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All bets are on: Battle of the Christmas ads 2014

Seasonal advertising has long been big business. Companies spend millions trying to outdo each other and secure extra custom in the most lucrative calendar month for retailers, but this year has seen the landscape become even-more competitive, with the commercials themselves now seen as products worthy of bagging the rights to.
Consider the lovable penguin that inspired John Lewis to create yet another heartbreakingly cuddly clip. A host of media channels entered a bidding war to secure the exclusive first play of the department store’s Christmas trophy piece, with Channel 4 coming out on top, and then screening the unarguably poignant 30-seconds in-between its watching-you-watching-telly reality show, Gogglebox.
The last time the broadcaster won the John Lewis Yuletide premiere was back in 2012, with Gabrielle Aplin’s cover version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Power of Love scoring a tale of a lovestruck snowman. Beating ITV both times, skip back a decade or so and the idea of major UK TV networks trying to beat one another to become the first to show an advert would have been unthinkable. These are, after all, commercial entities that earn a good proportion of their revenue from selling on-air time to ad buyers working on behalf of major brands. The perceived practice being those brands come to them.
Today, though, the situation has changed somewhat. News stories are written informing the public of when they can catch sight of these clips, which have now taken on the form of Christmas institutions in their own right. Like a city parade stateside, or German-themed markets, the festive advert is a firm fixture in the list of things to look forward to as December approaches- a potential goldmine for the brands who get it right, albeit a minefield for those who misfire.
Take Sainsbury’s for example. 2014 being the centenary of World War One, the supermarket giant decided to produce its advert with a theme of solidarity and peace in the face of global conflict. A nice idea in many ways, that the Advertising Standards Agency announced this week it would not be launching an investigation because the company hadn’t broken any rules speaks volumes about the reaction from viewers, with complaints rife about exploiting the horrors of the trenches to tug heartstrings and, in turn, generate additional custom.

There’s no such thing as bad press, though. Or at least that’s what people used to say in more innocent, pre-Yewtree days. With a few obvious exceptions this still rings true, and so despite the outcry it’s safe to assume the stories concerning Sainsbury’s take on one of the deadliest wars of all time have actually worked in the firm’s favour- we’ve all seen it now, and if there’s one chain of food stores on the forefront of consumer minds as we enter the busiest shopping month of the year, it’s probably Sainsbury’s. It’s certainly more memorable than Jools Holland playing a piano, Aldi.
So who will win out in the end? Certainly not Amazon, that’s for sure. Notwithstanding the online giant doesn’t bother with television adverts other than those for its LoveFilm/Amazon Instant arm, experts are predicting rather shocking results for the everything-under-one-URL business due to an ongoing boycott resulting from revelations regarding the low pay and poor treatment of distribution centre staff.
Elsewhere, though, the results are harder to predict. From John Lewis to Marks & Spencer- which has re-used the Magic & Sparkle idea from last year, this time preceding it with a successful #followthefairies teaser campaign- the bets are on for who will see the biggest increase in profits, and whose Christmas ads will be remembered as a false economy during a period that can mean the difference between a great 12 months, and an average four quarters.

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