The Christmas Shopping Experience: 2020 Style

The Christmas Shopping Experience: 2020 Style

Shop ‘Til You Drop – Christmas Edition

Despite the bright light displays and festive decorations, most of the time Christmas shopping isn’t as idyllic as we hope. We all know how Christmas shopping creates madness and havoc every year as people flock to the streets on the hunt for the perfect gift. Whether you’re the calm and collected type who always has a list to hand or the type to start your Christmas shopping in the days leading up to Christmas (or the day before). Never the less, this time of year is usually characterised by overwhelming crowds and people queued out of the shop doors.

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Despite how much we try to avoid it, last minute Christmas shopping is inevitable. We always find ourselves running to get finishing touches and according to Mintel, 76% of people in the UK continue to make purchases right up until Christmas. Despite all the stress, UK consumers love Christmas shopping! In reality, our arms are heavy from dragging around shopping bags and it’s never a successful Christmas shop unless you come home completely exhausted. However, our Christmas shopping experience will be very different this year.

Expectation vs Reality…

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Keep Calm, Christmas is Coming

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and according to Mintel, 77% of consumers believe that it’s more important than ever to have a good Christmas this year to make up for the events of 2020. This increases the pressure to give the perfect gift this year.

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The announcement that restrictions will continue until 11th December means that many consumers will opt to shop online. However, the potential reopening of stores may promote a Christmas rush, which is dangerous for consumers and retailers. Postal services have slowed down during the pandemic, which creates issues for last minute shopping. To add to this, during Christmas, postal delivery times are often unreliable, which may urge consumers to take to the shops in the run up to Christmas. Consumers who don’t use technology will also suffer as they’re not familiar with or don’t have access to online shopping.

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How to Avoid The Nightmare Before Christmas

There’s something about the obligatory shopping trip to Belfast at Christmas that unleashes your Christmas spirit. Walking around the shops and seeing the Christmas displays, decorations and lights that just adds to the Christmas build up. You also cannot forget to pick up a sweet treat and hot drink (or something a little stronger) from The Christmas Markets. However, shoppers are urged to shop early this Christmas to avoid the Christmas rush and increased COVID19 cases.

Many shoppers usually opt to shop in-store to benefit from professional help as experienced staff are on hand to give advice. This is a feature that online stores cannot fully replicate. Help from a sales advisor makes choosing a gift easier and is less overwhelming, compared to the wide amount of choice available online. Another advantage of shopping in-store is that consumers are able to feel and test the quality of products. This is important for gift shopping as consumers want to see the product before they buy to prevent unnecessary returns. Security online during the Christmas period is particularly important as scammers try to take advantage of consumers.

To avoid any mishaps, it’s important to be prepared this year. By shopping online, we can shop at our own convenience, from the comfort of our homes and avoid long queues. Primark in Belfast has been criticised for crowds gathered outside, before further COVID19 restrictions are introduced. Online shopping prevents this, whilst providing a safe platform for consumers during the pandemic. Consumers can save money in the run up to Christmas by shopping online as it’s easier to compare prices. Online retailers also offer discounts and sales which aren’t available in-store. By shopping from a department store like Debenhams, consumers can purchase all their gifts from the same place, saving on delivery costs. If you’re a Christmas procrastinator, then click and collect services are perfect for you! They limit the time spent in-store whilst still receiving your gifts in time for Christmas.  

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Save Time and Money – Splash the Cash on Black Friday

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If you’re shopping online this Christmas, it’s useful to get involved in big sale events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They’re a great way to avoid the Christmas rush whilst getting guaranteed Christmas delivery. The US tradition has become increasingly popular within the UK in the last 10 years, and is continuing to grow each year. According to Mintel, 70% of Black Friday shoppers use the event to purchase their Christmas presents.

Shop Local This Christmas

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We tend to shop at large chains for convenience reasons however, they’ve benefited from the pandemic unlike small local businesses. There’s been an emphasis on social media to shop local this Christmas by supporting local retailers. Small businesses often make personalised, hand-made gifts that come from the heart, with extensive time and effort put into making the gift. Why not create a gift hamper, filled with products from local businesses. You can create a unique gift that’s heartfelt and has an extra personal touch. Christmas is known as a time of giving back, so by shopping local, you can help small businesses to survive, whilst supporting your local community and creating jobs.

Support Local NI has been set up to encourage NI consumers to shop locally. Click here, to view their gift guide which is useful to find exactly what you’re looking for.

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Lauren Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Linkedin.

Child Poverty & Domestic Violence – A Real Issue in 2020

Child Poverty & Domestic Violence – A Real Issue in 2020

Christmas is a huge part of children’s lives, it is inarguably their favourite time of year. Presents, decorations, playing with family and friends; life couldn’t get better. Unfortunately, not every child will experience the same feelings when they wake up on Christmas morning.

In Northern Ireland alone, 1 in 3 children are living in poverty and over 30,000 children are living in households characterised by domestic violence. These children are at risk of waking up to no gifts on Christmas Day.

This is harsh.

But this is reality.

Cash For Kids NI

For those of you who don’t know; Cash for Kids supports children and young people affected by poverty, abuse, neglect, life-limiting illness and those who have additional needs.

In 2019, over 20.9 million was raised across the UK, supporting more than a million children!

This year, circumstances have changed, and they need our help more than ever.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched stories on Instagram from bloggers who are campaigning for Cash for Kids, but one stands out the most.

Roisin Doherty, who was involved with the campaign last year and again this year spoke about the lack of support and donations from 2019-2020. Of course, the reason being clear, many are no longer in the position to give to charity due to job losses and business closures.

Life can change quickly, as we are all aware. We never know when we may need help. The message to the right is hard-hitting, but it is the reality for the year 2020 has been. This Christmas will be very different for many families around the globe, so we need to make it our mission to help where we can.

A picture speaks a thousand words”

The difference in donations between 2019 and 2020 is indescribable.

Cash for Kids Warehouse 2019
Cash for Kids Warehouse 2020

If you are donating, please be aware that babies are being catered for the most. Teenage boys age 12-18 have little to no donations. Emphasize supporting this category and if you are unsure what to donate have a look at the infographic Cash for Kids created.

They also made an Amazon list to make it easy for those who want to donate with gift ideas under each age category. If you wish to donate this link can be found here, and donations are welcome until Friday 18th December.

Digg Deep for Kids

Launched at the end of  November, Caroline O Neill who owns Digg Mama created a campaign ‘Digg Deep for Kids’. This campaign focuses on raising money for Cash for Kids NI, Women’s Aid NI and CiNI (Children in Northern Ireland).

Back in October Caroline posted a video of her son Darragh which went viral, reaching over 1.1million views on Instagram and even made its way on to ITV news. Caroline wanted to make it matter and used the video as an opportunity to make a difference to so many children’s life this Christmas. With help from friends, Darragh launched his very own Charity Single ‘I’m a Busy Man’.

Through Darragh’s single,you can donate by downloading or purchasing a hardcopy, or you can donate to ‘Digg Deep for Kids’ through this link, with various options to give to three very deserving charities.

In three weeks, Caroline has raised £92,224.25, with three more days still left to donate.

An astonishing amount, which will make a massive difference to many children’s lives.

Hartlepool Giving Tree

Hartlepool Giving Tree is an amazing incentive which I found on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. Although all donations closed on 10th December,  it is something you can think about giving to next Christmas.

The steps were simple and plenty of £££ is not needed to get involved.

Children of all ages asking for simple things; a book, ball, barbie, some clothes. These are children who have escaped domestic violence, being forced to flee their homes quickly leaving all their possessions behind. Without this charity, these children may not receive a gift at Christmas.

With 174,730 presents bought, that is 174,730 children who will have something to open on Christmas day!

This is what it is about.

Although we may not see it, children and young people can experience domestic violence in many ways. Every child’s experience will be different. Children and young people can be witnesses of violence, they may overhear it and they may also experience physical and emotional abuse directly.

Just as every child’s experience of domestic violence is different, every child will be affected differently. Domestic violence can impact all areas of children and young people’s lives, including, health, education, the development of relationships, recreation and social activities.

If you can give something this Christmas, please do. Any donation, small or large will make a massive difference to a child’s life.

Let’s help children who need it most!

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

A puppy – not just for Christmas nor lockdown, but for life.

A puppy – not just for Christmas nor lockdown, but for life.

How much is that doggy in the window?

As panic buying continues, toilet roll, pasta and hand sanitiser are among the many things that have consistently flew off the shelves throughout the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic, however, a dearth of puppies wasn’t among the shortages expected as a result of the health crisis. With millions working from home and being placed on furlough, the demand for new furry friends to keep us company throughout the dreary days of lockdown has soared dramatically and it is understood that this has led to prices for popular pooches such as Cockapoos and French Bulldogs now being quoted at double their usual price. According to Pets4Home, £829 is the average price a buyer would usually pay for a designer crossbreed cockapoo pup, however, there are now cockapoos being advertised on their site for over triple this price at £2,800. That is over £1,000 more than the average monthly salary in the UK!

Cockapoo puppies are now being quoted at triple their usual price

These extortionate prices don’t seem to faze many as ‘waiting lists’ have very much become a thing in the puppy market with many potential owners enquiring about an estimated date for future litters and puppies being ‘sold’ before they are even born.

According to research conducted by the Kennel Club, 38% of those who have bought a puppy during the pandemic did so because they were spending more time at home. With Christmas fast approaching, the demand for puppies is only expected to increase further which has caused concern for puppy welfare among dog charities. Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, recently explained that puppies could suffer from separation anxiety when their owners, who have been furloughed or working from home during the pandemic, return to their place of work if they have grown used to their owners being with them 24/7 and giving them a lot of attention. Sharp has also stated that there have been a large amount of reports of owners already wanting to return dogs because they are returning to work and urges buyers to consider their long-term plans when searching for a furry companion.

The Danger of Puppy Farms

Due to the high puppy demand, it is more important than ever to carry out proper research into where we are purchasing our puppies from. The Kennel Club reported that a quarter of new owners admitted they bought their dog after doing little research and the scary reality is that an increase in demand of puppies will subsequently lead to an increase in puppies being bought from puppy farms. If you aren’t aware of why this is so scary, keep reading.

A puppy farm is essentially a factory farm, but with dogs. These dogs are treated as nothing more than products being manufactured, purely for profit! Puppy farmers continue breeding from a female dog until she physically can’t have puppies anymore. The mothers often die due to the enormous strain on their bodies or are abandoned when they are no longer deemed useful for breeding. The puppies are not properly socialised with other people and are often separated from their mothers too early – because of this, these puppies are more likely to develop behavioural issues. Puppy farmers also tend to breed dogs that are closely related which results in poor puppies suffering from serious health complications and being sold to buyers as perfectly healthy dogs. Some pups die before or even after they are purchased by a buyer as a result of poor health and the conditions they are kept in but puppy farmers DO NOT CARE about the welfare of these dogs. They care about one thing; the cash in their pockets.

Below is a link to an episode of BBC show Panorama which shone a light on Ireland’s biggest puppy farmer; Ray Cullivan, back in 2016. Cullivan’s farm features in the video from the 8th minute on and exposes the horrific truth behind the farm, which is based in Cavan and was recently rediscovered online as ‘Dogs.ie’, advertising two large breed litters; Retrievers and Doodles.

Although there are laws against puppy farms and the illegal sale of puppies, they are very much still in existence. Many buyers miss the red flags of puppy farms, with one in four pandemic puppy owners saying they might inadvertently have bought their pet from a puppy farm. But how do you know if you are buying from a farm or a legitimate breeder? I have placed some tips below on how to spot and avoid puppy farms.

5 tips on how to spot and avoid puppy farms:

  1. Perform a Google search of the phone number listed on the puppy advertisement. This will allow you to see how many other ads are associated with that number. Puppy farmers also often copy and paste descriptions on advertisements so the details will be kept to a minimal and used for several different litters and breeds of dog.

  2. If the puppy you want to buy has a passport, there is a huge possibility your puppy has been imported from a country where there are little or no breeding laws. Only puppies over the age of 12 weeks should be able to get a passport, so sellers claiming that very young pups have passports is a red flag.

  3. Ask to see health certificates from BOTH the puppy’s parents and make sure you ask plenty of questions about the breed of dog. A genuine breeder will have extensive knowledge about the breed they are selling.

  4. Puppy farmers might try to persuade you to meet in a public place such as a park and ride or a supermarket car park to “reduce your journey”. Instead, make sure you are able to see the puppy at it’s home with the mother present. This may be more difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it is essential when buying a puppy. If the buyer makes an excuse about why you can’t see the mother, do not buy a puppy from them. NOTE: Puppy farmers may expect you to ask about seeing the mother and will try to pass off a healthy dog as the mother of the litter so make sure to watch how the mother interacts with the puppies. Take notice if she has teats or is watchful and connected with her pups – does the puppy feed from her?

  5. Puppy farmers quite often use generic photographs of healthy dogs to attract buyers and dupe them into buying a different puppy. Take the advertisement photograph with you when visiting the dog to ensure it is the same dog being advertised.

If you think you have encountered a puppy farm, do not buy from it! I have encountered a farm myself so I know how difficult it can be to walk away from a puppy knowing it is probably not receiving the care and attention it deserves and needs. It is normal to want to remove the puppy from mistreatment but buying from a farm will only put more money into the farmers pockets, allowing them to continue to mistreat more dogs and puppies as a result. If you found the puppy advertisement online, report it on the website and to the RSPCA or if you directly witness cruelty to any dogs or puppies do not hesitate to ring the police.

If you would like to contribute to the fight against puppy farms and help end the illegal sale of dogs in Ireland, please take a minute to watch the Dogs Trust ad and sign their #soldapup petition I have placed below.

Thankyou.

Link to Dog’s Trust Petition: http://dogstrust.ie/soldapup

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Scam Us – Beware Xmas Shopping Online

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Scam Us – Beware Xmas Shopping Online


Avoid losing your money to others looking to make a quick profit this Christmas

Well, it’s that time of year again. The run up to Christmas. It may not be as exciting as previous years, but thankfully we still have a holiday to look forward to. It’s around about this time that people will do their Christmas shopping, and now more than ever, a lot of it will be online.

Sadly, the good spirited nature of the season doesn’t spread as far and wide as we’d like to think. The online world can be very predatory to those who aren’t fully aware of the fact. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of surprising loved ones with splendid gifts or treating yourself to some seemingly lucrative business opportunities.

Well, this post is here to catch you up to speed. People want to cheat you out of your money this Christmas, and this year you will not let it happen!

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It’s A Pyramid Scheme

As the year 2020 painfully drags on, I’ve noticed a trend on social media that caught my eye.
Someone I followed on Instagram promoted a health drink that claimed to benefit the body in a list of ways. These unbranded coffees and juices somehow aid sleep and weight loss, boost your energy levels, increase your metabolism AND suppress hunger cravings. Sounds like a miracle in a glass for someone who wants to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

At the time I laughed it off because there is no way one drink can do all of this by adding the sachet of powder to some water. You can’t replace eating well and taking care of yourself by downing a glass of unbranded juice every morning. I thought after seeing that first post that I’d never really come across it again. How wrong I was.

Fast forward a month or two and the same unbranded “health products” start popping up on my Instagram again. Now a handful of individuals are promoting these products and praising the company behind it to no end.

So, I’m just cynical, right? These young people have taken the plunge on a business investment on a relatively new company. I’m just jealous that they’re riding the wave of success and I’m not.

I decided then to give these posts the benefit of the doubt. I paid attention to every single post I come across that mentions these miracle drinks.
Again, I noticed a trend:

·      In all the promotional material I’ve seen, a company or brand name is never mentioned even once. It’s always, “My company,” or “Our company.”

·      These people promote the business with the same generalised work benefits. You can work around your own schedule, there are seven ways to earn, and you can reap amazing bonuses like brand new high-end cars that the company will partly pay for.

·      The posts will ask poll questions like, “Do you want to hear more?” or “Do you want to start a new job?” The problem being that the only two answers to the polls are different ways of agreeing to the question asked.






This nameless company however has a name. If you were to look closely enough at the products being advertised, you’ll see the name Valentus.

If you google Valentus, the first result is their own website. It shows all the ways you can either buy their products or purchase their starter kit to sell items yourself for profit.

All the results following that, however, don’t paint the company in the same positive light.  

If you were to look up Valentus on the online forum site Reddit, for example, it only contains anecdotes about how they are a scam company and the people promoting it are only doing so to negate their own initial investment.

If you see anyone trying to promote any kind of product like this, or company like this, do not enquire about it. They will pander this investment to you. They are deceiving you to make a profit for themselves, so you’re left out of pocket, with junk product to sell.

Item Is Currently Out of Stock. Everywhere.

 Then there is a different breed of opportunist for emptying your wallets this festive season. Scalpers.

 Every year, there is always that must have product. In years gone by it was pieces of tech such as the Nintendo Wii or the original iPod Touch.
For 2020, the moniker for must have product falls on to the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

These products don’t even have an age demographic. I know ten-year-olds that have them on their Christmas list and people forty plus who want one. I want a PlayStation myself.

From my experience, this is probably one of the more reasonably priced launches of a new gaming console. For example, the PlayStation 5 can start at around £350 in the U.K. depending on what version you buy.

It may sound steep but go back thirteen years ago to the launch of the PlayStation 3, and that would set you back £425.

Although that price is meaningless if you can’t even get your hands on one. The PS5 launched on November 19th in the U.K. How long did it take to sell out entirely? Mere hours.

So, your child is begging you for the newest gaming console, but everywhere you look is out of stock. Naturally, you then check sites like eBay and Gumtree to see what you can find.

The penny drops.

These sites are over-saturated with hundreds of listings of either console, but not at retail value. The lowest you’re going to see is about £800.

Scalpers wait until launch day and have measures in place to scoop up as many units as they can. This then forces a monopoly onto the public who desperately need these products for Christmas. Making the scalpers almost triple their initial investment.

My advice for any parents out there who have children begging for these consoles. You will not get one by Christmas for a reasonable price. Please don’t indulge these selfish scalpers and help them make a profit. Come the new year, they will produce more units. These scalpers will fade away if given time, just wait it out. Waiting one more month and saving £500 is just plain sensible.

Just Be Careful Out There

No one needs any added misery this Christmas time. So wherever you may do your shopping this year, keep your head about you. Buy from reputable retailers and always research what someone is trying to sell you.
A more stress-free Christmas will make all the turkey sandwiches taste better.



Rory Skillen is a fourth year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

5 Top Tips for Surviving Working at Christmas Party Nights

The countdown to Christmas has already begun with Belfast turning on its Christmas lights. For many this is an exiting whirlwind month but for those who work in hospitality dread the upcoming weeks. Having experience working in a hotel Bar at Christmas I’ve come up with my top 5 tips to surviving Christmas party nights that often have you working until 5am.

1. Have a clear plan of action

This means at the beginning of the shift making sure that there is a clear plan of action for the evening. Including having assigned positions for those members of staff on the floor and those staying behind the bar. By having assigned tables to equally spread out the floor staff also means that the customers are being served equally and therefore no table can be left behind and complain that they have waited ‘X’ amount of time for an order to be taken. It’s all about minimising the complaints. This also means if there is any outstanding bills at the end of the night on a table, the manager should know what employee was responsible for that customer. At Christmas time there is better tips for being on the floor that is why I’ll always volunteer to be floor staff, you can earn up to an average of £20 extra tips per night.

2. Make sure you know the menu

Whether this is what drinks you have in stock that evening or the dinner the customers are being served that evening, make sure you know the score. You’ll be amazed the amount of questions you will get asked by every customer including what they are even having for dinner, a question which I’m sure they’ve already been told a few times before. It is much easier when you are taking a drinks order if you are actually aware of what drinks you serve. By knowing the simple list of wines and beers on drafts for sale, this will save you running in and out of the room to double check. It means the customer is served quicker and your manager will not be angry having to answer simple questions when they already have so much in their plate that night. Customers will also not bother to see that there is a difference between those staff serving them food and those serving them drinks, therefore be prepared to be asked for things like extra butter and gravy, so make sure you communicate to the food staff about who’s asked for what.

3. Eyes up whenever you are in the room

This was probably the first piece of training I received in preparation for these Christmas party nights, and it remains one of the most crucial elements to a smooth running of events. When entering the room keep your eyes up, yes you may be carrying really heavy hot plates and you don’t want to spill the gravy on your thumb. Or you are carrying a tray with one too many drinks to save you the extra trip. But when there can be close to 500 people in a room that’s only supposed to seat almost 400, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Because if your eyes are fixed on what’s in your hands, this is how accidents happen and things are spilled on customers.

4. Anticipate what the Customers going to do

This tip also relates to the last one. When people are drunk they aren’t aware of their surroundings as much as the sober people who are serving. Customers will not care to look before pushing out their chairs to get up for something. If they are standing over someone else having a conversation with a friend they will also not look around to see if they are in anyone’s way. Therefore you almost have to guess what their next move will be. This means when carrying 2 heavy hot plates or a full tray of drinks, be careful of those customers who might bump into you then proceed to blame you for being in their way. I often find the same rule for driving applies here, just stop dead in your tracks and stand still therefore if anyone bumps into you it’s their fault not yours.

5. Stay ahead of the game

This is probably the most important tip if you want to finish work at a reasonable hour. Make sure you stay ahead of the game as much as possible. At a Christmas party night for 400 guests, they each have 2 wine glasses at their tables, so already you have 800 glasses given out and it hasn’t even started yet. If they each have a drink upon arrival, your total of glasses to clear is 1200 and the haven’t even ordered a drink of their choice yet. This means you have to constantly be clearing the room from the beginning of the night. The aim is to lift as many empty glasses during the dinner rather than at 1am after the party’s over. This is also where assigned tables are handy because the manager can actually tell which employee is behind. So your aim is to get as many closing procedures done as soon as possible so that the team is not there polishing wine glasses at 5am in the morning. The sooner new staff learn this the better for everyone else.

 

Niamh McMordie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @niamh_mcm99 and Instagram – @niamhmcm_

Battle Of The Christmas Ads

The shelves are stocked with mince pies and Mariah Carey is playing throughout the supermarkets but there’s nothing that says the holiday season quite like the battle of the Christmas ads. Halloween is over and just like that the festive advertisements, flood our TV screens. I think it’s fair to say that Christmas ads have now become an integral part of our Christmas.

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We wait with anticipation to see what extent our favourite retailers and brands will go to, to be crowned Christmas advertisement of the year, but what actually makes a good Christmas advertisement? Tear jerkers? Humour? Tradition? Celebs?

One thing for sure anyway, a lot of money makes a good campaign… BBC reported that last year these industry giants spent a record breaking 6.4bn on festive advertising. Wow!

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Here’s the low down on Brand Watch’s top 5 Christmas Ads of 2018;

  1. John Lewis (no surprise here)

John Lewis never fail to impress us, they are a strong contender for the best ad every year and you can be almost sure that before it’s even released it’s going to be a good one. It was reported that they spent 1 Million pound on the masterpiece.  I think they’ll find it hard to top it this year.

  1. Iceland

Ranked the most powerful Christmas ad of 2018, and probably one of the most talked about and shared on social media, after being banned from TV. Iceland pulled at our heart strings by showing the devastating effects of palm oil plantations and a tale of how an orangutan lost its home and family due to deforestation. To say it was controversial that this got banned is an understatement, hence why it was shared so widely on social media.

  1. Sainsburys

This was a personal fav of mine from last year. Bringing out the fun element and showing kids having ‘The Best Night’ at their school play. This ad generated the most positive reactions on Twitter.

  1. Aldi

It was the return of Kevin the Carrot for Aldi, we watched in anticipation as Aldi piggy-backed on the Coca-Cola ad, with Kevin on the road doing some deliveries in a very similar style truck to that of the iconic red Coca-Cola one. Aldi very cleverly got us all talking about their ad by leaving it on a cliff hanger.

  1. Heathrow

Heathrow brought back the beloved bears for what made a touching festive story that warmed our hearts.

So what’s the secret to having the most effective Christmas campaign?

It can be said that the most successful Christmas ads are the ones that take us on a journey with them. This is probably why John Lewis were crowned last year’s best, as they took us on the journey of ‘The Boy and the Piano’ we watched Elton John grow from a young boy who received a piano from his grandmother as a Christmas present, into a music icon.

Some Christmas ads have been slammed in the past for pushing products and not focusing on the Christmas spirit, but after all the main purpose of an ad is to increase sales and get people through the door, right?

Every year we see these brands very cleverly battle it out on twitter in response to each other’s ads and last year was no different with plenty of  ‘keyboard warriors’ creating parodies of the John Lewis Ad. We all like to see a bit of friendly banter between rivals. Round of applause for the creativity of these!

Lidl

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Iceland (ouch)

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Poundland

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eBay

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Oldies but goldies… 

Is there still room for the classics or is it time for them to up their game?

Personally I love the classic nostalgic ads.

I think it goes without saying that the all-time favourite traditional Christmas ad has to be, Coca-Cola ‘The Holidays are coming’? It is definitely mine anyway! The iconic red truck first graced our TV screens in 1995, and every year since we have tuned in to watch its return. Research carried out by the Advertising Association actually found that ‘The Holidays are coming’ was voted the best song to be played in a Christmas Ad.

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Who will get your vote this year?

Megan.

Megan Carton is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-carton-351485182/

Tis the Season to be Freezin’

With the Halloween festivities behind us, Christmas trees appear to be assembling earlier and earlier each year. To many individuals despair we consumers aren’t given a breath before being bombarded with Christmas themed PR marketing campaigns. I, on the other hand, LOVE the bombardment of advertisements as Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. With the festive period creeping closer and closer I wanted to reflect on past Christmas marketing campaigns which never fail to put me in the Christmas mood.

Coca-Cola Holidays Are Coming

 It would be impossible to write a blog post about Christmas marketing campaigns without including the iconic Coca-Cola Ad.  The twinkling red trucks driving by ecstatic communities combined with the ‘Holidays are Coming’ soundtrack heralds the start of Christmas on our TV screens every year. The ad first was aired in 1995 as part of Coca- Cola’s seasonal advertising campaign, 24 years later the ad has been deemed the most loved Christmas advert of all time with 34% of Brits stating it is their favourite.

 Budweiser Prohibition Campaign

 With Christmas being a time when alcohol consumption is at its peak. With ‘12 pubs of Christmas’, Christmas parties every other weekend, Christmas markets and mulled wine stalls springing up in towns across the country there really is an abundance of alcohol; with 6 billion units being consumed here in Ireland and across the UK at this festive time.

Budweiser is using digital platforms to release its new alcohol- free sub-brand Prohibition, for an ad campaign tackling drink driving over the festive period. I feel this initiative from Budweiser is effective in putting the message into the mind of the people to not drink-drive and get the nation home safely for Christmas.

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Lidl Hijacking Billboards

 Lidl embarked on a rebellious poster campaign in a bid to jab rival retailers M&S and Waitrose, endeavouring to build up Lidl’s proposition ‘Big on Quality, Lidl on Price.’ Adding fuel to fire, Lidl strategically placed these billboards near its rivals’ stores.

John Lewis Elton John Ad

 After a decade of tear-jerkers starring various harmless fluffy animals, John Lewis pulled out the stops in 2018 with a good dose of old-fashioned star power to sell Christmas. The advert named ‘The Boy and the Piano’ depicts the story of a national treasure, Sir Elton John and with a touch of poetic licence tells the tale of how the gift of a piano altered the course of a young boy’s life. The ad is heart-warming as we witness moments of his life flash before his eyes, from school plays to electric pub gigs to mega-stardom.

However, not everyone appreciated this heartening advert. The Kantar Millward survey reported that the advert lacked relevance scoring a grim 2.83/5 and overall performed relatively poorly for its persuasive nature (2.77/5) while scoring a dire 2.79 for delivering consumers information.  Various retailers responded to the advert, the most poignant of which would have to be Iceland. The tweet created by Iceland displays a similar backdrop to the John Lewis ad; however, this time a displaced orangutan is playing a burning, smoky piano as his backdrop is ablaze. This distressing, emotive response by Iceland was very powerful and fitting for their #NoPalmOilChristmas campaign and has left a greater mark on me than the initial advert.

 McDonald’s Carrot Stick Ad #ReindeerReady

 The ‘Carrot Stick’ ad illustrates a young girl who is bizarrely attached to the last carrot in her happy meal, as she proudly asserts ‘It’s for the reindeer!’ After carefully clutching it through the busy streets and bus ride home, she smugly shows her prized offering to her mother. This is shortly before her bubble is burst by her older brother who nags that ‘There are more than one reindeer!’ This inconveniently results in a trip back to the nations beloved McDonalds, to retrieve treats for the rest of the fleet.

The campaign places prevalence on the anticipation, enthusiasm and the little moments of magic that is mounted in the run-up to Christmas. The slick initiative of the #ReindeerReady Snapchat filter combined with the Christmas branded carrot sticks in store all brilliantly enhanced the Christmas campaign. The story of the little girl warms the hearts of the nation and skillfully encapsulates the magic of Christmas spirit.

 

Hannah Colgan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-colgan-b65179166/ and Instagram – @Hannahcolgan890

Christmas Marketing from a Young Age

I have worked in retail since the young age of ten, I was inspired by the need for getting a bicycle because everyone my age had a cool one at that age and that’s all I wanted. I was a Gumtree fanatic, I received all my money from posting ads, since then I have viewed multiple pieces of marketing which have helped me enhance my skills and promote products among the family business.

One key marketing ad which I would say has positively influenced me since a young age in my journey of work, is the Coca Cola Christmas Ad. Did you know that they call the lorries the “Christmas Caravans?” There are many of these trucks all over the world round Christmas time, this is called the Christmas Truck Tour. It is very believable that Coca Cola are the biggest spenders on advertising in soft drinks per year. 

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I deal with a lot of the Christmas ads and promotional content in and outside of store over a three-year period at this point and recently I have used the season to my advantage. Also realising that we have to create a reasonable and achievable marketing budget and so far it has been working relatively well as we have noticed a spike in sales. Especially after the event in which we had to promote it.

Rewinding back to my marketing skills several years ago shows that I lacked the understanding of budgets and brand awareness. I wouldn’t have promoted my posts or our brand to the extent we would do now. As my mother has always told me if you want to achieve something you must put a little more time and effort into it and it’s a little more achievable. Attached below is how my marketing techniques have advanced over 2 years.

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We like to analyse where most customers find us from (because our store is a little bit out of the way). We advertise on several platforms as well as some self-promotion. Facebook and Instagram are always our main priority as there are a vast number of people on social media sites with a wide age range and a growing population. We also find the Irish News and Local Women to have been two other important pieces of media which provide us with our local custom. We find that majority of our customers come from Word of Mouth – this is a positive form of advertising because it means our customers are loyal.

Another marketing campaign I have grown up watching is the John Lewis Christmas Ad. It started in 2007 so at this point I had a grasp in what the concept of Christmas was and why it attracted many. They spend huge amounts of money on marketing and tend to get a lot of blogs and influential people talking about it – this is great regardless of whether it is negative or positive because it gets people to go and view the video on sites such as YouTube, meaning that it promotes interest and gets the ad to the “Most Popular” section which is the first piece of content a person views when they go onto this app. But as I’ve been reminded throughout my university journey so far any PR is good PR as it gets people talking and as I’ve said when people talk, people want to see who you are, review your content and potentially purchase off you (if they like your online persona, or if they come into your store your professional persona).

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Both these campaigns have given me a deepening awareness at developing my skills and hopefully this will pay off in the long hall, and the campaigns I will do in the future will be strengthened by this progressing knowledge. This shows the influence that advertisements can subconsciously have on a person, including me. I hope to continue to watch the rise on marketing campaigns and learn new ideas and techniques from them, to continue to grow the family business in which I have been brought up in.

 

Caithlen Loughran is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/caithlenloughran.x , LinkedIn – Caithlen Loughran and Instagram – caithlenloughran

1-0 to Winter

I’m that person who says “I can’t wait for the dark evenings and crisp winter mornings.” I’m usually bopping around in my boots and beanies, sipping on a hot chocolate, happy that it’s winter again. And I mean, Gavin and Stacey are having a Christmas Special this year after nearly a decade! This should be the best winter ever. But this year, I REGRET SAYING ANYTHING. CAN IT BE JULY AGAIN PLEASE? The winter rut of 2019 hit me hard & the fact I’m struggling through Final Year is not making it any easier.

I’m freezing, I’m tired, I’m uninspired and I’m unmotivated. I feel lazy, irritated (and probably irritating) and I’m not looking after myself, mentally or physically. I was thriving in Summer, living my best life, reaching my goals. But this winter? I’m feeling anything but.

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Enough was enough and a couple of weeks ago for the a thousandth time this year I said to myself, “Catherine, wise up”. I’m blessed with good health, in the final year of a degree I have dreamed of doing since I was 14, living with four of my best friends and fortunate to have many more around me. The last thing I should be doing is feeling sorry for myself because it’s cold and dark outside, I have assignment to do in a degree I signed up for and that the moon is making us all act a little funny. I decided to take it upon myself to find out why I might be feeling this way, and ways in which I can stop it.

Groundhog Day

A common reason we may start to feel stuck in a rut is when every day starts to feel the same. As a final year student with endless work to do, I felt the need to be in the library by 9am typing away, scanning journals and questioning whether this degree was really for me. Attending a lecture and seminar in the afternoon, before heading back to the library for another hour or two just to make myself feel “better”. When really, I was tired and my  heads so fried that I’m not making any progress at all and I had just spent 2 hours on a paragraph that most likely isn’t going to make the final draft of my assignment. Final year was draining me. I thought I was doing myself a favour, working super hard, getting ahead of the game, but I soon realised I was burning myself out and it was affecting me in more ways than one. I even got BANGS in week 5.

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I knew I had to let myself relax, take a chill pill or 5. Coincidentally the next morning Meibh and I had planned to go for a walk up Cavehill and go for a Brunch date afterwards. I know it sounds cliché when they say heading outdoors really clears the head. But seriously, my head hadn’t been as clear in weeks. After the best Avo Toast I’ve ever had, shoutout to Output Espresso, we were true to our white girl selves and went to Starbucks to do some work, where I completed and submitted my first assignment, without feeling stressed. Which is not surprisingly considering studies show that being outdoors lowers stress and enhances creativity. So, the next time you feel under pressure with work, don’t lock yourself in the library, go get some fresh air and relax for a few hours. You’ll be surprised with what work you’ll produce after.

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“Nobody’s Perfect.” (Hannah Montana, 2006).

When having a little snoop around this topic on Google I found an article that explains how Perfectionism can ironically make you feel stuck and effect your progress. Well… My name is Catherine and I’m a perfectionist. Something I thought I should be proud of. I even have it as one of my top qualities on my CV, oops. But after some reading I found out how being a perfectionist will have you going around in circles, never happy with whatever you have done. Completing an assignment will have you saying “could I have done this better?” a thousand times before hitting the submit button on turnitin, rather than giving yourself a pat on the back for completing an assignment which was really hard and challenging and something you should be proud of completing. Learn to squash perfectionism and recognise that something being done is better than being left undone. Focus on completing things, at a standard you’re proud of and show cases your abilities of-course, but move on afterwords and don’t beat yourself up on whether it’s perfect or not. After all, does perfection even exist?

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The little things matter

And then, there was just little things. I asked myself, was I looking after myself? Was I eating well? Was I sleeping enough? Spending time with people who made me feel good and doing things I enjoyed? And to be honest, I wasn’t really. So, I filled my wraps with salad for lunch and added a few pieces of broccoli to my meals at dinner time. I let myself sleep for 8 hours rather than set an alarm for 7.30am at 2am. When my friends at Uni asked me to go for coffee after I said, “I’d love to” rather than “I’m going to go to the library.” I arranged to see friends I hadn’t in a while, making plans I had to look forward to. I got back into some good habits I had let slip, remembered how important it was to get fresh air everyday and most importantly set some time aside just for ME!

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It’s pretty easy to get a little down in the dumps, but you’d be surprised at the little things that can make you feel a little better and help you ride through the storm. But most importantly, be easy on yourself, you’re doing the very best you can.

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Sometimes these feelings may be more than just being stuck in a rut. Such feelings may be signs of something more serious. If what you’re feeling is more than just being stuck in a rut, talk to a friend, a family member, your doctor or contact a mental health helpline right away.

Catherine Maguire is a Final Year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

Christmas Gift Guide (gifts under £20)

CHRISTMAAAAASSSSSS is undoubtably my most favourite time of the year! The Christmas Markets are up, the lights are on, my Christmas Tree is up and I am beyond excited!

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However, for a lot of people, Christmas is also the time of year where the same dreaded annual question that is  asked, day in and day out…

“What are you getting so and so for Christmas?”

Well, let your little minds be of peace whilst I provide exceptional gift ideas at exceptional prices for all your loved ones.

Mum’s special Gifts 

First things first, let’s get the important people out of the way, Mums. Don’t know about you guys, but my Mum is the ‘don’t spend too much on me’ type of mum. Which is something my sisters and I rarely take advantage off, because, undoubtably she deserves the best.

But let’s just say for the purpose of this post, we are all (as students are supposed to be) on budgets this Christmas. CH31

So here are a few special ideas of what you can get your mummies at a reasonable price!

Pebble art: this particular one if from Etsy and is £12, you can also buy these locally in St. Georges Market and Studio Souk Belfast.

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“Always my mum, Forever my Friend” Pebble Art @Etsy £12

Favourite Sweeties hamper: This is something that can look so effective if done correctly, to purchase these are £35, but to do them yourself they can be done under £10. Simply search ‘Living Vase’ on eBay and order one for £1.65. The purchase long wooden skewers for £1 from any supermarket, and get all your mums fav snacks, arranging them into a pretty bouquet of sweets!

Divinity Bracelet: These bracelets are super cute and each purchase made, contributes a donation to charity. (Divinity Website £17)CH1

Something Special: Not on the High Street do a large Variety of jewellery items, a lot of which are under £20. These can also be engraved which makes for a really special and personal gift for your mummy!

Dads the ‘Useful’ Gifts

Moving onto our fathers. My god, if there is a task on this earth, it is getting a gift for my dad. Probably thee most difficult person to buy for on my Christmas list. Last year I got him Pyjama bottoms as in the months prior to Christmas, he walked into the kitchen in his underwear, when I had my girlfriends staying over. So, I thought perfect gift, I’ll get him Pyjamas so we don’t have to have that awkward encounter again! He looked at me in disgust and sheer disappointment when he opened them and said;

“Pyjamas Chloe…

…Really?”

Needless to say, he wears them EVERY evening and my mum has to prise them off him in order to wash them. Point to moi for the perfect gift giving. Anyway, this year I am determined to get him something ‘useful,’ as he would say, which I do believe is what many dads want anyway. Here are my useful Gift Ideas for dads:

Knife Sharpener: (Amazon £10, supposedly the UKs No.1 sharpener)

Wallet: because his is literally held together with an elastic band:  (Not on The Highstreet £20)

Minger wireless key finder: make sure you’re never helping him look for his car keys, TV Remote or phone, ever again with this wireless remote control tracker!(Amazon £19) *Personal Favourite Idea*

(and still getting him new jammies too)

Siblings & Friends, little and cute gifts

Next member on this gift list are my sisters, I have three. So, over the years I feel I have become an exceptional gift giver for girlies. These gifts can really be for anyone! As we are keeping a budget here, I would opt to go with a gift box/hamper sort of present. This may sound boring or like a ‘crap’ present, but you have to be smart about it. First of all, choose your box size, depending on how much you wish to spend. I will always include the same basis if things within the gift box such as;

Lush bath Bomb (£3+ Lush Cosmetics )                                                                               Candle(£4 Dunnes Stores)                                                                                                         Jewellery trinket dish (Anthropologie £12)                                                                                  Cute mug/Travel mug (Dunnes Stores £5).

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More cute ideas for your box include:

A photo frame/Holder with your fav photo of you both. (Oliver Bonas do the nicest! £4-£12).                                                                                                                                                             A diary for the new year (Paperchase £10)                                                                                Joma Jewellery ‘A Littles’ Collection. These have the cutest little bracelets that are perfect for a Gift Box hamper and they include a little message with the bracelet. (Utopia Belfast or on the Joma Jewellery Website £16-£18)                                                                          Little Heart Frames: Little Heart Belfast do the cutest frames which can be personalised for your requirement, with a quote or a name! these are a perfect little addition to your gift boxes! (Little Heart £12)                                                                                                 Hairbands, depending if you’re gift receiver is a headband girl or not, there is a fab stall at St. Georges Market to fulfil all your headband needs. (St. Georges Market£15)

 

Younger Kids/babies                                                                                                                         

when the gift is really for the parents!

For anyone tasked with buying ‘babies first Christmas,’ or young children’s presents this year, it’s a difficult one. Realistically, are they going to remember it?…No. I would opt for a keepsake gift such as the ones shown below. These are my favourites!

Probably less fun for the children and more exciting for the parents, but a lovely gift all the same.

(Ink and Honey £12-£17)

 

Boyfriends/Brothers

if you’re buying for your boyfriend or your brothers then… good luck! As I’m struggling with that one myself!

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IMPORTANT NOTE!

In my personal opinion, the most important thing about gift giving, is all in the wrapping of the presents.

“May no present be too small to give, nor too simple to receive, which is wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love”- L.Baird

This little quote emphasis’ that we don’t have to be spending loads of money this Christmas, it is intact the thought that counts…just make that thought a good one!

To finish off;

My top 10 shops for Christmas Shopping shops:

  1. Anthropologie
  2. Sóstrene Grene
  3. TK MAXX
  4. Paperchase
  5. Oliver Bonas
  6. Lush Cosmetics
  7. Dunnes Stores
  8. Amazon (online)
  9. Etsy (online)
  10. Not On The Highstreet (online)

 

Chloe Hood is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Twitter: @chloekathryn4 and Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-kathryn-hood-224033153