Advertising and Public Relations are two very different things. While advertising is a paid announcement shared on various media outlets, PR is a strategic communications process that works on building relationships for the company.

HOWEVER, having said that, when advertising becomes a sort of company tradition it could also be important for the company’s PR as it can help to develop consumer relationships and improve the perception of the company. This is never more relevant than right now with the epic annual battle of the Christmas ads well under way.  So let’s use these as a way to explore how advertising and PR can be linked.

John Lewis:

Let’s just imagine John Lewis didn’t run a Christmas ad next year? What would the consumer response be? Absolute outrage! Christmas would be cancelled and it would be all John Lewis’s fault.  Okay that might be a slight exaggeration but you can be absolutely sure that their reputation would suffer.

From 2007 John Lewis have launched creative Christmas themed advertisements to put their store in the consumer’s mind just before they start to spend. But in 2011 they used their Christmas ad to do so much more when they launched “The Long Wait.”

This ad was the first of theirs to create and follow a story; the story of a young boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. He tried to use magic to move the clocks forward and rushed to sleep on Christmas Eve. Not because he wanted his own presents but because he couldn’t wait to give one to his parents. It didn’t show any of their products and instead focused on creating an emotional connection with their consumers to cement their reputation as a company that understood what really mattered during the holidays.

Now every November consumers wait, with their Christmas jumpers at the ready, for the next ad to send them into a festive frenzy. Many believe that this ad is key in starting off the Christmas season. How can an annual tradition of Christmas ads which makes this company synonymous with festivity, giving and Christmas joy not be seen as an integral part of maintaining their image and relationships with consumers?


I’m sure everyone reading this is well aware of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck ads. I would even be brave enough to say there is no other Christmas ad which so clearly influences a company’s PR activities than this. Started in 1995 the “Holidays are Coming” advert which featured the Coca-Cola Christmas trucks has now been on our screens annually for over twenty years. This advertisement has also gone on to inspire Coca-Cola’s annual PR event known as the Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour in which consumers are invited to come to various cities to watch these iconic Christmas trucks drive by. This ad and the corresponding events have done a lot to develop good relationships with Coca-Cola lovers.


However, given that it’s 2016, the year of shock and chaos, now seemed to be as good a time as any to finally make a change to this iconic advert. This year Coca-Cola removed Santa’s wink to the young boy at the end. This has caused havoc on twitter with some fans even considering creating a petition to #bringbackthewink. The fact that this small change could evoke such a passionate response shows that these advertisements have become an important part of many consumers’ Christmases and therefore can have a huge impact on their relationship with and perception of the company.

All’s Fair in Love and Ad Wars:

These two might be the most iconic and renowned, but nowadays it seems that every company can see the value in creating a formal salute to the holidays. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure increasing profit is still the end game here. But companies would be foolish to disregard the importance of that fuzzy feeling consumers get when they watch a doll find a home at Christmas (McDonalds link below). It can create a great sense of connection with the brand and if done right and for long enough like in the case of Coca-Cola and John Lewis, it can inspire positive relationships and even further events.

Some great ads that have caught my eye this year are:



Dementia Ad


Three Network (sequel to 2015 Christmas Ad)


Chloe Peoples is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @ChloePeeps or on LinkedIn at