years. Creativeminds.com reported that John Lewis sales grew by more than 35% thanks to the success of their Christmas advertising in 2012. Likewise, research has shown that Sainsbury’s managed to generate a profit of £24 for every £1 spent on their Christmas ad campaign in 2014.

Given this level of return on investment, it’s a no-brainer that brands see the festive season as a powerful time to engage with their audience in a more meaningful way.


The only question that brand marketers need to figure out is this: What is our strategy, our campaign message?

Here are five takeaways inspired by the videos above:

  1. Humour — Lidl adopted this approach in 2020 for a festive chuckle.
  2. Emotive — In 2014 Sainsbury’s tapped into the collective emotion by paying homage to those who fought and lived during WWI.
  3. Nostalgia—There’s a reason why Coca-Cola invests in the Holidays are coming advert every year, it transcends generations.
  4. Charitable — In 2020 Marks & Spencer’s took this approach, recruiting A-listers to bridge brand appeal, credibility, and exposure.
  5. Diversity — Sports Direct and JD Sports adopted diversity and inclusion as their theme in 2020 to dissolve social inequality beyond sport.

From a strategic perspective, video is here to stay. It will evolve over the coming years as brands compete for positioning and relevancy. The world has yet to witness the first one billion views for a Christmas ad.

The Christmas video is more than just a mainstay for brands, it’s a necessity, a secret weapon that marketers hold dear.

Written by

Top writer in Business, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Startups & Innovation. Interested in all things E-commerce — https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-m-ecommerce/

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