Christmas ads: made for tv, but settled on social


By Laina Claydon

Tuesday, 19th of December 2023

Charlie's Bar Christmas Ad

In the last few years, Christmas adverts have become almost as anticipated as the big day itself; always critiqued on socials, but this year they are living and dying by the sentiment on social media. Aligned with this observation, at THE FIFTH, we think Social Out: a strategic + creative methodology that centers around the thinking that all ideas must be inherently social. Here we discuss some of the nation’s fav Christmas ads and the ones that were judged hard in the comments.

Now and again, a super low budget ad breaks through the noise of our feeds and shoots us straight in our hearts. This year that came in the form of Northern Irish independent pub, ‘Charlie’s Bar’ who made their own Christmas ad (Watch here), tackling loneliness. Advertising the fact that they’re open on Christmas Day and will welcome solo guests, the final message ‘there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet’ is a pitch-perfect way to connect with consumers on a level that immediately strikes an emotional chord. The video made on a mobile phone with a budget of £700 by Aoife Teague has racked up millions of views across Instagram and TikTok and coverage from some of the UK’s biggest publications. The sentiment of the comments are overwhelmingly positive; it’s safe to say Carlie’s Bar has won the Christmas ads battle this year. 

Meanwhile, usually one of the safe bets, M&S had a shocker this year. If you’re thinking, I can’t picture this one, that would be because it got pulled after screening due to the outrage it caused on social media not once, but twice when a scene that was cut from the ad was leaked, causing outcry all over again. It initially caused controversy as it featured various celebs choosing to do away with festive traditions they don’t enjoy. The ad caused many people to take to social media to complain about the selfish anti-Christmas energy the ad was giving out. All you have to do is check out the comments section of the ad here for a sense of the sentiment towards it. Then, just as the chat had started to die down, an outtake featuring red, green and silver party hats burning in a fire was leaked. Some thought the burning hats that matched  the colours of the Palestinian flag could be taken as an anti-Palestinian message and took to social media to raise their concerns. It was at this point that M&S made the call to remove the ad.

A relatively new contender, JD Sports celebrated 25 years of the brand’s trademark drawstring duffle bag for their Christmas ad this year. The 1:30 ad speaks to the younger generation in a tone that shows they just ‘get’ their customers. With stars including Kano, Nia Archives, Joy Crookes and Central Cee, who appear alongside everyday people, all of whom use the bag for much more than just carrying purchases home from the store. “The JD duffle bag has been a central part in British youth culture across the years,” said Uncommon Creative Studio ECD Benny Everitt. “We wanted to create a campaign that celebrated its relevance today now more than ever – using the bag itself as a connection point between the brand and its audience.” The brand nailed nostalgia marketing with this entry. Read more about the rise of nostalgia marketing here.

Finally, John Lewis, usually the winner of Christmas and certainly the most hyped every year, left viewers feeling divided. The advert tells the story of a young boy who opts for a Venus fly trap instead of a Christmas tree, honouring the unique festive traditions upheld by many families each year. In a report conducted by Sprout Social analysing X/Twitter traffic, almost all of the big 2023 Christmas ads out-performed John Lewis in the social sentiment stakes. Marks & Spencer and John Lewis gained the most overall engagement, but when they delved into the sentiment connected to the comments they found that the John Lewis campaign scored just 68% positive sentiment with many complaining about the dog-eating plant.