The 3Fs of Christmas 2017 – Family, Fantasy, Familiarity

The results are in! With over 50 ads tested as part of our FeelMore Xmas live market research, it’s time to reveal which brands hit the emotional spot this Christmas.

The good news is it’s been a bumper year for UK ads.  Seven ads managed to hit 4-Stars, meaning strong ads that should lead to profitable growth. That’s one more commercial than in 2015 and 2016 combined. And this year saw our first 5-Star Christmas ads since 2014’s John Lewis classic “Monty The Penguin”.

So who’s the winner? The full list is over on our FeelMore50 site, but the number one ad of Christmas 2017 belongs to a plucky giraffe helping Santa out. Toys’R’Us’ “Geoffrey The Part-Time Reindeer” was an early leader, and despite a very close challenge from BBC One’s animated tearjerker “Christmas Together”, it held the top spot to the end.

It’s a bit of good news for the toy retail brand, whose struggles in the UK predate the campaign and who announced store closures (according to our long-term brand monitoring platform.) This ad features mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, their famous jingle, and scored huge levels of Happiness among viewers who remembered their 80s and 90s childhoods.

Has this 5-Star success come too late to help the brand survive? Let’s hope not.

The rest of the Top 10 was also retail-heavy, though still found room for a fast food chain (McDonald’s), a broadcaster (BBC One) and an Airport (Heathrow). Looking at what made people feel more this year, three key themes stand out. At System1 we always look for the 3Fs – Fame, Feeling and Fluency. And Xmas 2017 saw the winning ads hit on 3Fs of their own.

FAMILY: So many ads this year got domestic, with family scenes and relationships taking centre stage. They weren’t all winners, but our brand tracking tool shows that the best was the BBC’s 5-Star “Christmas Together”, a beautifully animated piece about a single Dad and his stage-struck daughter. McDonald’s also had a Dad and daughter buying carrot sticks for Santa’s reindeer, and Morrisons’ showcased a brother-sister relationship.

FANTASY: Since John Lewis invented the modern Christmas ad with its snowmen, bears, hares and penguins, the magical and fantastic have had a big role to play on British screens. As well as Geoffrey’s unlikely sleigh ride, this year saw a Disney-style adventure involving a wolf from, and John Lewis’ own “Moz The Monster”, yet another 4-Star success for the department store.

FAMILIARITY: Some of the biggest hits were brands happy to use their distinctive assets or revisit the recent past and bring successful characters back. Toys’R’Us had Geoffrey, of course, but they were joined by Heathrow Airport, who brought out a sequel to last year’s 3-Star ad starring a pair of weary bears. This year, the bears scored 4-Stars and finished in our top three. Using nostalgic and familiar elements helps build emotion and plays well with our System 1 pattern-recognition brains.  (At System1, we call these recurring characters Fluent Devices, and we’ve been busy exploring the benefits they can bring to advertisers.)

So it’s been a cosy Christmas for UK adland –  but a highly emotional one. Get in touch if you have any questions about the ads which didn’t make it, and have a great Holiday season!

Though before you go, perhaps you’d like to see the ad that scored LOWEST in our tests this Christmas. Sorry, Jedward fans.

Written by Tom Ewing, Head of Communications, System1


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