Christmas ad tracker: Cadbury tops effectiveness charts with consumers

It’s been a tricky season for Christmas advertisers hoping to get the tone right in a cost of living crisis. Kantar reveals their chart toppers for ad effectiveness.

For advertisers, this is once again a tricky Christmas season. In the second instalment of PMW’s Christmas ad tracker, we look into Kantar’s data for ad effectiveness to see how brands have fared at commercial advertising during a worsening cost of living crisis. 

Cadbury’s Secret Santa campaign has beaten rivals to be crowned the most effective Christmas ad this year, according Kantar’s analysis. 

Based on the research company’s feedback from over 3,750 consumers and facial recognition technology to assess people’s emotional responses, Cadbury’s Secret Santa campaign has beaten rivals to be crowned the most effective Christmas ad this year.

The Secret Santa ad is the highest ranking in Kantar’s database of festive campaigns since 2019, performing strongly on advertising effectiveness metrics such as branding, brand difference, meaningfulness and long-term brand building potential. The people surveyed felt it best celebrated the joy of Christmas in 2022 and also deemed it to be the most appropriate given the cost of living crisis. 

“Who would have thought that post COVID, brands would have an even trickier tightrope to walk this year,” said Lynne Deason, Head of Creative Excellence at Kantar UK. “However, our research found that by and large brands got the balance right. Ads were more enjoyable this year than last and created a higher feel-good factor, giving a much-needed boost to the people of Britain.

“Brands generally steered clear of messaging around spending or excess and instead drew on the true meaning of Christmas – togetherness, giving and joy – which was the right way to go. Cadbury’s Secret Santa campaign cleverly tapped into themes of generosity and kindness with a populist concept that everyone can engage with, while capturing the essence of the much-loved brand.”


Aldi and Asda complete the podium with humour  

Asda hit a winner this year with its ‘Have your Elf a Merry Christmas’ campaign featuring Christmas icon, Buddy the Elf. The retailer’s most effective festive offering to date, the advert scored in the top 3% of all UK ads for making people smile. Aldi took a similar approach with its Home Alone storyline, scoring especially well in humour among the top 5% of all ads tested.

“We know that consumers are more likely to turn to nostalgia as comfort during crises, and Asda and Aldi put themselves at the heart of Christmas tradition this year,” continued Deason. “Their campaigns work particularly well by reminding us of good times.  The ads are also fun – advertisers should never underestimate the power of humour and entertainment.”


John Lewis improves from last year’s unhappy ad

Support for charitable partnerships featured in many ads this year with retailers taking the opportunity to show how they are supporting good causes with actions and not just words.  “We know that gestures like these are really appreciated by consumers and when done in an authentic way, they benefit businesses too,” added Deason. “Heart-warming stories that we enjoy and have a feel-good factor create a positive halo effect for featured brands.”

John Lewis & Partners’ ‘The Beginner’ was a highly impactful story of a middle-aged man learning to skate to welcome home a foster child. This ad interestingly scored less highly in PMW’s previous Christmas ad tracker from System1, which measured the emotional effectiveness of ads to predict each ad’s long and short-term effectiveness.

“We remember ads that make us feel something and John Lewis’ campaign is off the chart when it comes to emotive power, sitting in the top 1%,” stated Deason.  “The brand’s approach in 2020 didn’t quite get the balance right, reinforcing people’s sadness instead of uplifting them. The retailer certainly hasn’t made the same mistake this year, with the big reveal about the reason behind the dad’s newfound passion helping to make it the most enjoyable ad of Christmas 2022. In fact it lands in the top 6% of all adverts for this metric.  The ad has broader benefits for society too as the male character ranks top of all Christmas ads for showing a positive, non-stereotypical male role model that others can follow. 

“We know that brand difference is crucial to justifying a higher price for products or services,” Deason concluded. “Given the budget pressures shoppers are facing this is particularly important for brands to get right and will reap benefits not just at Christmas, but also in helping them bounce back quicker post-recession.”