This year’s favourite Christmas ads, ranked by emotional reaction

Research by System1, which measures advertising effectiveness with audiences, reveals the top festive ads from the UK and US – and one 20-year-old campaign prevails.

17 December 2020

The public’s favourite Christmas ads have been ranked by marketing outcomes agency System1, and revealed as part of a joint webinar with ITV last night (Wednesday 16 December). The agency, an industry leader in measuring advertising effectiveness, showed each Christmas advert (106 ads in the UK, 62 in the US) to a test audience of 150 people and asked them how they felt about it, and how strongly. This data is converted to a star rating, which determines the following top ten for the UK and globally, ranked according to emotional reaction and therefore effectiveness.

As you can see below, a 20-year-old campaign for Coca-Cola remains the most emotive campaign, the brand’s red truck arrival signalling the beginning of the season for many; and its 2020 ad directed by Taika Waititi also features, perhaps proof of the brand’s alignment with the holidays.

UK Top 10:

  1. Coca-Cola: Holidays are Coming 2020
  2. Aldi: Kevin the Carrot
  3. DFS: A Comfy Carol
  4. Thorntons: Love, Passion & Care
  5. Sky Cinema: Christmas Advert 2020
  6. Papa John’s: Giving More This Christmas
  7. Puffin Books: Pass on a Dream
  8. Disney+: Make This Christmas Wonderful
  9. Coca-Cola: Christmas Commercial 2020
  10. Baileys Irish Cream: Get Creative: Antlers

Global top 10:      

  1. Coca-Cola: Holidays are Coming 2020
  2. Toyota: Come Home
  3. Macys: In Dad’s Shoes
  4. Woodie’s: We’re All Homemakers
  5. Coca-Cola: Christmas Commercial 2020
  6. Lidl: Christmas ad 2020
  7. Aldi: Kevin the Carrot
  8. Etsy: Personalised, Handmade, Thoughtful
  9. DFS: A Comfy Carol
  10. SodaStream:The Small Things

The research shows that, despite the backdrop of the pandemic, plus the financial and production restraints on advertising, the average star rating increased from last year, making it “the best year for Christmas ads that System1 has tested”.

In the UK there was a racist backlash to the Sainsbury’s advert featuring a Black family, which spurred the country’s supermarkets to unite in a campaign on Channel 4 called #StandAgainstRacism. The System1 research, however, reports that audiences are embracing an increase in diverse representation, as testing with a secondary campaign featuring a white family did not perform as well. In fact, this was the most diverse year on record for Christmas advertising. Five out of nine of the top ten US list feature diverse central characters, and six out of nine in the UK, proving that viewers are reacting positively to diversity on their screens.

Interestingly, any brands that referenced Covid-19 in their campaigns saw a decline in emotional response compared with their campaign from last year, showing that audiences were looking for escapism this year. “The last thing we want is a reminder of the tough year we have had so this is definitely a case of the ‘old normal’ being preferred to the ‘new normal’,” says Jon Evans, chief marketing officer at System1. “What is also clear is that ‘familiarity breeds contentment’ as both Aldi and Coke have demonstrated. The payback for brands who stick with a strong creative idea over time and leverage their fluent devices is significant.”

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Taika Waititi and W+K London: The Letter (Copyright © Coca-Cola, 2020)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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