Kevin crowned the king of Christmas as Aldi rated 2021’s best festive ad

Kevin the Carrot has returned to screens for the sixth year in a row with his latest outing proving the most successful so far.  According to research by Kantar, which combined consumer survey responses with facial recognition AI technology, Aldi’s was the most effective of the 24 festive adverts tested this year.  It scored in the top 6% of all UK ads in terms of being both ‘distinctive’ and ‘enjoyable’, and was also the campaign which sparked the most conversation.  After Aldi, Coca-Cola was the second best overall, followed by Lidl, Marks & Spencer, and Celebrations.

Like a number of this year’s ads, Aldi focused on traditional Christmas themes such as kindness and togetherness.  Data from Kantar shows that 35% of people feel this Christmas is more important than last, with a particular emphasis on friends and family, and less focus on extravagant spending.  The most successful ads have captured this mood while making it highly relevant to their brands and products. Those that have struggled to get resonance have been the ones with sad or complex storylines, where the intended happy ending doesn’t stand out or the audience is left feeling confused.

Lynne Deason, head of creative excellence at Kantar, said: “Aldi’s new take on a Christmas classic is a great example of how a brand can convey serious messages about purpose and social impact while still being great fun.  Aldi uses humour effectively, something especially important in a year when we all need an extra laugh, but it also has a deeper sentiment.  The clever inclusion of ‘Marcus Radishford’ highlights a worthy cause – the campaign to provide meals to those in need – without coming across as too sombre to viewers.  And by borrowing from one of the most well-known and loved Christmas stories of all time, it sets out a complicated narrative without ever being confusing.”

Kevin’s latest adventure exemplifies many of the themes which have made this year’s other entries successful.  Humour has been key – not just trying to be funny but succeeding. Deason continues: “Chocolate box specialist Celebrations took a brave and very different approach to its Christmas ad this year – consumers found the Lonely Bounty’s search for ‘love actually’ to be the second most distinctive of 2021’s festive campaigns and second in terms of being funny”.

Others increasingly relied on the help of recognisable characters, a tactic which proved effective in linking messages and storylines with brand names. Much like Aldi, Marks & Spencer leant on its well-loved and highly recognisable Percy Pig voiced by Tom Holland, and the ‘fairy that fell off the top of the Christmas tree’ voiced by the comedy legend and national treasure Dawn French.  The characters created a greater emotional reaction among audiences than previous years’ ads from the brand, contributing to its increased effectiveness.

Other stand out campaigns this year included Coca-Cola, which has an almost captive audience thanks to the consistency of its ‘holidays-are-coming’ ad – now synonymous with Christmas for much of the British public. Lynne Deason says: “Coke’s festive truck sings out Christmas to most viewers, but it is also intrinsically associated with the Coca-Cola brand.  It is in the top 2% of all ads in the UK in terms of brand connection, so the success of the festive campaign will translate to long-term brand loyalty.” 

The Lidl brand was similarly central to its Christmas advert this year – it finished a close second behind Coca-Cola in terms of branding. This perhaps reflects a lesson learned from 2020 when it was on the verge of being in the bottom third of all UK ads for branding, whereas this year’s entry is in the top 5%.

Deason concludes: “Overall it has been another tough year for advertisers to get right.  This crop of ads made people smile, but less so than previous years.  The ones that did landed best, and people responded better to ads which weren’t afraid to be funny, after the past eighteen months we all need a bit of that! Of course, success is still reliant on being relevant, well-executed and having close links to the brand, all of which 2021’s front-runners achieved.”