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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

The Top Five(ish) 2023 Holiday Marketing Campaigns

The holiday season: that time of year when joy and jitters do the tango. Between decking the halls and dashing through the stores (or online) to snag last-minute deals, we find ourselves in the midst of the marketing maelstrom. A dizzying dance of ads and promos, each vying for a spot on our festive radar. But, hey, let's not be all 'bah humbug' about it. These clever campaigns and commercials can sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on our frenzied shopping sprees, turning chaos into cheer. So, grab your cocoa, and tip your Santa hats to the marketing gurus who make our holiday hustle a bit more magical.

IKEA – Take a Holiday from the Holidays: I will admit, the chaos in this ad reminded me a bit of the maze that is an IKEA store. This campaign taps into the desire for a moment of respite during the holidays. It serves as a reminder that, in what should be a season of giving and joy, there is often stress and anxiety and that a small break from the holiday chaos is well deserved. I also hear that IKEA is working on a new store format, though I have to admit, I like the maze at times.

Vodafone – Feel the Connection: Let me start by admitting my bias - being in a position of serving those who serve, families who are separated by deployments during the holiday season, the ability to connect regardless of distance makes me a bit teary. This campaign, featuring a charming elf, emphasizes the importance of feeling close to loved ones during the holidays, regardless of the distance​. As a friend of mine would say, "it has all the feels." And as commercials and campaigns go, it very simply connects the product to the intent to the holiday itself. Bravo!

Coca-Cola – The World Needs More Santas: Let me start with this emphatic statement - I believe in Santa Claus - always have, always will. Ok, now that I have gotten that off my chest - this campaign portrays a city with hundreds of Santas, highlighting acts of kindness and generosity. It aims to show the importance of these qualities during the holiday season, reminding everyone of why I believe in Santa, because he/she/they exist in all of us. Editor's note: I sent this link to a group of trainees and several commented that they would have preferred to have seen a more diverse range of Santas behind the beard at the beginning. I will admit, I am now a bit torn - I like the start with the "stereotypical" Santa Claus because of the reveal that everyone can / should be Santa. But theirs is a version worth considering. Either way, a great message and it fits the Coca Cola brand.

Marks & Spencer – Love Thismas (Not Thatmas) / Revised version Love Christmas: This campaign, featuring celebrities including Hannah Waddingham and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, was not without a bit of controversy (because what is a holiday without controversy). The original version of the video highlighted the struggle between obligatory Christmas traditions and keeping one's sanity. While it resonated with some by empowering them to focus on what they truly love about the holidays, others were trigged by the torching of holiday invites, the untimely demise of an "elf on the shelf", and the replacement of "Christmas" with "Thismas." M&S sought to win over the hardened with a kindler, gentler edit that kept a bit of the controlled chaos but took out the rogue elements, ending not with an abandonment of holiday traditions but rather the new ending "Love Christmas" (but in your own way). I will admit, I like the edited version better, not because I was triggered by someone taking a sword to the elf, but because overall, I think it flows a bit better. Your thoughts?

Original Version:

Edited Version:

Tesco: Helping You #BecomeMoreChristmas: Where M&S may have struggled to bring people together with their holiday creative, another UK retailer, Tesco, nailed it right out of the gate. An absolutely clever commercial connecting the spirit of Christmas and the holidays to their brand, showing the absolute joy of embracing the season with the lone holdout who believes "how bizarre." In the end, the young man embraces the joy of the season with the help of his father and a bit of nostalgia. Should I admit now my bias that I believe the UK typically does a better job with holiday campaigns?

Capital One "Holiday Night Fever": This commercial is a delightful fusion of holiday cheer with a classic cinematic character, nodding to Travolta's career-defining role in "Saturday Night Fever," released in December, 1977. The ad, named "Disco Santa," is a blend of classic cinema and modern-day advertising, making it a standout in this year’s holiday commercial lineup. In a holiday season increasingly laden with commercialism, Capital One does a great job highlighting the convenience of their card when making simple purchases, with a believably "hip" St. Nick - which is not an easy task to pull off!

Amazon "Joy Ride": I don't want to like an Amazon commercial (admitting another bias here folks), but I can't help it. This one hit me hard, and as one who will openly criticize marketers for failing to connect their brand message, product and/ or service to the creative execution of the ad, here I think Amazon does it extremely well. Without spoiling it, the flow between the three aged friends watching youth pass them by, using technology to execute an idea in the moment when without technology, the idea would have been lost, to seeing that youth is merely a state of mind is excellently crafted here. Dagnabbit Amazon!

ASDA "Make This Christmas Incredibuble": The first thing that should jump out at this point? By now, you realize that I didn't list five campaigns, I listed eight. Perhaps I can't count? Or provided a few honorable mentions? Second, most of you have never heard of ASDA, but once you Google, you realize that I have confirmed my bias for UK holiday advertising. Third, none of the above matters because Michael makes this commercial "Incredibuble!" Oh, and in a touch of irony, while I don't have these ads ranked in any particular order, this ad knocked Google's ad out of the running!

That's a wrap on my holiday marketing highlights for this year. This isn't a list born out of science or an AI's calculations (aside from the eye-catching title image) – it's simply a collection of campaigns that struck a chord with me. Each one uniquely marries creativity with the holiday spirit and brand identity in a way that's both engaging and memorable. May these ads fill your season with a bit more cheer and serve as a reminder of the boundless creativity that defines the holidays. Cheers!


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