Holiday Heartstrings

Admit it, there’s always one that gets you… 

We all know that come October time the Christmas TV advertisements begin to make their way onto our screens, perhaps a pleasant reminder that the festive season is upon us? or perhaps not in some cases.

Each year, large companies, department stores, food and drink brands, retailers, and many more launch their Christmas campaigns. But my question is; is the secret to a successful PR campaign really tapping into the emotional side of things and pulling on the heartstrings of the public? I honestly don’t think there is one answer to this question, however, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little chat about it here, eh?

From M&S to Guinness, John Lewis to Iceland, and Aldi to Boots; we’ve seen it all. I guess it’s a good time to insert a little disclaimer here that I, personally, love emotional Christmas advertisements, especially the tear-jerkers! Does anyone remember the Edeka 2015 ad? Of course you do (if not please see below for reminder) it was the Christmas ad that hit home with, well, just about everyone.

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Are these campaigns more effective than, say, feel-good Christmas ads? they may be more memorable that’s for sure. Of course the same factors still apply when producing a Christmas campaign; reaching the target audience, credibility, creativity, persuasion, and so on. This is where advertising and public relations become one, with the shared goal of convincing the public that they are in need of something or interested in a particular product which they would otherwise pay no attention to. It’s all about the appeal, emotional appeals automatically grab the attention of the public, as a way of ‘hooking’ them in, a very strategic way of advertising. In a way, this is a brief dissection of the makings of our favourite festive TV ads, but know it is not my intention here to ruin the magic that is Christmas advertisements, so please don’t stop scrolling. Please.

The idea behind the emotional appeal is knowing how the public will react, and what better time of the year than Christmas to do so? Each year, new advertisements are released; all with the intention of topping the last and competing with each other. For example, John Lewis are renowned for their Christmas TV ads, every year there is such anticipation circulating around what will feature in the advertisement and will it be a happy or sad one? Whatever they may be, they certainly always have us feeling warm and festive inside. Yes, they do! Just agree with me.

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We all know the ‘happier’ Christmas ads, i.e.; Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Guinness (personal favourite). But are these really the ones that stick with us? The ones that we remember? It’s the Christmas ads that have meaning behind them, the ones that make us stop what we are doing and look at the TV, even if we are not watching it, the ads that make us look around and appreciate our homes and our loved ones, essentially, the ads that proclaim the true meaning of Christmas. Taking the emotional approach is a smart way of sending out a message, to ensure it will be received and listened to, however, with the more light-hearted advertisements; it is the rational appeal that is implemented, this addresses the more practical side of things, for example; Iceland advertising their Christmas offers and deals on party food, or Argos promoting certain products, and even in some cases; both appeals may be used.

In my opinion, nothing is as effective and powerful as a sad advertisement let alone a Christmas one. I think it all centres on the music, adding an emotional song to an advertisement can really resonate with some people and therefore makes music a very significant feature for these types of campaigns. A great example of this is the John Lewis Christmas ad back in 2012 when the song ‘Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was featured, there was something very haunting and moving about it, enough to bring a tear to one’s eye (yes ok, my eye). Please watch the clip below to find out for yourself, you may well remember this ad, it’s for sure one I haven’t forgotten.

So is the secret to a successful PR campaign using emotion? all in all I guess there is no right answer here, but what we have discovered is that the emotional appeal to the public has certainly been beneficial, it has proven to be extremely effective, I mean, you can see for yourself on YouTube just how many views each of these advertisements has, whether this is down to how touching they were, the music featured, how powerful they were; we will never really know. So take the time and watch the next Christmas ad that appears on your TV, can you relate it to this post? I’ll leave you with that thought.

*A sad Christmas song now plays as you’ve finished reading*

Jayne Mullan is a 3rd year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @JayneMullan_