November 25, 2020

Looking Back at the Best Holiday Ads in Recent Years for Inspiration

Best Holiday Ads

It is not too late to start holiday marketing campaigns, although starting earlier  is always better. If you are unsure of how to start creating your holiday ads, then take a look at some of the best ones from the previous years for inspiration.

We will explore some examples of great holiday marketing, as well as what makes them so amazing. From there, we’ll take a look at how you should go about creating your holiday campaigns.

Jump to a section

What Are Some Examples of Great Marketing?

How Do I Start a Holiday Campaign? How Do You Market a Holiday?

When Should You Advertise for Christmas?

What Are Some Examples of Great Marketing?

Apple — “iPhone Christmas Commercial 2013”

This iPhone ad from Apple was so popular and well-crafted that it won an Emmy. This ad brilliantly takes a common criticism of Apple and technology in general — that it separates people — and shows how the opposite is true.

The ad shows a teen on his phone or holding it throughout various points of the holiday, from greeting family members to spending time outside. It initially tricks us into thinking that it is showing evidence of how smartphones disconnect people from each other. Then, we realize that the teen had been recording all the activities and interactions throughout the holiday to make a family video showing precious moments between them. At the end, instead of a direct sales tactic, Apple simply includes a “Happy Holidays” message.

This is one of the holiday ads that hook viewers by telling a story, as we want to see how the family’s holidays will go. It also subtly highlights the product’s abilities, in this case, the iPhone’s high-quality video capturing and editing capabilities.

Gardenscapes — “Holidays Are Here!”

This advertisement from the mobile game Gardenscapes is from a few years ago, but it still resonates. The ad is very similar to the regular advertisements for the game, but it features festive gnomes decorating the property for the holidays.

The great thing about this ad is that it showcases the product that viewers already know but adds a Christmas feel, putting viewers in the holiday spirit. So if you’re looking for some new holiday marketing ideas, look at how Gardenscapes made use of festive elements to create an engaging, fun ad.

Happy Socks — “Happy Holidays: Happy Socks x Pedro Pascal”

This 15-second ad is a short film with the style of an older movie. It involves Narcos and The Mandolorian star, Pedro Pascal, at a diner telling the chef that colors provide the value for jewels and says “just like these socks,” while showing off his colorful socks from Happy Socks that “make his suit.” Although this ad is part of a larger campaign, it’s a short yet memorable and fun advertisement, complete with the music and cinematography associated with older films.

This is one of the best Christmas ads for several reasons, including the use of a title at the beginning to make it feel like a short film. This title features holiday greetings to set the tone and let viewers immediately know what product the ad is advertising. It also uses a familiar face in the form of Pedro Pascal and makes the product stand out by having Pascal draw attention to it.

Hershey’s — “Bells” with Kisses

This Hershey’s ad from 1989 was an instant hit, to the point that it has been repeated most years. The ad features a group of Hershey’s Kisses, with one acting as a musical conductor and the others as bells, playing out the tune to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

What makes this ad so great is that it is product-focused yet still highly relatable. It forms a direct connection between the product, the Hershey’s Kisses, and the holiday by having the Kisses play one of the most recognizable Christmas songs.

John Lewis — “The Long Wait Christmas 2011”

UK retailer John Lewis has earned a reputation for creating some of the industry’s best holiday ads. You can gain insight from nearly any of the company’s ads, as well as the way they have become a tradition to the point that people wait excitedly to see the current year’s ad.

This one from 2011 stands out even among the others from this retailer. It shows a kid anxiously waiting for Christmas, using his Advent calendar and featuring various other Christmas imagery, like holiday hats, costumes, and snow. The kid is impatient throughout the ad. Then, on Christmas Day, we find out that he was waiting so anxiously for Christmas because he wanted to give his parents a holiday gift he had wrapped and stored in his closet.

One of the takeaways from John Lewis’s holiday advertising includes creating an emotional connection with viewers, which is done via the child’s urgency for the holiday to arrive. It also brings people in with a story, so we want to watch until the end.

Rice Krispies — “Rice Krispies Treats Holiday Santa Sleigh”

With the rise of interest in extremely short videos in recent years, Rice Krispies created a 6-second ad showing off its Rice Krispies Treats. This animated video features Santa and his sleigh riding by, with two varieties of Rice Krispies Treats wrappers falling out of the bag and being displayed on the screen.

This ad uses some of the same elements that led the others on this list to success, such as focusing on the product, showing a variety in the product, and directly connecting the product to the holidays. It also takes advantage of the short video format that is growing in popularity. This ad appeared two years ago, but as the number of short ads on streaming and video platforms grows, the market for this length has grown as well.

Sally Hansen — “Finding the Perfect Holiday Nail Polish Shade with Messenger”

This is different from the other best holiday ads, as the video led to an interactive experience. This holiday marketing campaign involved using Facebook Messenger to encourage clients to find their ideal red shade. It aimed to help customers discover more products, create deeper connections, and boost email acquisitions.

The campaign was a large success, featuring a 100% participation rate among those who saw the Messenger quiz and an 85% email opt-in rate. There was also an average engagement of 2 minutes and 43 seconds per conversation, working toward the company’s goal of increasing engagement with consumers to strengthen brand connections.

One of the key takeaways from this successful variation on holiday ads is how it managed to showcase a variety of the Sally Hansen products with a direct connection to the holiday season.

How Do I Start a Holiday Campaign? How Do You Market a Holiday?

When it comes to holiday campaigns, there are a few things you want to keep in mind as you market the holidays. The above holiday ads show us some of the strategies you should use when creating a Christmas campaign, but even those lessons bear repeating and spelling out.

Lessons Learned from the Example Holiday Commercials

The following summarizes some of the lessons you can learn from the best holiday ads mentioned above.

  • Directly feature the product
  • Make the product stand out
  • Showcase a variety of the product
  • Connect the product and the holiday
  • Add a holiday feel to familiar products
  • Consider greetings or titles in the beginning
  • Tell a story, but keep it short
  • Include a familiar face whenever possible

What to Include in Successful Holiday Advertising

Based on the lessons gleaned from the best holiday ads and general marketing knowledge and experience, you should consider the following when planning your holiday marketing campaigns.

  • Planning Early: One of the keys to holiday ads is to start planning as early as possible. Holiday promotions can lead to your biggest sales of the year, so you need to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. Start by ensuring everything is functional on the technical front, then focus on creating your holiday marketing.
  • Have BackUp Plans and Be Ready to Adapt: One of the many reasons to start planning your holiday ads early is so that you can adapt to issues. Planning should include various potential problems that can occur as well as creating the backup plans that you will put into place. This includes having a team ready to take care of any issues while your campaign is launched.
  • Use Keywords and Other Search Features: With such a large proportion of holiday shopping taking place online, you need to make sure your Christmas ads take advantage of keywords and other features to help your products or brand show up on the results page. The most obvious place to start is with Google Ads, as they are the industry standard. Consider using ad automation, running shopping campaigns, and carefully crafting your ad copy.
  • Tell/Show Your Holiday Values: You want to showcase the holiday spirit without going over-the-top. Instead, Christmas marketing should focus on themes like giving and togetherness – potentially include how those relate to your brand.
  • Create an Emotional Reaction: Some of the common emotional reactions to try to evoke include nostalgia, laughs, or tugging at the viewer’s heartstrings.
  • Show Your Brand Identity: Successful Christmas commercials will show off your company’s spirit, which helps you connect with viewers.
  • Consider Influencers or Celebrities: While the Happy Socks commercial is the only one on our list with a celebrity, this is a great strategy to consider. With the continuing rise of influencers, working with a big name of any sort can help with the “familiar face” aspect of your marketing campaign, bringing in interest.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Keep It Simple: If you are a newer brand, don’t be afraid to keep your first holiday ads relatively simple. Even long-running brands frequently keep their advertising simple during the holidays. By doing so, you can stick to known successes and reduce the risk of issues.
  • Consider Giveaways: Another great way to boost your Christmas sale ads is to feature a giveaway of some sort. There are numerous holiday giveaway ideas, from grand prizes, such as gift certificates or full-size products, to participation prizes for everyone, such as discount codes or free samples.
  • Consider Whether to Include a Call to Action: Your Christmas advertising does not need to include a call to action of some sort, such as buy this particular product, but some advertisers choose to include one. However, many successful holiday ads take the opposite approach and just wish viewers happy holidays. For performance-oriented videos, you should always have a CTA button, while you may want to keep it “clean” in other ads.

Generally, you should start your holiday advertising about a month in advance of the holidays. Remember that the entire buying process takes time, between attracting potential buyers and convincing them to make a purchase.

Let's talk Marketing
Get in touch!