Amazon’s Give Christmas ad is most impactful, finds Kantar Millward Brown’s annual consumer research

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UK consumers have found Amazon’s Give to be this year’s most impactful Christmas advertisement, according to Kantar Millward Brown’s annual research into the effectiveness of festive ads. Consumers reviewed ads from 17 brands and retailers, scoring each on 12 factors that are proven to motivate people to buy, and build a strong brand in the long term.

Amazon’s Give was the strongest all-round performer, scoring highly with viewers in seven of the 12 measures. Consumers found it ‘different’ from the other ads they saw, which means that it stood out among the noise. They also felt that the brand came through distinctly in the ad, and that they were provided with relevant and believable information that meets their needs – making them want to take action as a result of seeing it.

Argos was another overall high performer with Ready for Take Off, with a top score for ‘involvement’, reflecting that viewers connected strongly with the story. They also saw the ad as different, relevant and believable. Argos has been offering same day scheduled delivery for two years, but this message feels timely and relevant and resonates with people as though it is a new idea.

Aldi won the battle of the food retailers – Kevin the Carrot 2017 scored well across all factors. Consumers enjoyed it more than any other ad, and it was also the most loved ad of all. It has a tone that is funny and sweet, and Aldi has created a series of follow-up executions to keep its brand front of mind with consumers.

The recipe for this year’s most effective ads is a combination of great storytelling which engages people’s emotions, and a single clear message that makes them want to act. Strong storiesbuild memorable and lasting impressions – many retailers and brands went for a light-hearted, upbeat, fun, festive approach this year, perhaps in response to the national mood. Messages about explicit functional benefits were made highly relevant by demonstrating the benefits in a tangible and creative way. 

Morrison’s and M&S also deserve an honourable mention. Free From (Morrison’s) tells a clear story that places the brand in the starring role, and by focusing on a niche range it provides new information with a topical product-centric message. Paddington (M&S), which scored second highest on ‘enjoyment’, tells a heart-warming and fun story that features appealing characters, and the brand is instantly recognisable through the style and music.

Jane Bloomfield, head of UK marketing at Kantar Millward Brown, says: “The two most impactful ads, from Amazon and Argos, have strong visual cues, strong creativity and good storytelling with a clear benefit for the consumer. Instead of hammering their message home, they weave brand messages into a story that is genuinely involving and enjoyable. Ads thatengage emotionally perform better than those that deliver an explicit message; the best of this year’s crop managed both. A great story can seed ideas, associations and feelings that are triggered during the purchase process, even long after the ad was last seen.”

The ads which consumers found less impactful tended to be based on a good idea that wasn’t particularly well executed – often because the brand did not have a clear role in the ad, or because the ad lacked a purpose.

Bloomfield says: “If a brand focuses exclusively on telling a great story, but forgets its own role or doesn’t have a clear purpose for the consumer, it can generate some enjoyment and love but does very little else. Debenhams has created a very engaging story with Stranger on a Train, for example, but missed the opportunity to make the brand a part of it. 

John Lewis’s Moz the Monster ad certainly created anticipation in the run up to its release. The music and characters are strong, and it’s immediately recognisable as ‘the John Lewis ad’, but results show that the story isn’t as clear or as engaging as it could be. It doesn’t have a powerful resolution like the retailer’s previous festive offerings.”

Research agency Kantar TNS analysed the social media conversations generated by the Christmas campaigns, paying attention both to the amount of sharing, and whether conversation patterns showed that people were identifying with the story. Only the John Lewis campaign had a substantial presence on Twitter this year, although analysis shows that engagement was less organic as people had fewer conversations amongst each other about the campaign. While there were several communities engaging with the campaign, most were retweeting specific influencers’ tweets.

For some of the ads Kantar Millward Brown’s research has included facial coding, which analyses people’s facial expressions as they watch to get a true emotional response, before they have a chance to post-rationalise how they felt. Results showed that consumers enjoyed John Lewis’s ad – Moz the Monster generates significant levels of smiles – but the facial coding trace suggests emotional engagement is lost towards the end. There is also evidence to suggest that Moz is polarising, lacking the universal appeal of previous characters.

In comparison, Marks & Spencer’s Paddington, one of the most enjoyed ads this year, shows an increase in smiles as the ad goes on, and the blockbuster-style storyline keeps consumers hooked throughout its entirety. For Amazon, scene-by-scene analysis reveals uplifts in smiles during individual scenes featuring the singing boxes, which act as strong triggers for the brand, with Amazon being the most well-branded Christmas ad this year.

In the consumer survey, Amazon’s Give scored highest on Branding (4.47 out of 5), Sets the trends (3.79/5), Makes me want to buy/use (3.78/5), Relevant information (3.78/5), Believable information (3.92/5), Different from others (3.79/5), Delivers main things I need (3.98/5).

Analysis of the ads tested by Kantar Millward Brown has highlighted three vital elements for developing Christmas creative that stands out and engages consumers and, ultimately, drives sales and builds loyalty:

  1. Work with the brain, not against it: Ads that engage people creatively and emotionally work better than those that deliver an explicit message, which viewers tend to filter out. Working the way people’s brains do also means restricting the number of key messages delivered. Analysis of more than 1,000 ads, separate from the Christmas ads, found that where a single message is included typically 30% will take out that key message; whereas when a campaign has three messages typically only 14% will take out the first key message.
  2. Good storytelling leaves an impression: Stories are a key strategy for engaging consumers with the real-life power of a brand. Yet too few brands incorporate them and, where there is a story, more than half of ads still include explicit product or service messages. Brands need to be bold and cast off the shackles of product messaging to focus on big emotional stories that consumers are proven to be more receptive to.
  3. No brand means no impression: Even emotionally engaging ads need branding, particularly in digital where skippable formats give just seconds to make an impact. Kantar Millward Brown data over the last 25 years finds that ads with high branding typically deliver strong sales effects – 68% deliver a short-term sales uplift compared to those with low branding where 53% deliver a short-term sales uplift.

Using its AdExpress performance measurement tool, Kantar Millward Brown tested 2017 Christmas advertisements from 17 brands and retailers against these 12 key factors: Branding, Involvement, Enjoyment, Made me love (brand), Sets the trends, Persuasion, New information, Different information, Relevant information, Believable information, Different from others, Delivers main things I need. Eleven of the factors are scored on a scale of 1-5, while ‘Involvement’ is scored on a scale of 1-10. In addition, facial coding analysis was conducted on ads by Amazon, Boots, Debenhams, eBay, John Lewis, M&S and Sainsbury’s.