Every year, brands all over the world roll out fantastical Christmas ad campaigns to delight, entertain, and attract consumers. Some bring tears to our eyes while others make us feel all warm and fuzzy — but not every ad is a hit.
This year, we’re taking a deeper look at some of our favorite Christmas ad campaigns and pinpointing exactly why we love them.
John Lewis | “The Beginner”
Well, John Lewis has done it again. Frequently lauded one of as the best Christmas ad creators, the UK department store once again hit a home run with this 2022 holiday ad about a man learning how to skateboard.
While watching him practice day in and out, we’re unaware of who he’s learning to skateboard to impress. A son or daughter he struggled to connect with in their youth? A reserved, Gen Z grandchild? It’s left up in the air. But we get to watch as our hero falls time and time again, and continues to keep on trying.
At the end of this emotional ad, we meet the reason he spent weeks mastering a new hobby: he and his wife are taking in a foster child who loves to skateboard. She’s a bit nervous, but seeing his obviously used skateboard leaning against the wall, she finds some common ground and visibly relaxes.
The ad ends with a sobering fact, explaining that “over 108,000 children in the UK are in the care system”. However, John Lewis has stepped up to make a difference, promising that they’re “making a long-term commitment to support the futures of young people from care” in partnership with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland.
The ad has clearly resonated with audiences, as so many are sharing it on social media accounts and commenting on the official video itself with their appreciation of John Lewis shining a light on an often overlooked and devastating issue. This year — and for many years to come — John Lewis has pledged its support to a worthy cause, and consumers will remember it.
Penny | “The Rift”
Penny isn’t messing around this year with its emotional, moving Christmas spot, called “The Rift”. Set in Germany, it focuses on the issues — personal, political, cultural, etc. — that neighbors in a building are facing.
The ad’s goal is to address “the divisions that are increasingly running through our society, and implore viewers to encourage an open dialogue with their neighbors.” With the help of a visceral, visible crack that is getting worse as people become more upset and divided, the spot is meant to illustrate how dangerous it can be to let our differences divide us.
In a time when there are numerous hot-button issues to choose from, it was a bold choice for Penny to address so many in such a head-on manner. But a choice that paid off, as consumers have found the spot both moving and poignant. At the end of the ad, “Let's heal the rifts in our society. Let’s talk.” is emblazoned across the screen, with a link to Penny’s website to further the discussion.
While other brands have chosen to strike sentimental or joyful chords, Penny took a more serious approach, which is, ultimately, a great way to stand out from the crowd.
Asda | “Have your Elf a Merry Christmas”
Asda is going big with this year’s Christmas ad, tapping into the nostalgia and star power of Buddy the Elf. While some at first thought the ad would be Will Ferrell’s return to the big screen as Buddy, it’s actually just a fantastic editing job.
Quite impressively, Asda’s marketing team was able to splice together titular scenes from the movie with modern, everyday situations in an Asda around Christmas. We get famous lines such as “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite” when spreading cheer to an elderly shopper and “Son of a nutcracker!’ after Buddy is almost accidentally hit but some shopping carts.
The ad is masterfully done — after all, finding ways that the movie’s lines could work seamlessly in an Asda commercial took a lot of work and creativity. And it somehow feels both wonderfully nostalgic and fresh at the same time. Hats off to Asda’s creative teams this year — we’ll be watching this ad a few more times, that’s for sure.
M&S Food | “Fairy & Duckie”
M&S has brought back its beloved Christmas character, aptly named Fairy — as she’s a fairy tree topper who comes to life when the lights go out. Zooming around the living room, she’s looking for a new little friend this year. After turning down a few options, she decides on Duckie, a much-loved dog toy yearning for a reprise.
After gifting Duckie the ability to fly and escape the family pooch, the duo comes to the conclusion that Duckie needs to replace her stuffing “with some festive cheer” — which, of course, comes in the form of M&S’s extensive Christmas food collection. From delectable cakes to fruity bread loves, the ad does a great job of making its Christmas collection jump off the screen.
Charming, festive, and heart-warming, M&S’s Christmas ad hits all the right notes and remains true to the brand’s identity — making it an effective holiday ad.
Disney | “The Gift”
It’s no surprise that Disney released a heartwarming Christmas ad this year — after all, it’s a family-centric brand that leans into the magic of its films, parks, and products. “The Gift” tells the story of a growing family preparing for Christmas and focuses on the changing dynamics felt by the soon-to-be middle child.
Throughout the ad, she begins to see how life will change with a new baby in the house — her mom can’t be the one to take her ice skating, she almost loses her favorite ornament to the accidental swipe of a baby bump, and her Christmas star is damaged due to her mom’s increasing contractions.
But each time she’s feeling sad or neglected, her older brother does something to make her feel better — and many times, that’s sharing his glow-in-the-dark Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. When the new baby finally makes it home, the young girl passes the Mickey toy on and all is well.
Being Disney, the ad is full of product placement — an Elsa dress to ice skate, an Olaf ornament, and a Jasmine doll. However, it’s all done masterfully and, of course, the animation is top-notch.
Heart-warming, wonderfully diverse, and uplifting, Disney’s Christmas ad is sure to be a hit — and reaffirms the brand’s place in consumers’ hearts (and wallets).
TK Maxx | “Christmas Nailed”
This year, TK Maxx has gone for high cinematic quality, quirky visuals, and a toe-tapping soundtrack in its Christmas ad. Showcasing Sam, a young woman who’s impressing everyone with her extraordinary gifts, the ad follows our spunky heroine around an idealistic, Christmas-themed city — and she’s receiving all the high-fives you could imagine.
The gist of it all? You get better gifts for less money — gifts that will impress your entire family. And during a time such as this, with financial pressures building and the cost of living growing, TK Maxx made a solid choice by highlighting its positioning as an affordable brand with high-quality items.
In fact, Deborah Dolce, the Group Director of TK Maxx, told House Beautiful:
“With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, we know this is a tough year and, for many people, Christmas is such an important time to come together with loved ones,' said Deborah Dolce, Group Director at TK Maxx.”
Whimsical, colorful, and all-around fun, TK Maxx’s ad is one of our favorites this year — as it not only leans into the brand’s values but also stands on its own as a piece of solid holiday entertainment.
Kroger | “The Magical Cookbook”
This year, Kroger is pulling at our heartstrings with its animated Christmas ad about a lonely older man remembering the magic of past Christmases with the help of his partner’s old cookbook.
After discovering the cookbook, he visits Kroger to stock up on groceries, begins to make her traditional holiday recipes, and is transported back to memories of Christmas past — when he met her first over a split hors d'oeuvres, raising their children, celebrating graduations, and more.
The ad is sentimental, touching, and emotional — and it’s meant to remind consumers of their own losses and beautiful memories of past holidays. Ending with the tagline “Today’s holidays are tomorrow’s memories”, Kroger’s Christmas ad does an excellent job of forging an emotional connection with the viewer — a solid strategy to build loyalty with modern consumers.
Etsy | “To The Travelers”
Surrounded by tons of creative ads this year, Etsy’s holiday campaign still manages to stand out thanks to its ability to bring one of its main USPs to life: the power of hand-crafted gifts.
Starring three young travelers headed home, each one has a special gift picked out for someone important in their lives. Leaning into the emotionality of seeing far-away loved ones during the holidays, Etsy’s ad positions the brand as one to lend a helping hand when consumers want to show their love and appreciation with a perfect present.
Be it hand-made earrings for your mother or a personalized snowglobe for your grandfather, Etsy manages to show viewers that, this Christmas, they’re the best place to find truly meaningful gifts.
Cadbury | “Going Home”
This season, Cadbury is bringing back the Little Generosity Shop and is partnering up with Toy Kingdom to help spread generosity and gifts to South African children. In the brand’s Christmas ad, we see many South Africans returning home and being driven to their various towns and cities by a dedicated bus driver.
Throughout the trip, the bus driver gets to see all his passengers reunited with their families — the love, the hugs, and the gifts exchanged. During a stop at a gas station, two passengers have a quiet conversation before one jumps out to visit the convenience store. And after one of his last stops, the driver returns to his seat to find a bar of Cadbury chocolate and a note, which says:
“Thank you for taking us home. Here is something for you to take home, too.”
The entire ad leans into the feeling of generosity that the holiday season inspires in many people and shows consumers that Cadbury cares about more than just making money. It’s a lovely form of cause marketing — and nothing new for this British brand. In 2021, Cadbury released a campaign encouraging consumers to purchase from small businesses, even at the expense of its own products.
This theme of giving back and helping others remains in Cadbury’s 2022 Christmas ad, and we think it will be a hit with consumers.
Sainsbury’s | “Once Upon a Pud”
Opening on an impressive castle, dragon overhead, we hear in voiceover: “In a far, far away land, a feast was being planned.” That’s how Sainsbury’s Christmas ad starts out, and it’s a wacky, fun story when it unfolds.
Set in the hall of an imperious countess, she approves her potential Christmas feast delicacies one by one. But when presented with the dessert option — a flaming cake — our countess reveals she’s “never really liked Christmas pudding”. Now tasked with finding something new and interesting to suit her tastes, our brave baker must get creative.
On the night of the feast, he presents his creation to the horror of all in attendance — it’s just another Christmas pudding, right? But when the countess tastes it, she recognizes the flavor of caramelized biscuit and responds with, “Oh, that’s a bit of me.”
Closing out on the sound of cheers and an instrumental version of Teenage Dirtbag, we are met with Sainsbury’s slogan: Taste the Difference. This ad is loads of fun and engaging, as well as wonderfully diverse and inclusive. It creates an intriguing fantasy world and makes for a memorable campaign sure to delight UK consumers.
As the holiday ad campaigns keep rolling in, we'll be sure to add those that deserve a spotlight — whether they're silly, heartwarming, serious, or downright ridiculous.