CAPITALISM, COMMERCIALS AND CHECKOUTS GO HAND IN HAND AT CHRISTMAS TIME. THE ONE MOMENT IN THE YEAR THE U.K. PUBLIC STOPS AND PROPERLY PAYS ATTENTION TO THE ADVERTS ON THE TELLYBOX. BRANDS AND AGENCIES HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO CREATE WORK THAT WORKS, BUT DOES IT EXTEND BEYOND THAT? LUCY MOODY, SENIOR STRATEGIST AT BBH AND MASTER PLANNER BEHIND THE TESCO 2018 AND 2019 CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGNS, ARGUES THERE IS A CULTURAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ADVERTISING AT THIS SPECIAL TIME OF YEAR.

Christmas, undoubtedly a special time of year for many people, but will always be held dear by those who work in advertising – why? Because it’s the one time of year when the nation actually cares about what we make. It’s deemed to be our Superbowl – the moment when we pull out all the stops to make something that will truly stand out at the busiest time of year. 

But whilst we all want to make beautiful, big-budget Christmas ads that will look great on the end of year reel, it’s worth remembering the context in which we put our ads out there. As advertisers, we are blessed with the privilege of not only reflecting culture but shaping it too, and no time is this truer than Christmas when people look to and use advertising as a signifier that the Christmas season is about to begin.

So it’s vital that we acknowledge the cultural context in which our advertising is operating in, but once that’s been acknowledged we’re left with two choices, do we lean into and reflect the national mood and zeitgeist or do we do something to try and change it?  

For the last 5 years, Tesco has always been a brand that’s reflected the nation at Christmas – using data and insight to demonstrate that no one knows how the nation does it’s Christmas better than us. Creatively we used vignettes and stories as a way to playback the diversity of the nation, putting Tesco right at the heart of how it helps each family celebrate, however they do Christmas. 

So far, so successful, but in 2019 the mood of the nation changed drastically…

We realised there was no planet B…

We’ve never before felt so let down by those in power… 

We saw how household names began to struggle…

So when the Christmas 2019 brief for Tesco landed on our desks, we didn’t want to just acknowledge these cultural anxieties but we felt like it was our responsibility to try and do something about them. Because if anyone is to really understand how the nation is feeling, it’s Tesco. Millions of people walk through its doors every single day, there is a Tesco in every postcode across the UK and it’s the nation’s biggest private employer. We’re truly part of the fabric of britain. 

So it was only right that we took on the responsibility of lifting the mood of the nation – if anyone could do it, we could. We were also blessed with a unique situation that gave us even more reason to try and cheer up the nation – Tesco was celebrating its 100th birthday… the perfect excuse for a party. 

So we ran at this idea, with five killer ingredients:

Ensuring that fun was part of the equation meant that we didn’t take a nostalgic trip down memory lane or reminisce in a quiet, reflective way. Yes, we wanted to remind the nation that we had been part of every great Christmas celebration and festive moment for the last 100 years, but we wanted to deliver this in an upbeat, joyous and positive way across all channels, giving people Christmas on steroids. 

This brief also meant we treated the channel choice differently. We wanted to deliver fun across the media mix so created a Facebook game, a first for a retailer, called Delivery Dash where you can become the driver, racing through time to deliver essential Christmas items in time for Christmas day. A playful addition to an already fun campaign. 

Three weeks after the campaign launched and the results are in. We took on the mantle of lifting the mood of the nation and we did it. The Tesco Christmas advert won the social sentiment battle in its launch week, with more positive conversation than any of our competitors. 

And when you break this down even further, we saw that 14% of the social conversation was about the ad making them feel joyful, happy and of course, Christmassy. 

It’s not a small task, trying to change the mood of 66 million people, but by reminding people about the magic of Christmas through our time travelling lens we hope that we made Britain smile. 

Check out the fun Tesco Christmas game here and watch the ad below: