Five Fun Stats From This Year’s Crop Of Christmas Ads

Dogs on trampolines, teddy bears on escalators, Mrs Claus in a helicopter – this year’s crop of Christmas ads has certainly been memorable.

From John Lewis breaking all kinds of records by ripping up its style guide to incredible comebacks from M&S and pop group Chas N’ Dave, there are plenty of highlights.

But what if we looked beyond the headlines and analysed the spots more closely? Well, at Unruly, we have done just that. Using our content evaluation tool, Unruly EQ, we looked at this year’s festive fare in more detail.

Which emotions did people feel most intensely while watching? Why would people share the ad online? Did consumers’ opinions of the brand improve or become worse after watching? How did 2016’s ads compare with last year’s? These are just some of things we looked at.

Here are five of the most interesting stats we found:

1. Consumers were really surprised that “#BusterTheBoxer” was a John Lewis ad

There’s no doubt “#BusterTheBoxer” has been a real smash hit for John Lewis. The spot, which sees a dog (literally) jump the queue ahead of the family’s little girl in the rush for Xmas presents, is the most shared John Lewis ad of all time and one of the biggest ad campaigns of the year.

But with the retailer throwing away its tried-and-trusted template for success this year and replacing it with a much lighter tone, a lot of people really did not recognise it as a John Lewis ad. Looking at the trace of people’s faces as they watched the ad below, the looks of surprise at the final scene when the John Lewis logo appears is pretty telling.

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Certainly, you can generally tell a John Lewis ad. Whether it’s the tear-inducing storyline, the plinky plonky cover version soundtrack or just simply the way it looks, they can be hard to miss.

But brand recall was a lower for Buster than in previous JL ads, with only 74% of mums recognising it as a John Lewis commercial, which is lower than the UK average of 80%.

2. Aldi’s Kevin The Carrot is not the funniest Xmas ad of the year

Remember Aldi’s brilliant parody of John Lewis’s “Man on the Moon” last year? Of course you do. It was a brilliant move by the discount retailer, which provided a real moment of cheer during what had been up to that point a Christmas dominated by sad ads. All at John Lewis’s expense, of course.

Well, this year Aldi once again tried to tickle our funny bones with its cheeky campaign “Kevin the Carrot”. But, as many stand-up comedians will tell you, making people laugh is the hardest job on the planet, and the ad campaign barely managed to make people smile.

As you can see from the chart below, the ad managed to make people laugh as much as the average UK retail ad.

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But which Xmas ad has made people laugh more than any other? Which has been the funniest (so far at least)?

Well, in a surprise twist of fate, John Lewis’s “#BusterTheBoxer” – the masters of sadvertising – took the honours this year, having (literally) the last laugh on Aldi.

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3. The three Xmas ads that made us the most happy this year were from John Lewis, M&S and Heathrow Airport

Happiness is a key emotion at Christmas, but which ads made us the most happy this year? Well, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that happiness really is watching a dog on a trampoline. That’s right, John Lewis topped the list, with 30% of viewers experienced intense feelings of joy while watching Buster do his thing.

But in joint second spot we have M&S’s excellent ad, and an entry from unlikely Christmas contender, Heathrow Airport, both with 25%. Just to put that in context, that’s 128% more happy than the average UK ad.

Whether it’s the sight of teddy bears on escalators or hearing Chas N’ Dave again, the ad is the surprise hit of this Christmas.

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The ad is also the most heart-warming of this year’s crop of ads, with 28% of viewers experiencing intense feelings of warmth – four times higher than the average UK ad.

4. The ad that made us the most sad this year came from Alzheimer’s Research UK

This year’s Christmas ads may have been a lot lighter in tone, but one ad certainly had us reaching for the tissues. Unsurprisingly, it comes from a charity: Alzheimer’s Research UK. Its ad, “Santa Forgot”, a two-minute ad narrated by Stephen Fry and animated by Aardman – the studio behind Wallace and Gromit – shows what happens when Father Christmas develops dementia and can no longer deliver presents.

For those who have not seen the ad yet, here it is:

The ad was by far the saddest ad this festive season, with almost a fifth of viewers experiencing intense feelings of sadness while watching – 18 times sadder than the average UK ad.

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But it was not the only emotion in platy, with warmth and inspiration also well above the UK norm.

5. This year’s Christmas ads are a lot more emotional than the average UK ad – and last year’s ads
We’ve seen some incredible festive campaigns this year. But how do they compare to 2015?

Well, sifting through Unruly EQ data, we can reveal that Christmas ads in 2016 are on average 51% more likely to stir up strong emotions than the average UK ad. They are also 19% more emotional than 2015’s crop of Xmas ads, thanks in part to a 50% increase in the number of people who felt pride while watching this year’s ads, plus a 33% year-on-year increase in strong feelings of warmth and amazement.

People were also more motivated to share content this year, with social motivations rising 9%, particularly people sharing for social good, which increased 60% year-on-year.