How Your Start-Up Needs to Advertise at Christmas

christmas advert

Adverting and marketing is a complex game for any business. Christmas advertising is a whole new level of difficulty. For many, Christmas adverts are a form of entertainment to be scrutinised, whether they’re in the form of TV adverts, printed posters, or billboards. Miss the mark and you risk being labelled as a contributor of a ruined Christmas.

But a successful Christmas marketing campaign can not only become an intrinsic part of your brand’s identity, it can also create fantastic ROI. In the world of TV adverts, the three main contenders that spring to mind are John Lewis, Sainsburys, and Coca-Cola. These three experts of Christmas TV ads have often been hailed as the virtual ribbon-cutters announcing the official beginning of Christmas. This brings excitement, creativity, and customer anticipation to a brand; all-important ingredients to convert into sales.

Indeed, John Lewis has stated that their famous Christmas adverts are their most profitable ROI. But they’re also quick to note that the key element for success in those well-loved adverts is creativity. And creativity pays off hugely for brand building in the longer term, where short-term elements like social media “likes” might be a visual boost, but don’t often translate to brand-building success.

Successful Christmas marketing examples

The Christmas TV Advert Stand-Off

Every year it seems like titans of retail John Lewis and Sainsbury’s face off in order to see who can make the most people sob over its Christmas advert. Whether it’s the impossibly endearing child waiting all month not to open his presents, but to give them, or the bittersweet retellingof the most famous moment in the most awful of circumstances during World WarI, it seems the pair are aiming to get as many sobbing emojis floating aroundtheir respective hashtags year after year.

Meanwhile, in the background, the Coca-Cola Christmas advert does essentially the same thing every year to nearly the same level of hype and anticipation.

So, what is it that makes a TV advert really successful? For John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, the creativity factor is there each year, but then the same excitement is generated by Coca-Cola for their very samey advert every Christmas. Arguably then, it’s less about the content and more about what it stands for — it’s almost like a TV broadcast alert that Christmas has begun. Even for those less-popular John Lewis adverts, they still generate the excitement, a whole load of views, and a decent ROI.

For a start-up, such a huge-scale event is likely out of reach for now, but the core lesson is very much at hand. As advertising expert Sir John Hegarty advises start-ups: “[Don’t] just build a business, create a brand.” The focus right now needs to be on building your brand image to the world.

And remember, you don’t need John Lewis’ £7 million Christmas advert budget to do it. This year, a £50 advert has gone viral and clocked 7 million views and counting, with people calling for the filmmaker to be hired by John Lewis.

Festive shop windows

Every year, it’s a Newcastle tradition to head to Northumberland Street to see the grand unveiling of the Fenwick’s ChristmasWindow. Each year the window display takes on a new theme, from Alice in Wonderland to The Snowman. The displays are vast, intricate, and oh-so-Christmassy. Like the TV adverts, for many Northernersthis is the hallmark of the beginning of the festive season.

But with a little creativity, a little mischief, and presumably a lot less money, you can advertise to the same crowd Fenwick’s pulls in — as shown by the Greggs store opposite Fenwick’s.

Realising how many people had their backs to the Greggs shop to take photos of the glorious window opposite, the cheeky chaps at everyone favourite bakery installed a new sign with their logo in reverse. When festive Fenwick’scustomers took photos of the Christmas Window, the Greggs logo appeared the right way around and ready to be share along to so many social media viewers when the photos were uploaded and shared!

The logo-flip alone isn’t Christmassy, but this is a genius way to get people talking and sharing a brand’s creativity over the winter season. And, of course, remembering to pick up a festive bake on the way home from Fenwick’s window…


Of course, any sort of winter advertising push needs a little extra money. It is wise, therefore, for start-ups to consider when throughout the year to push advertising. As Entrepreneur Europe points out, splitting your advertising budget evenly over twelve months sounds smart, but really, is ineffective — if you have a seasonal product, or you know Black Friday and Christmas will be huge for your brand, you should allocate more funds to advertising for this. Starting a little early can also get you a step ahead of the competition. However, be careful not to start too early and be forgotten closer to the time!

Entrepreneur Europe also advises start-ups to know their audience. Knowing the websites they visit, the magazines they read and so on will highlight exactly where you need to place your ads, whether you opt for an online presence or for digital printing(ideally, balance both offline and online methods!).

With the right approach and the right creativity, you will certainly see your brand build year-on-year as each festive season arrives!

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