10 of the best Christmas campaigns past and present

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These clever advertising campaigns will get you into the festive spirit.

Madeleine Wilson

For an updated version of this article check out The best Christmas campaigns of 2020.

Every year new Christmas ads are released to inspire us, humour us and, evidently, make us cry. Here is a list of favourites from recent years (in no order). 

1. Burberry, ‘From London With Love’, 2014  

In this incredibly well-choreographed short film, a couple fall in love and get swept up by the mood of Christmas against a beautiful London backdrop. 

The campaign by luxury British fashion house Burberry combined the magic of Christmas with serious star power. Victoria and David Beckham’s son Romeo made his onscreen debut in the leading role, alongside British models and dancers Hannah Dodds and Anders Hayward. Encapsulating more than just what Burberry sells, the film depicts a lifestyle, taking viewers on a romantic and whimsical journey through beautiful music, dance, stunning set design and, of course, sophisticated fashion. 

Why it worked: 

  • The campaign didn’t sell to viewers – instead, it drew them in with an intriguing and compelling story that was enhanced by a film quality set, a soundtrack composed exclusively for the film and choreography inspired by classic musicals. 
  • Burberry cleverly leveraged Romeo Beckham (the son of two British fashion icons) to take its brand to an audience beyond luxury fashion devotees. 

2. WestJet, ‘Christmas Miracle’, 2013 

Canadian airline WestJet hit PR gold with its Christmas Miracle campaign. Customers were asked what they wanted for Christmas before they boarded a flight, and workers then had their gifts wrapped and ready on the baggage carousel when they arrived at their destination.

This memorable real-life stunt showcased the brand’s ethos of incredible customer service. The film has been viewed over 48 million times and remains relevant five years after it was created. 

Why it worked: 

  • WestJet cleverly combined technology (interactive Santa screens) with the airline’s major network of manpower to pull the stunt off.  
  • Thanks to the generosity and spontaneity of the campaign, no other brand has managed to top it. 

3. Iceland Foods, ‘Choose a Christmas Without Palm Oil’, 2018 

In this ad by UK supermarket chain Iceland Foods, an orangutan tries to befriend a little girl in her home because he has nowhere else to live after his forest was cut down to make palm oil. 

Narrated by Emma Thompson, the campaign was a repurposed Greenpeace video that Iceland Foods used to promote its ban on palm oil products. While it was banned from TV for being too political, it has since gone viral on social media thanks to word of mouth. And a petition to put the ad back on the air has already been signed by 750,000 people on change.com. 

As a follow up to the film, a life-size animatronic orangutan was created to appear in London’s busiest areas, including Oxford Street and inner-city parks. The orangutan is seen in everyday scenarios to highlight that it doesn’t have anywhere to live. 


Why it worked: 

  • Iceland Foods managed to successfully bring a political issue to the fore with very little public backlash because it appealed to people’s emotions. The campaign has highlighted an issue that many feel passionately about. 

4. Coca Cola, ‘White Christmas’, 2014 

Created by Ogilvy Asia, this Cola Cola campaign brought the magic of a ‘white Christmas’ to people in Singapore who would usually never experience anything like this, with tropical heat being the order of the day for their Christmas period. 

Why it worked: 
  • The campaign brought Coke’s tagline ‘share happiness’ to life by allowing people from across the world to share how they experience Christmas. 
  • It was a great example of Coke using its brand power in an experiential way without selling any of its product. This was purely a branding exercise that worked. 

5. John Lewis, ‘Moz the Monster’, 2017 

A boy befriends the loveable monster under his bed. 

John Lewis is known for its Christmas campaigns and in 2017, the UK retail giant created its ‘Moz the Monster’ campaign with the tagline, ‘For gifts that brighten their world’. The campaign is centred around a little boy who is scared of the dark until he meets Moz the Monster who has fun with him every night, keeping him from being afraid until he lets a night-light take over the job for him. This campaign flips the ‘monster under the bed’ fable on its head to create something emotional and memorable. 

Why it worked:

  • Nearly everyone in the Western world is aware of the fable, ‘monsters under your bed’, so the campaign resonated widely.  
  • The film was clever, humorous and heartwarming – a winning combination. 

6. John Lewis, ‘Buster the Boxer’, 2016 

Even the family dog enjoys this present served up by John Lewis.

Steering away from its usual tearjerkers, in 2016 John Lewis created a heartwarming film about a girl who wants a trampoline for Christmas. Her dog ends up enjoying the gift the most after seeing nocturnal animals frolicking on it the night before – much to the shock of his human family.

Why it worked: 

  • This was a simple, funny idea that was executed perfectly. Christmas is for everyone and this includes the much-loved family pet. 

7. Qantas, ‘Feels Like Home’, 2015 

When you need to be with your family, Qantas makes sure you get there.

This absolute tearjerker of a campaign was one of Qantas’s most successful. It promotes the idea that Qantas helps bring the family together at Christmas. It was one in a series that the brand created and the campaign was highly successful across all channels. 

Why it worked: 

  • The storytelling in this film was a big part of its success. We follow each character’s journey against an emotional soundtrack until they are reunited with their loved ones. 
  • Its Love Actually vibes help represent Qantas’s ethos and brand positioning in a really meaningful way. 

8. Sainsbury’s, ‘Christmas 1914’, 2014 

This ad tells the true story of the Christmas Day truce during WWI.

Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion, it depicts the two days that the German and Allied troops stopped fighting to acknowledge and celebrate Christmas. The tagline used in the campaign, ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ promotes the spirit of those events. Sainsbury’s used this as a message that rings true 100 years later. 

Why it worked:  

  • This ad brought one of WWI’s most well-known war stories to light on its 100-year anniversary. It relies on a simple truth – that we are all human – and reminds us that the spirit of Christmas can bring people together. 
  • People have been so disappointed with the brand’s 2018 ad that they are revisiting the 2014 film to discuss how effective it was, proving that it has resonance years later. 

9. Apple, ‘Share your Gifts’, 2018 

Apple encourages us to share what we’re good at this Christmas.

This animated campaign puts a different spin on ‘gifts’ for the holiday season. Its refreshing take on Christmas combines three of the greatest tools in marketing – a good story, a great track (Billie Eilish can do no wrong) and, of course, a dog. 

Why it worked:

  • Again, great storytelling is at the heart of this ad and Apple has nailed the intrigue and emotional aspects of this. 
  • Less than a month after being released, the video has already been viewed over 9 million times and this is without any overt advertising behind it. 

10. Aldi, ‘Santa Crashes Christmas’, 2018 

Santa crashes in the middle of nowhere and some friendly Aussies help him get back to work.

This short Aldi film tells the story of a down and out Santa who has lost his way after crashlanding in the Australian outback. Santa is unaware that the people in the community have rebuilt his sleigh and got him ready to go to deliver presents for Christmas. When he finds out, he is overwhelmed with gratitude.

Why it worked: 

  • This ad celebrates what being an Australian is all about. It’s a lighthearted and easy concept to grasp, but it’s still meaningful and resonates with the masses. 
  • The ad has had an incredible response from industry and trade press and is sure to win some awards. People are passionately commenting on it on YouTube and Aldi Australia has been compared to John Lewis for the quality of its Christmas commercials.

Madeleine Wilson
, director, tide.pr

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