Ad wars at Christmas

by / Tuesday, 22 December 2015 / Published in Uncategorized


This Evening Standard report (with videos included) reckons that Sainsbury’s has won the battle of the Christmas ads this year – at least as judged by the number of views on YouTube.

This means the store’s mini-disaster movie “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” that features Mog the cat has beaten the perennial festive favourite from John Lewis (“Man on the Moon” for 2015), as well as all the other retailers.

However, the value of the sales that these stores clock up over the season may tell a different story. In recent times, John Lewis has out-performed its rivals at the tills, thanks in large part to its ads featuring a girl’s journey to womanhood one year, and a penguin (called Monty) another.

John Lewis Woman 1 montythepenguin-2


But why do any of these ads work?

Emotional resonance

Quite simply, they work because they tell a story and play on each viewer’s emotions. Either we recognise and identify with the scenes (e.g. the stages of a woman’s life) or else get sucked in by the cuteness and/or humour.

What’s more, these stories work as ads partly because they stand repeat viewing – there’s so much depth to the visuals (including animation/computer graphics as well as smart editing) and often a great piece of music to accompany it too. (The music also helps to wrestle our emotions into the right mood, just as it does in a film.)

Using emotional language in your messages

Now you may be thinking “That’s all very well for John Lewis, with all their millions to spend on TV advertising… but how can I apply some of this in my own promotional materials?”

Well, it is possible – with a little time thinking and some more time on your writing (but not a huge budget). The thinking involves you putting yourself into the shoes of your customer or prospect and imagining what they need or want – and how you/your product or service can address that requirement/desire.

Your writing should focus on evoking the primary emotion that, for your reader, relates most closely to his/her situation. Notice that I’m not advocating using lots of adjectives and adverbs in your texts to try and convey the emotion (things like “exciting”, “amazing”, “wonderful” and so on). Such words won’t get your reader to feel these emotions – more likely, you’ll turn them off with your gushing copy.

No, instead, you must demonstrate how and/or why what you’re offering is exciting to/for them – preferably without using the word “exciting”. White-water rafting is exciting; your new widget or service is not (honestly, it isn’t). Key into the emotional state that your reader is likely to be experiencing when s/he reads your copy, and then make your words transport him or her to a different state.

So, move them away from fear about losing money (by making a bad investment decision, perhaps) to the financial security and peace of mind that your product and/or service can offer.

If you need help making the shift in your own thinking, as well as writing in a way that moves your reader’s thinking and emotions, let me know.

But just wait until the New Year, if you don’t mind – I’ve got some ads to watch and turkey to eat!



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