How brands can strike the right tone during this festive season

New data from Kantar reveals that only 18% of consumers strongly agree they’re looking forward to Christmas ads, down 5% from last year. How can brands engage with their audience amid the current economic turmoil?

As the cost of living crisis shifts shopping priorities, one in three say they will be cutting gifting budgets for close friends and family by over £25 per person.

Ravleen Beeston, Regional Vice President of Sales, Microsoft Advertising UK explores how brands can’t afford to be tone deaf when it comes to their advertising this festive season...

This year’s Christmas will unsurprisingly look very different for many families. As the cost of living crisis continues to soar, advertisers and marketers alike will be faced with the challenge of keeping consumers engaged, whilst working hard to ensure they don’t appear tone deaf to the current climate at a time when many are cutting back. 

These economic challenges will mean the usual tidal wave of advertising showcasing family feasts, a plethora of presents under the tree and large gatherings of people coming together will seem out of touch with the reality many are facing. Particularly during the build up to Christmas, there is a feeling of excitement and apprehension as people await to see a variety of brand’s eagerly anticipated Christmas adverts. However, the anticipation has all but flattened this year. According to research, only 18% of consumers strongly agree they’re looking forward to Christmas ads, down by 5% from last year. As the cost of living crisis shifts shopping priorities, one in three say they will be cutting gifting budgets for close friends and family by over £25 per person.

Striking the balance of empathising with customers whilst also maintaining business as usual is no easy task. The cost of living crisis makes front page headlines almost every day; consumers don’t want to be lectured on how to save money whilst the subtext is “buy from me”. So how can advertisers strike the right tone and engage in a meaningful and compassionate way?

Be empathetic in your performance marketing tactics

When budgets are tight, brands must take a step back and tread carefully when it comes to advertising during an economic crisis and step into the minds of how consumers are feeling. Planning ahead and foreseeing challenges must be front of mind for any advertiser whilst providing comfort and reassurance in both a creative and empathetic way. 

The consumer is media savvy and sensitive to price, therefore they will be searching for cost saving ways now more than ever, whether that’s looking at tips and tricks or more emphasis on inspiration, consumers will be looking for deals on how to stretch their seasonal budget. Advertisers must ensure their communications align to this, whilst aiming to uplift the spirits of shoppers. 

During times of uncertainty, every penny counts. If brands are to be welcomed into people’s lives, especially in tough times, then they must start by earning their trust and upholding their values, whilst respecting their right to privacy which builds brand equity. Values drive value and trust grows into loyalty by recognising people's values and responding authentically.

Christmas adverts that have hit our screens already this year have recognised people’s concerns around affordability whilst taking into account the importance of corporate social responsibility. Brands have shown they can represent how consumers are thinking and feeling, whilst earning their trust such as focusing on cutting back prices or offering deals designed to help families celebrate. 

As brands and agencies look for budget optimisations and efficiencies, digital content such as multimedia ads which are implemented in search advertising campaigns offer an excellent opportunity for improving brand impact whilst driving purposeful marketing. During big seasonal moments, the brands which focus on solid performance of search campaigns that utilise multimedia in order to drive sales and leads will succeed in reaching their target audience. 

Multimedia ads can also help catch a consumer’s attention with large visual imagery that showcases your brand and products to increase visibility, interest, and drive clicks and conversions, ensuring that you stand out and get noticed among your competition. 

Read the room and connect with your audience

With many of the major UK retailers having now shown their 2022 Christmas adverts, it is clear to see they have listened to the brief. This year’s ad campaigns have highlighted themes of kindness and affordability. 

Advertisers who don’t shy away from the responsibility of reflecting tougher socio-economic issues but drive positive, helpful ways to navigate current challenges and resonate a feeling of hope for better times ahead, will be the ones that will flourish. 

By Ravleen Beeston

Regional Vice President of Sales

Microsoft Advertising UK