Christmas 2014: “The Year of the Mini-film”

Christmas this year has been front-loaded with cute, funny and even controversial video ads by everyone from Boots to TK Maxx and, 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 – Sainsburys 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 Frasers 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 thats where YouTube works for them.”

Sainsburys this week launched a second Christmas video ad designed specifically for the web after the supermarkets 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 – thats 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 McVities Victoria Christmas Choir ad, banked on the internets obsession with cute animals, even including the mythical narwhal, to make their video ad a winner this year.

“Were 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 McVities 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, were 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 Clubcards #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.”

“From a personal point, a hashtag allows marketers to track the campaign through social more easily,” FCBs West adds. “However, it has to be relevant. A hashtag that has no point, where there is no real need for discussion, or doesn’t fit your audience’s behaviour, is irrelevant and is essentially a box ticking exercise. As a rule they’re less effective as part of TV ad campaigns but are a useful part of the marketing mix if they are relevant, simple and memorable.”

Tesco Santa

And its not just video campaigns that can benefit from social. Even the most old-school marketing materials can take off online, according to Richard Village, director of Smith&+Village, creators of Booths’ free Christmas book.

“The work we’ve done for Booths this year is staunchly analogue. We firmly believe that a beautifully tactile book to leaf through and immerse yourself in gives customers real motivation to engage with both Booths and the fantastic food they have on offer in a way that isn’t possible in the digital space.

“We love the way that the book actually creates a dialogue with customers. Twitter and other social sites have gone mad about it – with people talking about what theyre buying and sharing recipes – in a way that an advert just doesn’t, because its necessarily a piece of one-way communication.”

Is an app for Christmas?

We Are Social went down the app route with Tesco Clubcards campaign this year, creating an app that scans Twitter and then makes recommendations for Christmas gifts.

“By creating an app, it meant that we could provide tailored and personalised gift recommendations to users on Twitter in real time, something that Twitter as a platform could not offer,” says Hughes. “Our biggest and most active community is on Twitter, it’s also a great platform to reach out to non-Clubcard customers, so it made sense to use this to create something clever.

“But the app is just one element of a larger campaign, which also included blogger outreach and a content series on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness of Clubcard Boost and its offerings to customers, old and new.”