I have, on occasion, been accused of not being ‘the cheeriest cracker in the box’ at this time of year, whatever that means.  It wasn’t always this way… I used to look forward to my piece of coal on Christmas day as much as the next child. I suppose that’s it, it’s just not quite the same when you grow up. Luckily this year, there’s been longer than ever to get in to the spirit, as marketers have observed that the Christmas period started a whole 10 days earlier in 2013 than it did five years ago. We decided to take a look at what advertisers have managed to squeeze into those 10 extra days with our pick of the 10 best, worst, and strangest Christmas advertising trends and campaigns in 2013…

1. The light relief: Americans go large.

Show your Joe: K-Mart.

This is one of those ads that could just as easily end up on your best pile or your worst, depending on your preferences. An undeniably American ad in every way and a very funny follow-up to K-Mart’s earlier ‘ship my pants’ effort. With over 15 million views on YouTube as of the 10th December, there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a very happy Christmas at KMart HQ.


2. Even Santa got the Google treatment.


The Santa Tracker http://www.google.com/santatracker/

 This year Google has taken over the north pole in addition to the rest of the world with their Santa Tracker. Like a masterful extension of their brilliant doodles, the Santa tracker uses Google’s own Maps app to illustrate Santa’s journey, with a different activity opening up each day in the lead-up to Christmas that allows you to interact with it. It may remind us of the omnipotence of the great Google, but really, it’s rather fun.


3. All we want for Christmas is a …Meerkat.

Comparethemeerkat.com Christmas idents for Coronation Street.

As the meerkat continues its journey further into our national psyche, visitors from abroad could be forgiven for assuming that America has her golden eagle and we Brits have not a lion, but a meerkat. After the launch of the highly successful comparethemeerkat.com campaign in 2009 we’ve never been the same since; Christmas 2010 saw the release of Alexander Orlov’s book, ‘A simples Journey’. Fast Forward to 2013 and Alexander and comrades have teamed up with Corrie and you can now buy every kind of Christmas meerkat gift you could possibly imagine: Christmas socks, onesies, ornaments, jumpers, you name it, Tesco probably stocks it. For some, the TV campaign has outstayed its welcome, but let’s face it; the entire comparethemeerkat.com franchise and the own-brand offshoots have probably contributed enough to the GDP this year to keep Mr Osborne happy for another year.


4.EVERYTHING got the festive treatment…


Babybel Christmas Collection.

…And I mean everything. We’re so immune to Christmas marketing that most people wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at most of the promotions on the supermarket shelves,  including the Christmas ‘Collection’ from Babybel. It’s not a bad promotion; nice designs and it’s easy to see why they would appeal to children, but do we ever stop to think how absurd it is that there are now seasonal editions of so many different product types that your sweet little angels can even have their own selection of seasonally wrapped processed cheese, complete with Christmas character designs to choose from? No, just me? …Bah humbug.


5. The supermarkets were stuffed.


Another Christmas retail trend I’ve noticed this year is the sudden need to cram several varieties of the same product into one; no doubt because our decision making powers have been so overwhelmed as consumers at this point in the year we are shadows of our former selves, limping our way through the aisles, loaded up with anything red or green in sight and using the trolley as a walking aid. It all started a few years ago with the ‘Three Bird Roast’ and now all the supermarkets are layering up their dairy too with ‘Five Counties cheese’.  You no longer need to choose between leicester, cheddar, derby, gloucester and cheshire cheeses, just have them all; that’s capitalism for you! We’re also taking bets in the office on just how many birds Tesco will succeed in rolling into one next year…

6. Santa got reincarnated as a…hobo?

Travelling Santa: City of Vienna.

I realise they’re trying to do something new and show us a different side to Father Christmas- and  really you can’t get much more different than a beatnik hippie Santa in a poncho- I just find myself asking, why?! It turns out this series of ads are promoting the City of Vienna, which you could be forgiven for not realising. In all fairness, the concept isn’t bad but the execution isn’t great. It’s one of those ads where the message just gets lost in the delivery; no doubt on the way to Vienna somewhere. 

7. An overdose of big-budget fluff.


I’ve really enjoyed some of the big ads this year (although I think, while spectacular, John Lewis did  do better last year.) but it’s certainly true that the direction has been veering towards the overly-sentimental. Fortunately, KFC provided the perfect antidote to the fluff by keeping their tongue firmly in cheek for their Christmas offering.


8. The Christmas Spirit didn’t sell so well.

The story of giving something back: Waitrose.

Waitrose yet again bucked the trend for big and bold with its Christmas advertising, preferring instead to remind us what Christmas is all about; new puppies, Christmas dinner marathons and Baileys by the bottle….sorry, my mistake, I meant giving instead of receiving and thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves. The ad is arguably truer to the spirit of Christmas than any of the other bigger names and yet it hasn’t gone down so well.. In Campaign’s list of the top 10 supermarket ads, only 0.97% rated it as their favourite. Perhaps we all deserve coal in our stockings this year…


9. The Battle of the Titans: Costa vs Starbucks Christmas cups.


Who won? Does it even matter? The fact that we now anticipate  limited edition Christmas cups from both of Britain’s biggest coffee chains is a marketing masterstroke. Me, I prefer the more classic Starbucks design-they did it first after all. But everyone else in the office says Costa. You must admit though, the lack of heads on the Costa ones does make Father Christmas topped up with a Cappuccino look a little gruesome…

10. It’s Baileys…do we need a reason?

The Nutcracker: Baileys.

Not a trend as such, but this was my favourite big budget ad this year so I had to get this in somewhere. It’s a rare thing when an ad not only manages to create a spectacle and entertain, but stays completely true to its brand identity all at the same time. The Baileys brand conjures up indulgence, excess and drama; all of which this ad has in spades.