The multi-million pound christmas ad industry


How many of us ask ourselves why the major retailers spend so much money on advertising and do they really achieve a viable return on investment? John Lewis spent £7m on ‘Monty the Penguin’ and within hours of its launch thousands of people had watched it and more importantly shared it – 202,953 times in its first 24 hours.

Christmas is a very emotional time – when we remember our friends and family no longer with us, reminisce about childhood and Santa Claus and look forward to getting together with loved ones – if we’re lucky enough to have this luxury. It seems that Christmas is incomplete in the business world without emotion either with the retailers competing for the Christmas advert number one spot, spending millions in the pursuit of this goal.

Every year the competition for the best Christmas ad becomes greater and every year, so far, John Lewis appears to win those stakes. Sharing these ads matters more than viewing figures as it’s indicative of an emotional attachment. Equally of those sharing the ad, 88% had a positive reaction and 14.5k people claimed it made them cry and a further 3.5k out of the 203k said it made them want to buy a penguin. Overall it had 22.4 million views on You tube.

Do John Lewis invest because of the emotional attachment of the ad with its audience? People still remember ‘The Bear and the Hare’ from Christmas 2013 which was also very successful. Monty the Penguin has been the most viral ad for John Lewis yet. Why are these ads so successful? It all boils down to the affect that story-telling has on the brain. Great story-telling can cause the brain to fire on many cylinders!

Neural coupling is where the listeners’ brain activity mirrors that of the storyteller. Engaging in a story is key as it releases 2 major chemicals in the body; cortisol released when under stress so in stories where there is suspense and then oxytocin often referred to as the ‘bonding hormone’ is also released and helps people empathise.

Research has proved that storytelling has a great effect on the brain as stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than a simple fact. Storytelling inspires people which is why it is also so effective in the business world. I recommend Sarah-Jane Murray’s talk on TED re how the brain is hard-wired for a story.

So it looks like John Lewis, more than other retailer, has been really successful in tapping into the story around their Christmas ad campaign so that the public become emotionally attached to it. So perhaps £7m is a small price to pay to hard-wire John Lewis into the minds of the British public and its ultimate target consumers. That works out at less than 32p per contact with 22m views!

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