How do you evaluate Christmas TV ads – warm glow or hard sales?

22 November 2016 By Northern Lights

How do you evaluate Christmas TV ads – warm glow or hard sales? image

Last week my daughter emailed me with a link and message saying ‘cutest ad ever’.  It was!  It was the Heathrow Airport teddies Christmas ad (click on the link below and you might need a hankie).

However, I had just got back from delivering a CIPR course in Edinburgh on social media management where we had a really good discussion on evaluation.  And this got me thinking about Christmas TV ads.  Cute though the teddies may be, honestly are they going to make you fly via Heathrow rather than Gatwick, Luton or Leeds Bradford airports?  I don’t think so – everyone I know starts with their destination, then the flights and then the cost.   Unless you are a business traveller I would have thought the airport is almost irrelevant in the decision making process (please do let me know if I am wrong on this).


So how do you evaluate a TV ad?  Like social media – and PR, actually – it is extremely difficult to measure the direct link between what you do and what response and results you get.  Even if you see sales rise, can you definitely say the link was your ad, tweet or blog?

Well, maybe not but if you don’t start by focusing on a business goal and trying to measure that, then in my  view the chances of succeeding  in making a business difference  diminish rapidly.  And that was born out on the course last week.  I asked delegates to share their business goals and we then discussed how and what social media would help.  It transformed thinking in most cases.  As a small example, some wanted relationships with MEPs – so we discussed creating a Twitter list of MEPs and having an engagement strategy (not an ‘information at’ strategy).  Others wanted to change the public’s behaviours – on safety, health etc.  And we looked at how to link their social media with a PR change programme (interestingly, it was the first time a lot of delegates had thought of planning and linking their social media strategy with marketing, sales, PR etc).

Coming back to Christmas TV ads, I had a quick look online to see how previous years’ ads have been evaluated by the advertising industry.  And I can’t help thinking the points I am making are really relevant here.

Marketing Week reported:  “John Lewis was the big winner last year with its Monty the penguin campaign. According to communications agency Waggener Edstrom’s Brand Agility Index, which is based on engagement, originality, differentiation and relevance, the retailer scored an average of 49 points over the five weeks to Christmas – the highest of any retailer – while sales increased 6% to £777m year on year.”

So Waggener Edstrom’s Brand Agility Index is based on ‘engagement, originality, differentiation and relevance’.  The advertising industry is measuring its success on creativity rather than sales impact?

I found a Mail article evaluating Christmas TV 2016 ads with a rather disparaging evaluation of Morrisons’ advertisement.  They scored ads on eight factors including evaluating the ad itself, product placement and if it has gone viral – here are the comments for these last three

The ad: As usual, Morrisons’ ad is product-focused, with a subtle storyline. This year’s star is a boy who uses his mum’s shopping trip to swot up on Trivial Pursuit questions so he can take on his grandpa

Product placement: A rib of beef, succulent turkey crown and fruit-filled Panettone are just some of the store’s foods featured

Going viral? It’s had just over a million views online. Analyst Tom Berry says: ‘It’s pretty bland. Clearly, Morrisons does not consider the investment worthwhile 1/5

Pretty disparaging comments.  Yet according to the BBC, last year’s campaign not only achieved  better than expected sales over the Christmas period, it was the first time the supermarket had reported a rise in sales for more than a year – and the results sent shares in Morrisons up sharply, closing at more than 8% higher at 165.5p.

Last year everyone raved about the John Lewis ad.  Yes, it did achieve increased sales – Craig Inglis of John Lewis said they make £8 profit for every pound spent.  However, when market research firm Millward Brown tried to answer the question of effectiveness by canvassing public opinion, the results were very different from what punters were saying were the ‘best Christmas ads’.

Viewers gave their verdicts on offerings from 18 leading brands, including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Cadbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Argos.  The researchers analysed persuasiveness – or, put another way, were watchers more likely to buy the advertiser’s products after seeing the advertisement.  Which to me seems the right way to look at the return on investment (ROI) of Christmas TV advertisements?

Based on Millward Brown’s research, last year’s much-lauded John Lewis Christmas 2015 TV ad only just made it into the top 10 list – which was headed by Warburtons.  The full Christmas TV ad list can be seen here.   I confess I had missed the Warburtons ad entirely – Miss Piggy and Kermit eating crumpets – but looking at it now, I wish I had some crumpets in the house!


And isn’t that the point for all marketing, advertising and social media?  We should be engaging with customers and they should want to buy our products and services as a result – or support our cause or change their behaviours.  These should be the measure of success for any of our work, including social media?

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Written by Northern Lights

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