Alerts on UK Xmas Ads: Applause for Mrs. Claus

David Whitelam, Head of New Client Development at System1 Research, reflects on 2016’s UK Christmas adverts – specifically M&S’s “Mrs. Claus”, highlighting what makes it a 4-Star success this Holiday season. 

Once again, the might of British retail is undergoing a festive fisticuffs to ensure their Christmas ads come up trumps.

After many commentators bemoaned the melancholic tone of 2015’s adverts and sensed that the emotional heartstrings were being over-plucked, 2016 has already shown it’s still an emotional playing field, albeit with a very different tone. As emotional engagement correlates best with long-term business success, this is not too much of a surprise to see, nor is the excellent story-telling that we’ve witnessed in some of the more lengthy and big-budget ads released so far.

Since launching on Friday, M&S’s “Mrs. Claus” (played by Janet McTeer), with its Oscar-winning Director (Tom Hooper) and its specially-created musical score, has certainly caused a stir.  We’ve already tested it among a representative sample of Great British shoppers and its touching and heart-warming story, together with the stylish, modern and caring protagonist, leads to a very strong reception: a 4-Star ad on our 1-to 5-Star scale.

Nathan Ansell, Global Director of Loyalty, Customer Insight and Analytics at M&S said: “Our Christmas with Love campaign is a brand new approach, created with our customers and for our customers. The insight behind the ad was the feeling that M&S customers wanted at Christmas: warmth, empathy and a touch of humour and the ad has delivered on this strongly. System1 Research has helped to embed the importance of emotional story-telling in our business and has been able to quickly demonstrate the appeal of Mrs. Claus”.

Consumer feedback showed high levels of happiness in the form of ‘Contentment’, ‘Being Pleased for Others’, and ‘Appreciative’ and spontaneous associations with ‘Christmas’, ‘Heart-warming’ and ‘Family’. In a modern twist on a traditional tale, the sibling affection within a storyline that introduces sadness, and successfully resolves it, keeps the viewer highly engaged.

While Mrs. Claus raises an occasional anxious eyebrow, it’s among a few who feel that tradition is being challenged a little too much. Overall though, if Mrs. Claus has a weakness, it’s for the mince pie she deservedly tucks in to.

Watch M&S’s “Mrs. Claus” on FeelMore50™.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our concept testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing platform which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.
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