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Cadbury's Secret Santa campaign is this year's most effective Christmas ad

David Murphy

Cadbury’s Secret Santa campaign has beaten rivals to be crowned the most effective Christmas ad this year, according to analysis by Kantar. Based on feedback from over 3,750 consumers and facial recognition technology to assess people’s emotional responses, Cadbury took the coveted top spot with a campaign that focused on the true meaning of Christmas and the power of giving. 

The Secret Santa ad is the highest ranking in Kantar’s database of festive campaigns since 2019, performing strongly on advertising effectiveness metrics such as branding, brand difference, meaningfulness and long-term brand building potential. People felt it best celebrated the joy of Christmas in 2022 and also deemed it to be the most appropriate, given the cost of living crisis.

This year has been especially difficult for advertisers to navigate, with record inflation dampening the national mood. Kantar research in October showed that nearly 50 per cent of people were worried about Christmas – a rise of 15 percentage points on 2021. 

“Who would have thought that post-COVID, brands would have an even trickier tightrope to walk this year,” said Lynne Deason, Head of Creative Excellence at Kantar UK. “The pressure was on to create engaging, uplifting campaigns that can drive all-important sales during the golden quarter without seeming out of touch or tone deaf to the cost-of-living backdrop. However, our research found that, by and large, brands got the balance right. Ads were more enjoyable this year than last and created a higher feel-good factor, giving a much-needed boost to the people of Britain.

“Brands generally steered clear of messaging around spending or excess and instead drew on the true meaning of Christmas – togetherness, giving and joy – which was the right way to go. Cadbury’s Secret Santa campaign cleverly tapped into themes of generosity and kindness with a populist concept that everyone can engage with, while capturing the essence of the much-loved brand.”

Christmas culture was deployed with great success this year, most notably by Asda with its ‘Have your Elf a Merry Christmas’ campaign featuring Christmas icon, Buddy the Elf. The retailer’s most effective festive offering to date, the advert scored in the top 3 per cent of all UK ads for making people smile. Aldi took a similar approach with its ‘Home Alone’ storyline, scoring especially well in humour among the top 5 per cent of all ads tested.