Do Christmas advertising campaigns start too early in the year?

23 November

For me, as a general consumer, the answer is yes, most certainly so!

But from the point of view of marketers and advertisers, I think you’ve got to assume that it works. They don’t start their campaigns this early just because they want to; they do it because they think there’s profit in doing so. So one would assume that they’ve done the testing about effectiveness and performance over recent years, and made the decision about whether the amount of money spent on advertising is worthwhile or not.

"Maybe we can look towards the likes of Black Friday and these recent things that have been imported from the US."

In general, if the campaigns are starting earlier and earlier each year, which has been a trend over recent years, one also has to assume that it’s effective in terms of getting us to shop earlier. Maybe we can look towards the likes of Black Friday and these recent things that have been imported from the US as well. Again, we’re shopping earlier than we have done, and I think it makes sense that the ads will go along with that.

Perhaps we should spare a thought for the advertising agencies as well. We might see these Christmas campaigns starting in October or November, but they’re working on this stuff in March! And there’s a lot of research and work that goes into them.

All of those big ads like John Lewis will be produced by an agency, and then sent out to research firms that put the Christmas ads through rigorous in-house ad testing. They’ll bring to multiple panels of people to view the ads and test their emotional reactions, and ensure the ads are as emotionally resonant as possible. It’s about optimisation and making sure the right emotional strings are being played.

In practice this means assessing the emotional effect of individual characters in ad, the music, particular words, the length of the ad… and if it’s not quite resonating as it should do, it goes back to the agency, who’ll tweak characters, play with the music, and optimise the ad until it’s as effective and impactful as possible. And that in-depth research explains why these ads have become so much more emotional in recent years.

Andrew McStay is the author of Digital Advertising, now in its second edition.

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