DMI Unwraps the Top Christmas Ads of 2020

DMI Unwraps the Top Christmas Ads of 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to endure the world over, it looks like we’re in for our first truly digital Christmas.

Since early in 2020, the pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and communicate. And, this seismic societal shift is likely to alter our shopping habits, forever.

Throughout 2020 brands have already had to re-think the way they approach their marketing campaigns in the midst of COVID-19.

Fresh challenges, new consumer values, and an uncertain landscape command a certain level of innovation from brands looking to make their mark this Christmas.

Here we look at the challenges and trends that are shaping the way consumers are interacting with Christmas this year—and some of the brands that are paving the way with their forward-thinking approach to Christmas marketing.

Without further ado, let’s ho-ho-go.

Gearing up for a ‘Covid Christmas’

While there is genuine uncertainty surrounding this year's festive celebrations, people are still willing to spend where they can. Last year, we looked at how two major bricks-and-mortar retailers - John Lewis and Macy's - have been merging their physical and online Christmas brand experience over the last few years. But, a year ago, no-one could have predicted how 2020 was going to decimate in-store retail. Online shopping has been the success story of the year, with existing major players like Amazon and Facebook benefitting beyond their wildest dreams. And this holiday season will be no exception.   

In the UK alone, online spending is expected to overtake physical shopping for the first time this year, with sales projected to reach the £78 billion mark. And, globally, online holiday sales are projected to surge by 1.5%, reaching the $1.152 trillion between now and January 2021.

Online holiday shopping outlook

The unprecedented global effects of the pandemic have changed the way people shop and, as a result, how they perceive or interact with brands.

First of all, people started to spend on the holiday season early this year. The continually shifting landscape coupled with the potential threat of a Christmas in some form of lockdown has created a sense of urgency.

But there’s something else to consider: the world is enduring an economic crisis and unemployment levels are rising. That said, Christmas shopping is likely to be more concentrated this year.

People in more comfortable positions may spend more while those living on reduced income or economic uncertainty will make fewer (or smaller). In the US, for instance, 40% of shoppers say they will spend less this holiday season. As we'll see below, this has been reflected in some of this year's advertising campaigns.

Speaking on the subject, Deloitte’s US economic forecaster, Daniel Bachman, said:

“While high unemployment and economic anxiety will weigh on overall retail sales this holiday season, reduced spending on pandemic-sensitive services such as restaurants and travel may help bolster retail holiday sales somewhat."

If you’re a brand looking to earn a healthy share of Golden Quarter sales this year, focusing on driving large volumes of sales is important, but maintaining brand trust is equally so.

Thinking longer term, these discoveries indicate that to succeed with your Christmas ads this year, it’s essential to be sensitive and inclusive with your messaging.

Times are constantly changing and if you alienate large segments of your customer base with Christmas campaign messaging that is out of touch or far from inclusive, you could damage your reputation. Which brings us onto our next point.

DMI Unwraps the Top Christmas Ads of 2020

Shifting Festive Values

A recent retail survey reveals that 34% of shoppers want brands to share messages that are 'in touch with reality' this year while 18% want empathy from Christmas ads.

Christmas ads often tap into sentimental themes and during ‘Covid Christmas'—a time of mass isolation—people expect brands to be honest with them, share their struggles, and offer real value or a meaningful escape from the drudgery. One way of doing so is by tapping into peoples’ passions.

According to a survey from The Industry, 56% of consumers took up some form of hobby this year (gardening, baking, and DIY being the most popular), with 75% stating they will continue pursuing their new passion indefinitely.

While not many Christmas ads tap into hobbies in a direct sense, this spike in people taking up new, and indefinite, pastimes solidifies the fact that this year, consumers are more mindful. People appreciate the smaller things in life—and by tapping into feelings based around empathy or community, you are likely to strike a nerve with your audience.

The UK-based online marketplace of small creatives, Not On The High Street offers a Christmas ad that captures this ‘Covid Christmas’ mindset wonderfully, a solid example of emotionally-driven Christmas marketing.

Whatever your niche or sector, by taking the time to understand your customers with a mix of consumer research, data analytics, and social listening, you will be able to create brand messaging that is inclusive, empathetic, and inspires passion. Doing so will increase your chances of driving engagement and promoting positive brand awareness this holiday season.

Inspiring Christmas Ads for a Strange New World

Let’s look at some brands that have hit the festive spot with their winning Christmas ads.

1. Disney—family values

Walt Disney needs little introduction—and one of the reasons this international entertainment colossus is still so popular is its enduring commitment to innovation. The brand’s 2020 Christmas offering is no exception.

Working in collaboration with its long standing partner, the Make-A-Wish Foundation for critically-ill children, Disney has used its supreme animation resources to create a heart-warming tale that follows a family throughout the years, placing the iconic Mickey Mouse at the heart of the narrative.

This beautiful ad highlights the importance of human connection as well as tradition, and its strapline ‘From Our Family To Yours’, creates a real sense of empathy.

To showcase its brand values, proceeds from every limited edition Mickey Mouse soft toy (featured in the ad) will go to Make-A-Wish.

An engaging feat of festive brand storytelling that has earned millions of YouTube views and droves of positive consumer feedback.

2. Amazon—grit & determination

This year, Amazon is driving home the message of grit, determination, and perseverance amidst hard times with an element of flair, style, and grace.

Set to the epic backdrop of Queen’s ‘The Show Must Go On’, this visually winning Christmas ad follows French ballerina Taïs Vinolo (who has been professionally impacted in real life due to the virus) as she continues to perform her stunning routine wherever she can despite cancellation of her big show.

This short but big-hitting narrative looks incredible, conjures a real sense of passion against the odds, and highlights the fact that the eCommerce’s brand will continue to deliver a Christmas shopping service throughout the holiday season.

A spectacular Christmas ad that has earned a high level of YouTube engagement as well as many positive reviews so far.

3. Boots—the essentials (what matters)

To tap into a real issue and demonstrate that it is listening to its consumers, British pharmacy chain Boots has launched a smile-evoking, semi-animated campaign that hones in on the vital importance of grooming and hygiene.

As more people begin to feel a financial pinch during the pandemic, many are struggling to cover their basic needs, let alone buy luxuries this year.

Based on this understanding, Boots has waged war on hygiene poverty by celebrating soap, toothpaste, wash cloths, hair brushes, and other essential items, with sales proceeds going to its charity partner, The Hygiene Bank.

Messaging that is lighthearted yet hard-hitting—and while it’s too early to gather any real data on the ad’s performance, we hope people get on board with the campaign this year.

4. Barbour—sustainability through generations

Using the classic animation of Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas for this year’s ad, Barbour has managed to create highly-festive imagery but with a message more in tune with shifting consumer values.

This Christmas, many consumers are prioritizing sustainability and thrift and Barbour’s festive narrative taps into that very notion.

Based on the story of a boy whose dog chews up his dad’s Barbour jacket, the ad shows the young lad writing to Father Christmas and asking him to repair the garment in time for Christmas.

This jolly, well-received campaign highlights the sentimental value of ‘things’ rather than buying for the sake of it, spreading a message of old-fashioned sustainability while showcasing the brand’s greener value and commitment to quality.

5. SuperValu—values at its heart

This Christmas ad from Irish supermarket chain, SuperValu, cuts through the festive noise and gets to the heart of what really counts in 2020.

Focusing on its brand values and culture rather than promoting specific products, this sob-worthy campaign really conjures the sense of isolation we’ve all felt this year, packing a real emotional punch in the process.

Young Conor longs for a certain seasonal someone to visit this year, constantly asking his parents ‘is he coming?’ while making the appropriate festive preparations. At the end, he comes—but it’s not who you might think he is.

A festive advert that captures the spirit of togetherness this year—and one that has already brought a nation to tears of recognition.

6. Hafords Hardware- simplicity in advertising

Last Christmas, we at DMI fell in love with the Christmas advert created on a shoestring budget by Haford's, a tiny family-run hardware store in a Welsh village. Almost 3 million other viewers felt the same, giving it plenty of praise in comparison with giants like John Lewis's 30-million-pound campaign.

The ad's emotional tone and simple messaging turned out to be more suited to 2020 than we could have predicted. The Hafords family have once again hit the nail on the head (literally) this year with a spot that teaches us all to remember that the real joy of Christmas is in the giving: whatever you have to give.    

“Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person's life” Jackie Chan

This Christmas, there is a space between us. But, the digital world knows no geographical bounds—and by sprinkling your Christmas campaigns with a little kindness, empathy, and authenticity, you will make a positive mark during the ‘Covid Christmas’ holidays.


Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.