Mill Insight | Anna Watkins on The Importance of the Christmas Ad

We sat down with Anna Watkins, Technicolor Creative Studios Global VP of Growth and Brand Partnerships, to discuss the future of Christmas ads, experiences, and what she's looking forward to seeing in the 2021 holiday season.
Thought July 15, 2021

What makes the Christmas ad so important for marketers and brands?

Christmas advertising is of critical importance for marketers who traditionally allocate 30% to 35% of retail advertising budgets in the fourth quarter given Christmas shopping can account for up to 30% of their annual sales.

The good news is that despite the pandemic, holiday season retail sales grew by 8.3% in the US in 2020 with further growth predicted for both advertising spend and sales in 2021, and with Group M forecasting global advertising growth of up to 19% in the second half of this year.

And if we look specifically at the video gaming industry as one of the key sectors that has flourished during the pandemic, they spent more than $45 million on advertising in the first two weeks of November 2020 alone; a staggering rise of 80% year-on-year.

So, some good reasons for good cheer this Christmas.

(Source: MAGNA Global, CNBC, Group M, MediaRadar)

How do you think brands will be approaching their ad campaigns this holiday after the 2020 season in the pandemic? What themes will be prevalent?

Looking at advertising themes during the pandemic there has certainly been an increased sense of nostalgia, intimacy, gentle humour and authenticity. That said when reviewing our Christmas work for brands such as Amazon and Coca Cola pre and during the pandemic, these sentiments have always been and always will be celebrated at Christmas.

However, where we will hopefully see a shift is in terms of marketers increased bravery and appetite for innovation as we emerge from the pandemic as consumer confidence increases along with a thirst for positivity, celebration and new experiences.

Encouragingly the 2021 Opinium survey in the US and UK, revealed that 60% of marketers identified design and creativity as a key priority for their marketing efforts with 75% saying that the pandemic has already enabled them to become more imaginative in their work.

How will immersive experiences play a role in the creation of festive ads moving forward?

Post pandemic, people are craving new experiences and being back in the post lockdown world of socializing, sports, music and other cultural events.

Momentum Worldwide’s research in May 2021 showed that 48% of consumers said they were planning to try new experiences this year. Alongside 18% of marketers saying that they intend to increase their event marketing budgets in 2021, with many already planning events supported by an online and/or virtual component.
Given 77% of respondents said that they had never hosted a ‘hybrid’ event before, I am hopeful that creative technology and immersive events will become far more of the norm for those brave marketers leading the charge to engage with their consumers in interactive and innovative ways this Christmas.

What types of holiday campaigns are you most excited to see?

Well, I’m hoping for another cracker of human endeavour and epic scale as with Coca Cola’s ‘The Letter’ we worked on last year. And of course, for some cuddly festive fun, I would love to see Holidays part 2 with Ralph Lauren Fragrances’ family of bears.

You can get in touch with us about any upcoming festive projects here.

Anna Watkins, Global VP of Growth and Brand Partnerships at Technicolor Creative Studios