Holiday marketing campaigns can inspire, entertain or simply highlight the latest deals. Every so often, there are a few that rise above the noise to surprise and delight—and this year, the UK is killing it. From hungry reindeer to celebrity tear jerkers, here are our picks for the top 2018 holiday campaigns so far.
John Lewis & Partners: The Boy and the Piano
Inside a lovely home decorated for Christmas, Sir Elton John sits alone at an upright piano. After a moment, he begins to play “Your Song.” The film works its way backward in time throughout the performer’s long career as he plays the music for adoring fans and friends throughout the decades. Finally, we land in the humble living room of a British family where a young boy receives a piano for Christmas. Eyes filled with wonder, the boy touches the ivory keys for the first time. As Elton John looks up from the piano, we realize that it is the same one.
Viewers are left with the message, “Some gifts are more than just a gift.”
Why it was chosen: John Lewis & Partners executed a touching story that ends with a thought-provoking message. The call to action is subtle, reminding audiences that a gift can change someone’s life. It does not, however, feature items for sale or the latest discounts.
The Boy and the Piano resonated with audiences worldwide and quickly became viral. On YouTube, the spot earned nearly 10 million YouTube views in its first week.
Twitter UK: #NotARetailStore
As one of the most popular retailers in the UK, John Lewis & Partners gets a lot of social media interaction. There’s just one problem—Twitter user @JohnLewis is not a retail store. For years, this teacher from Virginia has received countless messages from customers with everything from complaints to asking if an item is in stock. This engagement increases each holiday when John Lewis & Partners releases its Christmas ad.
Lewis has taken it all in stride, providing witty responses and tagging the retail store to make sure they don’t get ignored. For the past few years, John Lewis & Partners has rewarded the teacher with holiday gifts to thank him for his time and patience. This holiday, Twitter UK recognized Lewis’ role and gave him his very own ad.
Why it was chosen: Sometimes the success of an ad can be attributed to some very clever timing. Twitter UK capitalized on the trending John Lewis & Partners ad to encourage conversation—even if it’s by mistake—and it worked, garnering over 70,000 likes and 21,000 retweets in just two days. For his part, the “other” John Lewis received praise for the ad (both his and that of the retail store) and even received tickets to Elton John’s Farewell Tour.
— John Lewis (@johnlewis) November 19, 2018
Apple: Share Your Gifts
Apple released an animated spot on Wednesday that reminds people to share not just presents, but talents with others. The video features a young woman that tirelessly creates, but hides her work inside a box. Even as she goes through her life (at work, on the bus, etc.), the woman’s creativity shines, but she quickly hides it so no one can see. When her ideas float out the window, she runs desperately into the night to retrieve them but it’s too late. People are beginning to discover the woman’s work—and to her surprise, she made people happy.
Why it was chosen: Like John Lewis & Partners, Apple focused on an idea rather than a product. Aside from the woman typing on an Apple laptop, the brand didn’t push sales or products to holiday shoppers. Instead, Apple sent a message to all those creators out there who are afraid to share their work. The heartwarming ad quickly rose to the top 10 trending list on YouTube in just one day.
McDonald’s UK: #ReindeerReady
Nothing says Christmas tradition like Santa Claus, but why should he get all the snacks when his reindeer work so hard too? McDonald’s UK continued its #ReindeerReady campaign for 2018 with a new spot and a few new surprises.
In the new commercial, Santa makes his rounds on Christmas Eve, enjoying the cookies and mince pies left for him. House after house, his poor reindeer go hungry as no one leaves carrots. When the reindeer get too tired to continue, Santa finds the solution at a nearby McDonald’s and brings back a large supply of “Reindeer Snacks,” i.e. baby carrots.
Why it was chosen: McDonald’s has traditionally used the “Santa visiting a restaurant” motif, but this year includes new, interactive elements like an ebook and Snapchat Lens and filters. Snapchat users can engage with the campaign with a game that makes them look like a reindeer, tasked with catching as many falling carrots as possible. Honestly, just seeing reindeer flash their big, sad eyes may be enough to make a lot of people run out and stock up on carrots.