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Bah, humbug. We're doing this again?
I guess it's finally upon us. The time of the year where businesses release their yearly Christmas adverts and the public (that includes all of you lot reading this) eats them up. Whether it’s John Lewis, Sainsbury’s or M&S, they all love to tug on the ol’ heartstrings during the festive season. Christmas should never be about bragging rights...but deep down, we all want to know which marketing campaigns are the most successful.
it's been a tough year for everyone, so I think we're all due a well-deserved Christmas break - even the cold-hearted miser Eberaza Scrooge is feeling the festive cheer. Here are the 15 most viewed Christmas adverts of all time to get you prepared for what 2021 has in store. We've got a few new entries this year too...
*Videos and stats updated on 09/12/20
Just a few side notes before you dive in. We’ve created our list based on YouTube statistics as there are over a billion users on this platform and, on average, people are watching 40 minutes of online videos from their mobile. Also, John Lewis has almost ruined Christmas already by making some of their adverts private, but we’ve still got their stats from previous years available.
The adverts of Christmas past…
#15: Littlewoods - Own the Show 2018
Away from the animated character and emotional aspects and storytelling, Littlewoods did things a little different.
Firstly, the music was more upbeat with the inclusion of Panic! At the Disco and there’s a clear focus on the products - not something many other Christmas adverts do. The aim is to highlight the variety of products they sell and how the viewers can ‘own the show’ by purchasing them.
#14: Very.co.uk - Get More Out of Giving 2017
Very’s popular advert sees the story of a big-hearted little girl spreading the festive cheer by giving pink-wrapped gifts accompanied by her Ulfie, her much-loved toy wolf. While handing out presents and ticking names off her list, she loses rag-eared Ulfie along the way.
This emotional rollercoaster also sees a wolf help her on her perilous journey until the gift and the wolf are lost over an icy waterfall. In the end, she wakes up on Christmas Day, finding a mysterious pink gift box, opening it to find Ulfie with his rag ear sewn up and the final name magically crossed off - Santa.
#13: M&S - Christmas With Love from Mrs Claus 2016
Marks and Spencer’s put a modern twist on the much-loved tale of Santa delivering presents ahead of Christmas. This time, the focus is on the glamorous Mrs Claus who reads a letter from a young boy who wants to gift her sister a new pair of trainers.
Mrs Claus then gets herself into a chopper to deliver the present which does a great job of showing the true, close bond between siblings.
#12: John Lewis - Excitable Edgar 2019
Ahead of the big reveals last year, we looked at the trends and saw the use of animation and animals and the coming together of people as something the public loves. John Lewis did just that, entering the ranking with a massive 10,000,000+ views and counting in a little over one year.
Excitable Edgar unintentionally ruined certain moments in the advert, but everyone around the table needed his fire-breathing heroics when it mattered most.
#11: JD Sports - #JDWonderland 2020
A new entry in 2020 and already breaking into the top 15, JD Sports is sticking to its tactic of using famous faces to ramp up the views on YouTube.
Although there are fewer celebrities than the 2019 advert (more on that later), JD Sports is going more down the product route by showcasing footwear, as opposed to the stories and narrative you now see from other brands.
#10: John Lewis - #EltonJohnLewis 2018
In 2018, John Lewis put the focus on the power of gift and how that gift inspired, changed and influenced the course of a little boy’s life. The story begins in present-day and works backwards chronologically through the boy’s life until the moment of Christmas morning when he received the gift that changed his life.
He just so happened to be Elton John.
Although the video is now private, you can watch the making of it above.
#9: JD Sports - #JDComesAlive 2019
When Jesse Lingard isn't sat on the Manchester United bench, you'll find him in a JD Sports Christmas advert.
Who needs animations and heartwarming stories when you can splash the cash on a slew of big-name celebrities? Aitch. Michael Dapaah. Ann Marie. Maya Jama. Plus loads more - all coming together for one big party. Probably Virgil van Dijk's biggest achievement in 2019/20.
#8: Sainsbury’s - The Greatest Gift 2016
This joyous Christmas musical was created in stop-frame animation and featured vocals from James Corden.
It tells the story of Dave, a hard-working and devoted man who is caught up in the Christmas whirlwind and faces a battle against time to make it home. He faces plenty of calamities and duties which get in his way as he realised the greatest gift he can give people is his time.
#7: Smyths Toys - #IfIWereAToy 2020
It might have only released in November 2020, but Smyths Toys aren't messing around with a whopping 23 million plus views. It combines the best of real-life and animation as we see transformations into much-loved characters and toys.
From Mario racing to Baby Yoda saving the day, check out the toys coming alive to see why it's such a big hit.
#6: Sainsbury’s - Christmas Is for Sharing 2014
Sainsbury’s 2014 advert took us back one hundred years and revisited the battlefield in World War One.
The message conveyed that Christmas was all about sharing and commemorated the extraordinary events of Christmas Day in 1914 when the guns fell silent. Both armies met in no-man’s land where they shared gifts, chocolate and even played football.
#5: John Lewis - #BusterTheBoxer 2016
In this reuploaded video, the advert revolves around the main character, Buster the Boxer. John Lewis’ slogan, ‘Gifts that everyone will love,’ fits perfect in this story of the family dog loving the trampoline that was initially intended for the young daughter.
The brand perfectly utilised humour while maintaining the emotional aspect.
#4: John Lewis - #MontyThePenguin 2014
Another legendary advert from John Lewis in 2014 allowed us to connect with our inner child. The Guardian's upload above has over one million views alone. We see through the eyes of a boy as all he wants to do is make his toy penguin, Monty, happy this Christmas. It’s really heartfelt and this cute story can make any ice heart melt.
Yes, even mine.
#3: John Lewis - #ManOnTheMoon 2015
Another beautiful and powerful sentiment from John Lewis in 2015 saw ‘#ManOnTheMoon’ do the rounds on social media. It’s such a simple yet effective story. It shows that even if a person is half the world away (or sitting patiently on the moon), you can still show them you’re thinking about them this Christmas.
God bless us, everyone!
#2: Sainsbury’s - Mog’s Christmas Calamity 2015
Mog took the top spot last year but is knocked down to second place in 2020. Creeping towards the 40 million mark is now the second most-viewed Christmas advert of all time, Mog’s Christmas Calamity from Sainsbury’s.
Using a much-loved children’s character as the main protagonist, Mog is the victim of some unfortunate events that almost sees Christmas ruined for the family.
That’s where Sainsbury’s popular message comes in - Christmas is for sharing. Why does this sound so familiar? His antics result in families coming together over Christmas and the emotional storyline engages and really hits home the true meaning of Christmas.
#1: John Lewis - Somewhere Only We Know 2013
John Lewis has pipped Sainsbury's to top spot on YouTube this year after a six million increase in YouTube views. Although it’s now only available on Lily Allen’s YouTube channel, this tear-jerker really hits you in the feels with a creative and emotional story. Using computer animation and traditional hand drawing, the ad features a bear who misses Christmas each year due to hibernation.
So, his friend, the hare, has an idea by making sure the bear has a Christmas to remember.
The adverts of Christmas present…
There were a lot of predictions as to what we'd see this year. Around mid-November, a lot of the brands tend to release their entries in the hope that they'll steal Christmas. Although some succeeded such as JD Sports and Smyths Toys, it seems as if we're still going down the emotional storytelling, humour and excited children spreading the Christmas cheer route.
Which, by the results, is the right thing to do.
Here’s a selection of some of the latest Christmas adverts released already for 2020. You never know which might pop up on the list of most-viewed Christmas adverts next time...
Were the predictions correct?
Yes and no. Yes, we got the emotional aspect and the animals, families coming together, animation, cinematography and more. However, this time last year, nobody would have thought we'd be living through a worldwide pandemic which may have shifted what some brands might have planned.
However, it's clear that things like the coronavirus pandemic and Marcus Rashford's child food poverty campaigning efforts were worked into some of the adverts. It's probably most noticeable in John Lewis' 2020 advert which shows a chain of giving.
The campaign is in collaboration with food poverty charity Fareshare and parental support charity Home-Start. The campaign and advert is a way of raising awareness on disadvantages families by shining a light on the long-term need for kindness.
After what people have gone through in 2020, this has never been more needed. The majority of adverts in 2020 are all about reflecting on the world we live in today, the acts of kindness during these challenging times and drawing attention to families that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The adverts of Christmas future…
It's a little tricky predicting what we could see in 2021. Expect much of the same in terms of cinematography, animals, animation, families and feel-good moments. The sentimental storylines prove to be really engaging and hook viewers in - making that brand more memorable.
it also depends on what happens in real-life as we head into 2021. If we get back to normality, perhaps adverts will show what a tough year we've all had and come out of the other end.
If an advert emotionally engages with a viewer, it’s likely that they’ll tell someone else about it and encourage them to watch, which contributes to the millions of views. Another common feature is the use of hashtags, especially in the case of John Lewis and JD Sports.
This is a really smart method of marketing as it encourages viewers to get involved on social media. This gets others immersed in the discussion, they’ll also use the hashtag and this cycle helps brands dominate Christmas.
The tone of voice is also crucial and something which helps keeps brands within their guidelines and make them seem more human. Although they’re all retailers and businesses, the brands we’ve mentioned are now storytellers, entertainers and have people counting down the days until the annual Christmas advert is released.
Expect more of this in the future. Animations, humour, emotional storytelling, animals, young children, families, older people and pop culture references. Using a combination of these is what keeps viewers engaged and this proven recipe has already worked wonders, so it’ll continue to do so in the future.
And it’s easy to see why businesses have done this. Just look at how much emotion and storytelling is involved in these video adverts. Can they achieve the same results on a billboard, leaflet or a regular advert? Probably not. You can’t ignore the importance of video and it’s the type of content the majority now prefer.
To find out more about utilising video in your marketing strategy, how to get started and how to execute killer video campaigns all year round, make sure to grab your inbound video guide.
BLOG UPDATED: December 2020