November 11, 2014 Garyeoghan

Christmas Ads 2014: Which one is the best?

About this time last week there was suddenly an influx of penguins on my Facebook feed, well one. His name was Monty and every single instance of his name incited cries of ‘aww’ ‘so cute’ ‘can’t wait for Xmas’ etc. I took a quick look and saw that the domain was for sale. I said I’d buy it right then and there but got distracted and when I remembered a few hours later some lucky duck (or penguin) had snapped it up. As I write this there is still nothing on the site and I’m kicking myself for not trying to get as much penguin affiliate traffic as possible.

What is weird about this little story is the fact that I was seriously considering a domain that is recognised with an advert. Not a product or service but an ad. Tell a friend you’re going to buy or and they might think you’re a bit mental for having a site when you can’t sell beer or big macs. But much in the same way that Coca Cola buys 20 variations of or Mike Bloomberg buys 400 domains just so others can’t register names like, a wider approach when thinking about where to put your content is necessary.

So you might be asking how does that fit in with the penguin? Since that ad went live last week, it has been viewed over 11million times (at the time of writing) and seems to be the biggest Christmas ad of 2014. Christmas is still over a month away. That’s why I decided to delve deep, look at the major Christmas ads to come out over the last week and compare all the data behind each one to figure out who really has the best Christmas ad. Not who gets the most views necessarily, but who had the best digital marketing campaign for their brand based on SEO friendliness.

To help figure this out, a few key metrics were looked at:

  • YouTube Views
  • YouTube Optimisation
  • Social Shares
  • Activity on other platforms
  • Onsite Optimisation

Looking at these and a few other points worth picking up on, I’ll show you what makes for a good Xmas campaign when shifting from offline to online and what makes for a sub-par approach. So here is a (not so) scientific breakdown of how well the major Christmas ads have proven to be one week removed from when a domesticated penguin was unleashed.

SiteHashtag UsedYouTube ViewsSocial SharesShare as a {262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6}
John Lewis#Montythepenguin11,809,4531892651.60{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6}
Tesco#Makechristmas #ChristmasBoost286,63217700.62{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6}

The table above shows each major store to bring out an ad this week, whether that store used a hashtag, how many views the video has on YouTube, how many times the video URL has been shared on all major social channels and what that equates to as a percentage of those who viewed the YouTube link. Let’s start off with the big one.

John Lewis

John Lewis is winning a game no one ever thought would be beaten: the ‘Christmas is Coming’ standard approach. For years a big red Coca Cola lorry appearing on the TV was the sign of the season, but now John Lewis are basically leading the charge with their ad that says ‘Christmas is starting when we say it is’. Their ad, just like last year, is a fully formed story and is bolstered in as many ways as possible: twitter accounts for fictional characters, a cover song that can claim property of in the charts (hello free advertising) and even a toy that is a reference to an ad: something the Andrex puppy could only dream of.

The video has a 1.6{262b22605905d7bdadc9d0423a4a46028d1c16e5c2069f052c9de36584b442a6} share from everyone who has viewed it on YouTube and it has the most shares of all the ads launched. The only stumbling block of the campaign is that there is too much surrounding it. Building an experience is a great thing and options are too but having 2 custom twitter accounts, none of which are @JohnLewis, isn’t going to help bridge the gap of association. The landing page is fantastically set up, but again has too many options that would distract a visitor rather than guide them. The path for the user should be clear cut, yet this landing page goes off in more directions than you could imagine.


The only ad campaign without a hashtag in sight, Waitrose too has a fully formed story and is pushing home the idea that Christmas is something everyone is involved in. Waitrose is owned by John Lewis which, when comparing these two ads, makes a lot of sense. There’s a song involved that is pushing the user experience in another direction for ownership and it serves as an ad that tries to cover a lot of bases. How many? Well look at the number of links the YouTube description has:

waitrose youtube links

That is more than a lot. This is a great example of over optimisation. We know that a user won’t click on every single link and they might only be looking for one, but it would be better to have all that information present onsite and filtered down to guarantee visits. A very specific example of this? Having a link to a YouTube channel on the Youtube channel you’re currently on.


Last year Tesco went the opposite direction of competitors with very short ads that used non-Christmas music. They’re the only brand to be using two hashtags simultaneously which makes the campaign slightly harder to track and relate to (is the focus on boosting my Clubcard points to save money, or make Tesco part of my Christmas shop?). This is possibly why it has a lower social share than expected. The other problem the ad has is it doesn’t give a reason for the user/viewer to do much else i.e. spend money, when they’re too busy looking at the pretty lights. They’re literally leaving you outside the shop(site) and not enticing you inside to have a look around.

Marks & Spencer

One thing we always recommend to clients is to have landing pages set up early and often. Planning on pushing a lot of Christmas content? Make the page, have it sit there even if there’s no content yet and you’ll be indexed without worrying if you’ll be visible as you get closer to launch. Marks & Spencer were well ahead of this by launching the twitter account for the two fairies in October. Sure it’s only a few weeks ago, but it puts their presence on the platform well ahead of competitors.

the two fairies

The account is mostly lucky people retweeting gifts the account gave them. No formal recognition of who of what the two fairies are happened until the ad came out last week. Combine that with the 2 million views the ad has received within 4 days and the video description pointing to the Twitter account instead of onsite (which acts as a unique landing page) and you have an almost perfect marketing campaign. Except for one thing. The Twitter account they are pointing everything towards doesn’t have a formal link back to the Marks & Spencer site. So instead of acting as an incentive to get users to spend time and money on the site, the buck stops on Twitter where a user can be much more easily distracted. A person will be much more likely to start clicking on trending hashtags instead of actively going on the M&S site.


When looking at the other ads it’s easy to guess what the target audience is. John Lewis, Waitrose and Tesco aiming at kids and families. M&S aiming at young couples who love wearing knitwear in the snow. Aldi though seems to be covering all bases at once and not doing very well. Their ad has the highest percentage share but the lowest number of YouTube views. The video description doesn’t guide the user to any onsite links and the hashtag #AldiChristmasAd isn’t going to interest many people. It’s the only ad to openly have a celebrity featured, but it hasn’t done much for raising the Jools Holland’s profile when comparing how they’ve been performing on Google Trends. His profile reached a high the weekend the ad was on during X Factor, but was matched with the weekend U2, and Sam Smith were on his show last month. We’re hoping the campaign isn’t as rushed feeling as being in an Aldi checkout.

jools holland aldi


Lidl has gone through a massive overhaul in advertising this year. Their billboards and ads are clean cut, uncluttered, centre around Twitter and go along the lines of ‘we actually do really good food’. This ad is essentially a festive twist on a blind taste test with fake hidden cameras on the table. The ‘SURPRISE ITS LIDL!’ doesn’t reinforce any product so much as an idea of Lidl being more than just a cheaper brand.  Head to the homepage though, see a title tag like ‘Our Offers’ and no optimised meta descriptions in place or structured URL hierarchy would leave a user thinking the site looks like that spare aisle where random items are seemingly shoved together in the hopes you’ll take notice on a potential bargain you never knew you wanted.

lidl google

Meta Data like this is never good.


The only non-supermarket of the bunch, Boots, will always ditch the Deacon Blue-centric advertising of summer for something a bit more homely at Christmas. Their ad has a story, an emotion led hashtag (a very smart touch) and a teary eyed finish (we’re only human after all). The video description leads to a 301 redirected (i.e. SEO friendly) Christmas landing page where the video is embedded as a reminder of the content that led you there. Its shows why it had the 2nd highest percentage share of all the adverts.Unlike the experience the John Lewis Penguin page has, a quick scroll down puts you right in front of the products and doesn’t entice you to look elsewhere.

So which ad is the best?

Looking at the numbers would lead you to believe that John Lewis has the Christmas Ad trophy safely wrapped up under the tree a month early, but after looking at all the data and evaluating how SEO-friendly the path the content has taken us down is, Boots really does have the best Christmas Ad. Of course a new contender could come along within the next week or two and knock that loveable penguin’s view count off the top spot, but we are going to safely bet that Boots will be happy with the number of Lynx gift sets being sold over the next few weeks if their digital marketing efforts are anything to go by.

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