Christmas this year has been front-loaded with cute, funny and even controversial video ads by everyone from Boots to TK Maxx and Very.co.uk, but just how does a multiscreen campaign come together in 2014? Is TV still king or do digital platforms now ensure your touching or epic drama reaches the right people?
We spoke to the agencies behind some big brand campaigns to find out.
YouTube vs TV
“2014 is the year of the mini-film – Sainsbury's WWI film, M&S' Fairies, John Lewis' Monty the Penguin – all focused on emotive storytelling,” says Jo Hillier, head of marketing at Shoot the Company, behind House of Fraser's 'Fairy Tale' film.
“Viewing habits have changed dramatically, particularly amongst the under 30s – so for a younger audience, YouTube is definitely more important than TV. Also, everyone is viewing TV on demand and choosing not to watch the ads. They still want to see good ads but on their own terms, when it suits them, and that's where YouTube works for them.”
Sainsbury's this week launched a second Christmas video ad designed specifically for the web after the supermarket's co-opting of WWI imagery drew controversy. This film sticks to strictly amusing content and appears to have been put together on a lower budget, demonstrating a democratisation of customer feedback and production techniques only made possible by platforms like YouTube.
“It’s a free platform which allows brands with smaller budgets and great creative ideas to play amongst the big boys – that's great for consumers," Hillier says. "By hosting their Christmas film on YouTube brands boost the views of other films on their brand channel and people potentially then subscribe too.”
“YouTube is arguably as important as TV but plays a different role, so it’s wrong to talk about YouTube versus TV as a binary choice,” argues Dan West, strategist at FCB Inferno, behind the Post Office’s star-studded Christmas ad. “TV enables mass reach, and nothing competes with broadcast TV for creating brand awareness in society.
“But digital advertising content can be more targeted and enables content to generate lots of energy through sharing and commentary. This gives a brand more life. Digital ads can also show off products or services in ways TV just cannot. For example, the Honda Type R TV advert pushes people to an excellent online concept and engages in an interesting, memorable, and interactive way.”
Grey London, makers of the McVitie's Victoria Christmas Choir ad, banked on the internet's obsession with cute animals, even including the mythical narwhal, to make their video ad a winner this year.
"We're very much a TV-led brand, but people need to be able to find and share the films they love," says Hollie Newton, global creative director. "We measure success by asking 'has our work made its way into popular culture?' We never set out to 'take on John Lewis', but when the Daily Mail starts asking 'has McVitie's just won Christmas?' we can certainly start looking towards a successful outcome.
"Really though, the fundamental question has to be, how many boxes of biscuits did we sell? Otherwise, we're not doing our job properly."
Do campaigns live or die on a good hashtag?
“On social networks, in particular, Twitter, people see hundreds of posts and tweets per day, so you only really have a fraction of a second to grab their attention – a good campaign hashtag will do that,” explains Melanie Hughes, senior account manager at We Are Social, who worked on Tesco Clubcard's #SecretScanta digital Christmas campaign.
“As well as branding the campaign effectively, a hashtag done well will make help make the campaign memorable, so users are more likely to take part and also digest what they need to do.”