It’s that time of the year, folks! Oxford Street is lit up and sparkling and the winds are carrying a chill that gives you hope for snow. Christmas is soon approaching and everyone is reaching for their credit card to spoil their loved ones rotten. This annual winter festival is, of course, a dream for consumer brands – spending is practically a compulsory act. Hence the Christmas PR campaigns for big brands have become something of a spectacle by which people expect to be dazzled. We at Monumental Marketing, a digital PR agency, are well-versed in the power of a Christmas PR campaign.
In this blog post we are going to take you on a journey back through some of the best Christmas PR campaigns. Throughout history there have been some hugely influential campaigns that have gone on to define brands and consumer culture for years. These Christmas campaigns are testaments to the power of consumer PR – if you’d like to know more about the industry, check out our previous post, What is the Purpose of PR?
Behemoth brand Coca-Cola has made a pertinent name for itself at Christmas time. The image of a rosy-cheeked, red Santa Claus sipping on a glistening bottle of Coke is ubiquitous. But this was not always the case. This sugary drink was always, since its conception, a product that was associated with hot summer days spent lounging by the pool. Consequently, in the 1930s, Coca-Cola hired Haddon Sunbloom to create an image of Santa Claus for their Christmas PR campaign. They wanted to ensure that Coke was seen as a beverage that could be enjoyed all year round.
This proved to be one of the most successful Christmas PR campaigns. Sunbloom’s depiction of old Saint Nick has since become a benchmark for festive imagery. However, according to Ferret Fact Service, the age-old ‘fact’ that Coca-Cola is responsible for the first depiction of a red Santa Claus is in fact false. There were depictions of the saint in red as early as the 19th century in other advertisements and drawings. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that, as PR campaigns go, this has been one of the most influential in consumerist culture.
It has become a Christmas tradition over the past decade for the UK’s biggest supermarkets to produce a television advert of feature film quality. Always tearjerkers, these Christmas PR campaigns garner a lot of attention and rightly so for the budget that is spent on them – John Lewis’ 2019 ad reportedly cost an eye-watering £7 million. But the one that really struck a cord was Sainsbury’s’ 2014 campaign. It depicted the fabled friendly football match between the Germans and British in the First World War trenches on Christmas day.
Until that point, the best Christmas PR campaigns had come from John Lewis or Coca-Cola. But Sainsbury’s established themselves as a big player in 2014 and blew them out of the water with their heartstring tugging advert. It just goes to show that investing in quality PR campaigns can be a highly fruitful practise for brands now-a-days.
Iceland’s politically motivated PR campaign drew a lot of attention when it was dubbed as ‘banned’ from TV in 2018. The animation had an anti-palm oil focus to it and was made in support of Greenpeace, resulting in it being banned from TV. According to the Guardian, this was due to Clearcast deeming it in breach of rules banning political advertising as laid down by the 2003 Communications Act. While the ban on the ad was initially a disaster for Iceland, the scandal of the story drove web traffic to it on Youtube. In a matter of weeks it had been watched by 63 million people on the online platform.
Of all the Christmas PR campaigns, this one is a great example of how a negative PR experience can be flipped and used to benefit.
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