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Our favourite festive campaigns, past and present

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After the year 2020 has turned out to be, it’s no surprise more brands than ever are getting in on the Christmas action.

There’s nothing we love more at BCHQ than a Christmas campaign, so we wanted to share some of our favourites, old and new.

Dog’s Trust’s ‘A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas’ – 2019

As an agency full of animal lovers, we’re suckers for any campaign featuring a furry friend, but this campaign from the animal charity The Dog’s Trust really pulled on our heartstrings. The organisation revived its iconic ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ slogan, first coined over 40 years ago, to highlight that adopting a dog is a long-term commitment.

We’re reminded not to get caught up in the excitement of gift giving through the tale of a puppet dog made of cork who, after capturing the interest of a family at their Christmas table, is later cast aside with the rubbish.

Despite Christmas being an exciting time of year, campaigns like this remind us what’s really important.

John Lewis’ ‘The Long Wait’ – 2011

It wouldn’t be a Christmas roundup without an entry from John Lewis, and the brand’s 2011 offering cinched the top spot for us.

Sharing the story of a little boy impatiently waiting for Christmas day to arrive, the 90-second advert captures the feeling of children up and down the country as they wait for the big day. When it does finally arrive, he defies the expectations of many and dashes past his own presents to give a gift to his parents.

Finished with the message ‘for gifts you can’t wait to give’, we think John Lewis really gets to the essence of what Christmas is about for so many with this one. After all, it is the season for giving.

Tesco’s ‘No Naughty List’ – 2020

In a welcome turn of events after a long year, Tesco threw out the ‘naughty list’ this December.

It’s refreshing to see such witty and clever copywriting for the Out of Home and Social ads for this campaign, especially when the majority of brands are using the same cliched concepts and phrases. We love the way this campaign focuses on the little things that are accessible to all, and reminds us to look on the bright side this Christmas regardless of what’s gone before.

And who doesn’t love an advert with a Britney soundtrack?

Ikea’s ‘Silence the Critics’ – 2019

We loved Ikea’s first-ever UK festive ad that tackled the theme of home shame at Christmas.

Using an original track performed by the British grime artist D Double E, a couple are taunted by their household ornaments who are brought to life and mock their home’s tired aesthetic. Prompted to make a change, the couple quickly spruce up their home with some Ikea products, much to the delight of their ornamental audience.

It goes without saying there aren’t many Christmas campaigns with a grime theme tune, and we think Ikea’s campaign cuts through the festive fodder while tackling a theme relatable to many of us.

Sainsbury’s’ ‘The Gravy Song’ – 2020

2020 has been a year like no other, which is just one of the reasons why the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad ‘Gravy Song’ stood out to us with its nostalgic home-video style footage depicting a heartfelt and reassuringly familiar look at food and family.

The ad is one of three, forming the supermarket’s festive campaign and is brought to life by a phone call between a father and daughter, as she longs to come home to enjoy her dad’s signature Christmas gravy.  It’s a conversation we’re all familiar with, having spent longer than we would have liked away from family and loved ones this year.

The advert alone, as frills-free as it is, was enough to garner our attention for the comforting and relatable message it conveyed.

It felt all the more pertinent to include because of the response Sainsbury’s gave after it received racist comments on Twitter and YouTube. The comments said many people didn’t feel represented by the advert, and that they would be boycotting the supermarket and shopping elsewhere as a result.

Sainsbury’s released a statement saying that it wanted to be the ‘most inclusive retailer’ and aimed to ‘represent a modern Britain, which has a diverse range of communities’. As a result, all other major UK supermarkets joined together in a joint broadcast for Channel 4 to make it clear they stand together against racism, with adverts from Waitrose, Tesco, Iceland, Asda, Aldi, M&S, Lidl and Co-op aired alongside an anti-racist message during prime-time slots.

This is not the first time the supermarket has hit the headlines for standing by its mission this year, after facing more racist vitriol on social media after it announced it was supporting Black Lives Matter earlier in the year. So, it was good to see Sainsbury’s take a stand once more, and continue to drown out the outdated, and unwelcome racist opinions.

Virgin Trains’ ‘It’s a Wonderful Line’ – 2018

For many of us Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of year – spending time with our loved ones and seeing our kids’ eyes light up at the thought of what Santa, or Siôn Corn as he’s known in Wales, will bring.

But, for countless others, Christmas can be a very difficult time. Especially with the expectations of a picture-perfect experience all around them.

Based on insight from Samaritans and Rethink Mental Illness, that a correctly timed intervention at a train station could be all that is needed to prevent a potential suicide, Virgin Trains delivered a campaign that provided a positive message about mental health to those who needed help the most.

The entire script of classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life was painted on the platforms of 17 train stations between London and Glasgow alongside links to a website full of advice and practical help for those struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts.

Tim Adams, writing in the Observer, perfectly summed up the campaign saying that it acts as a ‘reminder, amid the festive busyness, that for people struggling with loneliness and depression this time of year can be the toughest of all – and of the effect that small acts of kindness can have in keeping the most vulnerable away from the edge.’


If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on how we’ve brough some festive cheer to our client campaigns, take a look at how we stepped into Christmas with our Admiral bauble calculator.

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