Regifting Christmas Ads: Unwrapping the Benefits of Wear-in

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for advertising: the festive period! Across the world, brands are gifting audiences with their latest Christmas and holiday ads, some of which have been in development since the beginning of the calendar year. From celebrities to chart-topping hits to animated characters, the creative is filled with right-brained features that effectively entertain and help drive both short-term sales and long-term brand building.  

And while consumers anxiously await what ‘this brand’ or ‘that brand’ will do with their Christmas ad, there’s something to be said for the advertisers that keep calm and carry on with tried-and-true creative amidst the frenzy of the festive period. Yes, it’s true. You can regift your Christmas ad and still reap the rewards. 

Read on to learn more about the myth of wear-out and see some best-in-class examples of recycled holiday campaigns.  

The Wear-out Debate

Before we dive into the brands that are making a repeat appearance with their ads this holiday season, let’s revisit the debate around wear-out and the latest research on the subject from System1.  

Marketers are often the first to tire of their campaigns, and assume that viewers feel the same way. This results in brands launching new ads on a regular basis, sometimes several times per year. But is wear-out actually a reality with consumers? Last year, we put the theory to the test in two ways.  

First, we looked at the Star Rating of 50,000 ads. Some ads were tested soon after they aired, and others were tested long after their initial air date (going back up to 7,000 days). If the theory of wear out was true, older ads would perform worse when tested, as audiences would be more familiar with and tired of them. We found little evidence of this (see Figure 1). The baseline average score – for ads tested within 50 days of initial airdate – was 2.2-Stars. Every other age segment we looked at received a similar score – between 2.0 Stars and 2.4 Stars. 

Because this analysis alone doesn’t disprove wear-out (perhaps brands are accurately detecting ads that are wearing out and removing them from TV), we ran a second analysis to see if perhaps only effective ads are given the chance to get old. 

To understand this better, we compared how the same ads perform over time and at key moments. We tested 50 UK ads and 50 US ads shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, and then conducted three rounds of re-testing. These re-tests occurred during 1) the first lockdown in March 2020; 2) when COVID had a resurgence in January 2021; and 3) when concerns about a recession and the cost-of-living crisis were growing in October 2022. 

We found that the ads’ scores hardly changed over this period (see Figure 2). The correlation between our scores in January 2020 (pre-pandemic) and our scores in October 2022 is 0.9 – the data is nearly identical. If wear-out existed, Star Ratings for both high- and low-scoring ads would see a decline. Instead, we saw many high-performing ads see their ratings further increase over time, proving that strong brand-building ads continue to perform well for advertisers.  

Festive Favorites Worth Repeating

What’s more classic than Coca-Cola’s “Holidays are Coming” ad featuring the famous red Coke truck? Originally launched in the 1990s, the ad has become a favorite of viewers, who rejoice at seeing the brightly lit fleet and the excitement on the townspeople’s faces as the trucks pass through. Over the years, Coke has made some small changes to the ad, but it remains largely the same. Why? Because it works from both a short-term sales and brand-building perspective.  

“Holidays are Coming” consistently ranks in the top UK Christmas ads annually. Just take a look at the scores from the last several years.  

Retesting the 2020 version of the ad this year, it achieved 5.9-Stars. A 5-Star score is the mark of exceptional potential to create long-term positive associations and grow market share. So while Coke does release new Christmas ads from time to time, it’s no wonder that “Holidays are Coming” can be counted on to also make a return.

In the US, Mars and Wrigley both lean into the benefits of wear-in with their M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses campaigns respectively.

M&M’s flips the script on the “is Santa real?” scenario by having Santa exclaim “They do exist!” when encountering the Red and Yellow spokescandies and faint. Originally aired in 1996, the commercial continues returning to screens each year. And in 2017, the brand even created a fun sequel for the ad, highlighting how Yellow saves Christmas after Santa loses consciousness.

In 1989, Hershey’s debuted its commercial featuring the Hershey’s Kisses performing as hand bells to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” It’s the longest-running Hershey campaign, though the ad did receive a makeover in 2012 to update the audio and graphics. So, is it worth the reprisal each year? According to the Test Your Ad report, it hits the high notes on all three metrics, earning 5.9-Stars and Exceptional Spike and Fluency Ratings.

Winning Christmas by Leveraging Wear-in

Christmas and holiday ads have a short lifespan, typically from November 1 through the end of the year. But if they’re effective at entertaining viewers, these ads not only drive sales during the all-important festive period but continue to build brands over the long term.

And there’s more good news for marketers. If you strike 5-Star gold with your creative, you can bring it back again and continue to see very large business effects as a result of your investment. See, regifting can be a good thing if done right.


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