Which UK retailer created the best digital advertising for Christmas?
Recently, I wrote a post for Search Engine Journal entitled, “Did John Lewis Create One of the Top 2019 Christmas Adverts?” And I answered my rhetorical question by saying, “Well, it depends on how you measure success.”
Now, how you measure success is as critical as creativity in digital advertising. Back in April 2012, Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, said in a post on his Occam’s Razor blog, “While there is a great deal of appreciation for the power of metrics/data, I’ve come to realize that (Senior) Leaders don’t quite appreciate the deep, and often corrosive, consequences of choosing metric x over metric y as a key performance indicator (KPI).” He went on to explain:
“The metric you choose communicates to your organization what’s important to you (the POWERFUL person). It communicates to them how their personal success will be measured. That translates directly into what they prioritize when it comes to your digital initiatives.
“Choose the right metric and they’ll create the most glorious digital experience in the universe, the perfect acquisition campaign, the most amazing customer service channel. And they will shock you with the profits they deliver.
“Choose the wrong one and they’ll create self-serving, sub optimal, non-competitive, tear-inducing outcomes that will, slowly over time, bleed the business to death.
“It really is that stark. Simply because it all comes down to the incentives you create.”
That’s why it’s often a mistake to use “views” to measure the success of digital advertising campaigns.
For starters, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have different definitions of a “view.” For YouTube, a “view” occurs when a viewer watches 30 seconds of your video – or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds – or engages with your video, whichever comes first. For Facebook, a “view” occurs when a video is displayed in a user’s news feed for 3 seconds or more, even if the person doesn’t actually click on the video to watch with the sound turned on. And for Twitter, a “view” occurs when any video is “at least 50 percent in-view for 2 seconds.” So, to count as a view, at least half of video has to be visible and playing on a user’s screen for at least two seconds. This makes comparing the “views” that video ads get on different social video platforms as absurd as comparing apples, oranges, and blackberries.
And, as I pointed out in my post in Search Engine Journal last month, “Some brands upload their Christmas videos and hope they go viral organically, while others promote their videos with advertising campaigns. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) But, it’s fairly easy to spot the videos that were heavily promoted: They have anemic engagements.” How anemic? They generally get less than one engagement for every 1,000 views. So, looking at the number of views that a video got without looking at the number of engagements that it generated is an example of willful blindness.
So, using a formula that looks at both views and engagements on a single social video platform is one way to answer the question, “Which UK retailer created the best digital advertising for Christmas?”
Using Tubular Labs, I looked at 4,096 videos by brands or influencers in the UK with “Christmas” in the title that have been uploaded to YouTube since Oct. 20, 2019, which have generated more than 1 engagement for every 1,000 views.
In first place is “Christmas 2019 Ad | John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners.” Its description reads, “Together with Waitrose & Partners, we’re excited to share the festive tale of a little girl and her excitable friend, Edgar. #ExcitableEdgar Our story this year is all about the magic of friendship and how one thoughtful gesture can make all the difference. Edgar’s excitement around the festive season can often lead to fiery consequences, but Ava sparks an idea for the perfect present to help him light up Christmas in his own special way.” The video is 2:31 long, was uploaded on Nov. 13, and had 9.6 million views and 90,300 engagements as of Dec. 19.
In second place is “Nicholas the Sweep | Sainsbury’s | Christmas 2019.” Its description reads, “150 years ago Sainsbury’s opened their first store and Christmas changed forever. Coincidence? Almost certainly… ho ho ho.” The video is 2:32 long, was uploaded on Nov. 6, and had 6.2 million views and 17,900 engagements as of Dec. 19.
And in third place is “Aldi Christmas Launch Advert 2019.” Its description reads, “Roll up! Roll up! The Amazing Aldi Christmas Show is here. Witness the Flying Tra-peas, a guest appearance from bad guy Russell Sprout and of course, the star of the show… #KevinTheCarrot.” The video is 1:11 long, was uploaded on Nov. 5, and had 3.3 million views and 10,500 engagements as of Dec. 19.
Which UK retailer created the most emotionally engaging Christmas advert?
Now, there are other methodologies for ranking digital advertising. And, as I said in my post in Search Engine Journal last month, “One of the most unique, relevant, useful, and valuable methodologies that I’ve seen was developed over in the UK by the folks at Unruly.”
Unruly analyzed the emotional responses of 3,071 UK consumers to 19 of the Christmas adverts published this year using its content measurement tool, UnrulyEQ. This tool uses a combination of audience panels, facial coding, and machine learning to help advertisers understand the emotional triggers in their advertising and build out target audiences for campaign distribution.
Based on how Unruly measures success, here are the most emotionally engaging Christmas adverts created by UK retailers in 2019:
In first place is “Very.co.uk Christmas Advert 2019 | Get More Out of Giving.” This 31-second-long video was uploaded Nov. 1, and had 2.9 million views, but only 238 engagements as of Dec. 19. So, virtually all of its views came from being promoted, not from being shared. But, it finished on top of Unruly’s chart after 40% of viewers had a strong emotional response to the campaign, which was twice as intense as the UK norm. In fact, the animated advert was four times more heart-warming, three times more likely to make people happy, and twice as sad as the average video ad in the UK. Very’s Christmas advert tells the story of a community that comes together to give Sidney, a lonely man, a Christmas that he’ll never forget. Watch as the community races to pack a pink parcel full of Christmas delights to make the festive season special for their neighbor.
In second place is “Christmas 2019 Ad | John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners.” According to UnrulyEQ, John Lewis and Waitrose’s excitable dragon, Edgar, left 38% of viewers feeling very emotional.
Tied for third place are “Barbour Christmas Advert 2019: 125 Years of Blooming Barbour Christmases” and “Nicholas the Sweep | Sainsbury’s | Christmas 2019.” Both video ads got Emotional Engagement scores of 37%. Barbour’s video is 1:53 long, was uploaded on Nov. 4, 2019, and had 1.1 million views, but only 924 engagements as of Dec. 19. So, it was also heavily promoted. But, why did it get an Emotional Engagement score that rivals Sainsbury’s advert? Well, Barbour is celebrating 125 years of Blooming Barbour Christmases with Raymond Briggs’ beloved Father Christmas.
What was the most effective Christmas TV ad of the year?
Among the other methodologies for ranking digital advertising is the one used by Kantar, which tested 19 Christmas adverts with 2,824 UK consumers using its LinkNow ad testing service. LinkNow tests ads against seven factors that drive short-term sales and long-term growth: enjoyment, involvement (grabs attention), expressiveness (makes us feel emotion), branding, persuasive (makes us want to buy), meaningful (creates love), and different. Facial coding from Affectiva also captured how viewers engaged emotionally with each ad.
This methodology for measuring success provides a different set of results than we’ve already seen. And the use of multiple metrics also highlights the strategic importance of selecting the right KPIs. Are you trying to drive short-term sales or long-term growth?
As Kirsty Cooke, Head of Digital Content for Kantar in the UK, reported recently, “Aldi’s campaign taps into a movie phenomenon and its much-loved soundtrack to tell another entertaining story about Kevin the Carrot. Viewers rated it highest overall across the seven ‘ingredients’ that make an ad effective. ‘Amazing Christmas Show’ is this year’s most ‘different’ and ‘emotional’ ad, and is among the top performers on ‘enjoyable’, ‘attention-grabbing’, and ability to create love for the brand.”
She added, “The eagerly anticipated ‘Excitable Edgar’ from John Lewis & Partners is the most enjoyable ad of 2019. Viewers also felt it celebrates the joy of Christmas more than any other spot. The ad reinforces the message that John Lewis has stood behind since 2007: you’ll find the perfect gift here, no matter who you need to buy for. This loveable and engaging story about true friendship and inclusivity is wrapped up in the excitement and magic of Christmas.”
The ad that generated most love for the brand behind it is “Walkers Crisps Christmas Advert 2019 | All Mariah Carey wants this Christmas | Too Good To Share.” This 1:01 -long video was uploaded Nov. 1, and had 816,000 views, and 20,600 engagements as of Dec. 19. According to Cooke, “This combines a very popular song, a glamorous celebrity and a dash of good humor. It is very consistent for the brand, building on the original campaign featuring Gary Lineker, and the message that its crisps are so irresistible even the nicest person will turn mean to get their hands on them. It has Walkers’ cheeky tone of voice, and the product is well woven into the story.”
Are UK retailers missing a magical mobile moment?
The presence of a couple of Christmas adverts with anemic engagements in the lists above should prompt a re-examination another aspect of measuring the success of digital advertising. Since more than 70% of YouTube watchtime comes from mobile devices, should we focus on performance on smartphones and tablets, or should we consider performance on desktops and TV screens as well?
The folks at Vidsy took a look at the top 30 UK Christmas advertisers this season and found that only 20% had made a mobile optimized version of their ad. No real consideration was taken for the differences between the platforms. Now, is it really a big deal that 80% opted to repurpose their TV ad across social video platforms? And, what does a mobile optimized version of an ad look like?
Well, among other things, it’s a vertical video. And, as Chris Phoenix wrote recently on the VMag Blog, “it’s not enough to just recut existing content into a vertical format. You need to go deeper than that, tailoring your content to reflect how – and why – people use each social media platform, otherwise your content will go down like a lead balloon.” He added, “An advert that doesn’t feel part of a platform is jarring to a viewer experience, and you wouldn’t expect people to engage with it. Far from it, in fact, the outcome is more likely to enrage not engage.”
So, yes, it’s a big deal that UK advertisers will spend an estimated £6.8 billion on a Christmas ad spree this year, but 80% of them are merely repurposing their TV ads on social video platforms, which is known to significantly underperform content created specifically for a platform.
As Gerard Keeley, Vidsy CEO and co-founder, recently told City AM, “Today, effective video advertising is about reaching people with quality creative at the right time, right place and importantly, right fit for platform and ad placement. With huge budgets being spent at Christmas, it’s certainly no time for exception and seems a missed opportunity to not to consider mobile video best practice with your brand advertising.”
Did UK retailers measure the brand lift or sales lift of their Christmas adverts?
There are other ways to measure the success of digital advertising — including Brand Lift and Sales Lift.
Google’s Brand Lift solution measures the direct impact your YouTube ads are having on perceptions and behaviors throughout the consumer journey. Within a matter of days, Brand Lift gives you insights into how your video adverts are impacting metrics that matter to many marketers, including lifts in brand awareness, ad recall, consideration, favorability, and purchase intent. Brand Lift will also measure the impact your video ad campaign has on creating interest in your brand by using organic searches on both Google and YouTube. This enables you to adjust your YouTube campaigns according to what’s working in mid-flight.
To do this, Google first isolates a randomized holdback group that isn’t shown your video ad and a second, larger group that is shown your advert on YouTube. About a day after seeing (or not seeing) your video ad, Google delivers a one-question survey to both groups. Since the only effective difference between the two groups is whether they saw your advert, Google can accurately determine the lift that can be attributed to your campaign.
Google also has a couple of Sales Lift partners that can help advertisers understand the incremental impact of their investments on key performance metrics such as revenue or sales. Now, I know that sales lift measurement is available to consumer packaged goods advertisers in the US. But, I haven’t seen an announcement that sales lift has been rolled out on the other side of the pond. So, UK retailers may not have used sales lift to measure their YouTube campaigns this year, but they should plan to measure it in 2020.
Can Christmas adverts actually create interest in your brand and move products off the shelves? Well, all I have is anecdotal evidence that it does. One of the speakers at the recent TechSEO Boost conference in Boston was Claudia Higgins, the Natural Search Insight & Technology Manager at Argos, one of the UK’s leading digital retailers. I asked her about the impact of their latest campaign, which included:
- “Argos Christmas advert 2019 – The Book of Dreams (30 Second Edit).” Uploaded on Nov. 1, this 037 long video got 7.3 million views, but only 164 engagements as of Dec. 19.
- “Argos Christmas Advert 2019 – The Book of Dreams (60 Second Edit).” Also uploaded on Nov. 1, this 1:07 long video got 2.5 million views, but only 277 engagements as of Dec. 19.
- “Argos Christmas advert 2019 – The Book of Dreams (Extended Version).” Uploaded on Oct. 30, this 2:51 long video got 672,000 views and 5,973 engagements as of Dec. 19.
Higgins said that she had seen a lift in organic searches when the Christmas campaign – which included TV ads as well as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter ads – was launched. She added that the drumkit featured in “The Book of Dreams” campaign had sold out.
The UK retailer that created the best Christmas advert in 2019
Since I’ve started using anecdotal evidence to indicate how you should measure the success of digital advertising, let me conclude this post with a Christmas advert that hasn’t appeared in any of the other lists. It is “Hafod Hardware Christmas Advert 2019.” Its description reads, “Here it is, our Christmas advert for 2019 #BeAKidThisChristmas Wishing all our customers a Happy Christmas for 2019.
Alan, Pauline & Tom. A big thank you to the star of the show, Arthur Lewis Jones, age 2.” The video is 2:03 long, was uploaded on Dec. 2, and had 2.5 million views and 31,500 engagements as of Dec. 19.
Now, this video was uploaded too late to have made a couple of the lists covered above. But, why do I think Hafod Hardware, a traditional, family run hardware shop in Rhayader, Wales, deserves to be named the UK retailer that created the best digital advertising for Christmas in 2019? Because they made their Christmas advert with a budget £100 ($130). And I firmly believe that the best way to measure success is return on marketing investment. So, show their video to your organization and ask them, “Why can’t we create an emotional Christmas advert like this on a logical budget like that?”