Coca-Cola’s offering, featuring Channel 4’s Gogglebox families reacting to its iconic Holidays are Coming ad, was the most engaging of 55 Christmas ads measured by Realeyes and Lucid. It scored better than 96% of the thousands of ads ever tested. Coca-Cola narrowly beat Vodafone’s six-part Christmas love story with actor Martin Freeman and McDonald’s ad about a little girl saving her carrot sticks for the reindeer.
Alongside Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, Tesco was another top 10 ad to feature typical household situations. This authentic theme, providing a more honest insight into the real-life nature of Christmas, was also employed by the likes of Virgin Atlantic, Not On The High Street and TalkTalk, the latter also using Gogglebox families.
“Whilst the hype around Christmas ads has now become a national pastime, it’s sometimes forgotten that their job is to help sell more products and people’s emotional response plays a big part in where they decide to shop,” says Mihkel Jäätma, Realeyes’ CEO. “This year saw advertisers trying to be more authentic by using real-life situations, humour and romance to relate to people, which could be seen as a way to cheer them up via universal themes after what’s been another divisive and turbulent year.”
Last year’s winner John Lewis could only muster 17th spot this year with Moz the Monster, its second-lowest performing Christmas ad of the last seven years. “Naturally, it’s difficult for John Lewis to keep hitting such high standards with the same formula so they could consider changing tack next year,” notes Jäätma.
Romance played its biggest ever part, being a key theme in four of the 10 most engaging ads, with H Samuel, Heathrow and Pandora joining Vodafone in trying to capture people’s hearts. In contrast, many lower-performing ads involved a prolonged focus on showing a product. Jäätma says this suggests that a “shopping window” approach is far less effective at connecting with people at Christmas than a storytelling one.
The study involved Realeyes measuring the emotional reactions of 3,300 people, drawn from Lucid’s audience platform, using AI algorithms to track and interpret their facial expressions as they watched via their webcams. The technology was originally developed at Oxford University.
Mulberry’s Win Christmas from 2014 remains the most engaging Christmas ad ever, scoring 99.5%.