Christmas ads are seasonal marketing campaigns that range from heartwarming to hilarious. These are some of the best Christmas ads of all time, and they show how brands can make their marketing stand out and resonate with customers this holiday season.
While Christmas has all sorts of signposts that usher in the season—trees and bells and lights—a few advertisers have nestled their way into the mix. After all, what is Christmas without the Coca-Cola polar bear? The ringing of the Hershey’s Kisses bells? The power of a thoughtful advertisement is hard to ignore during the holiday season, simply put, because the best Christmas ads of all time have a certain energy that’s difficult to encapsulate in a sentence. Beyond the mounds of tinsel and suggestions of a talking snowman, the most iconic Christmas adverts—we’re talking John Lewis & Partners; we’re talking Sainsbury’s—don’t simply release a Christmas advert. They contribute to the aesthetic of the season.
But releasing a Christmas advert in the 21st century looks a lot different than it did back in the day of the original, vintage Christmas ads. Today, social media is as integral to a Christmas advert campaign as print ads. Take John Lewis & Partners, for instance. In the past decade or so, the annual release of the John Lewis & Partners advert isn’t just a lucky catch on linear television; for some loyal viewers, it’s become a quirky piece of their Christmas traditions. The company has become a case study in itself when it comes to Christmas ads and how to turn an advertising campaign into an event.
In the pantheon of great vintage Christmas ads, there’s a wide range of approaches a brand can take when connecting with consumers. However, there do tend to be a few through lines that elevate a run-of-the-mill holiday advert and launch it into the status of greatness, becoming as synonymous with the season as saying, “Merry Christmas.”
Part of that experience is paying attention to what customers want. “Christmas has been an iconic moment for Coca-Cola since 1931,” says Raluca Vlad, Marketing Director of Coca-Cola Italy and Albania. “Every year, we’re trying to bring more freshness, while keeping the iconicity of some key assets while trying to reinvent ourselves.” Whether that’s converting the classic Coca-Cola truck into an electric vehicle or partnering with Christmas markets, Coca-Cola focuses on embracing tradition while also meeting customers where they are.
With the holiday season often tied with emotion, the Christmas advertising season is an opportunity for your brand to demonstrate its emotional range and its values. When we’re talking about Sainsbury’s or Campbell’s or Folgers, all three brands have established a sense of emotional connection with their audience, welcoming them into the holiday season while also making sure to highlight their products.
On the other end of the spectrum, John Lewis & Partners has created a holiday expectation that they will tell a story, eventually tying the narrative to a product you can find within their stores—whether that’s Elton John’s first piano or an alarm clock that wakes up a bear just in time for Christmas. And with Coca-Cola, the brand has managed to integrate their own imagery into the culture of the holiday season. By consistently leveraging the snowy polar bear popping a bubbly, cold Coke, Coca-Cola has made their brand story a piece of Christmas canon.
Christmas advertising is important because it arrives at a peak shopping time for customers, so most businesses consider the holiday shopping season an essential time of the year. In 2022, Amazon had its biggest Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend ever, with customers around the world purchasing hundreds of millions of products between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.1 With so many shoppers ready to buy, holiday advertising can help your brand reach the right audiences.
Christmas advertising and holiday marketing strategies have historically ramped up in the fourth quarter, but in recent years, holiday advertising has been pushed back well into early fall. In fact, over 49% of shoppers surveyed in a Kantar Quickfire Survey responded that they begin shopping for the holidays beginning in October2. In response, Christmas adverts have started debuting earlier and earlier—earning its own phenomenon name of “Christmas creep.”3 In the US, the lead-up to Thanksgiving (and thus, Black Friday and Cyber Monday) serves as a nice runway for holiday marketing campaigns, but even in the UK, the spots are rolling out in early November.
Considering that holiday shopping kicks off in earnest in late November, the brand awareness campaigns that launch in early November give audiences three weeks or so with ad spots before making purchasing decisions.
All that said, the final two months of the year are the most traditional time for Christmas adverts to begin. While early adverts can help start conversations earlier, John Lewis & Partners’ best-performing commercials have ultimately been released later in November.
To prepare for the 2023 holiday season, Amazon’s holiday ad “Joy Ride” debuted on November 5 in the U.K. and Europe.5 Here are TK more examples of Christmas adverting with the help of Amazon Ads.