Is commercialisation killing Christmas?

A Colmar Brunton survey has found nearly two thirds of Kiwis (59 percent) think Christmas is too commercial. Meanwhile, 41 percent think the Christmas spirit is alive and well in New Zealand. We explore whether companies aren’t engaging customers at this time of year because they’re too focused on sales.

Traditionally, values associated with the ‘Christmas spirit’ include kindness, selflessness and generosity.

But according to Colmar Brunton CEO Jacqueline Farman, Kiwi consumers are feeling bombarded with straight sales-driven messages that don’t capture these values.

“The public are telling us is that they have a very clear view of what Christmas is about and that’s what advertisers need to connect with to engage consumers,” Farman says.

“Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to stand out from the crowd at a special and emotional time of the year and do something different.

To move away from purely sales based advertising, and connect with the heartstrings. I would love to see advertisers here take up that challenge.”

In terms of what matters most about Christmas, 94 percent said it’s about family and friends, with 85 percent saying giving is more important than receiving.

Farman says UK department store John Lewis sets a high global standard for advertising.

“John Lewis has a history of highlighting really important issues and challenging aspects of Christmas in a beautiful way. Their Christmas advertisement is an annual event eagerly anticipated by the public every year,” she says.

Its most recent ad, #ManOnTheMoon, has had more than 20 million views on YouTube.

It tells the story of an old man living alone on the moon and a little girl who notices him through a telescope.

She sends a telescope to the moon to show she is thinking of him, rescuing him from his loneliness and connecting him to another human being once more.

The tagline for the ad is “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas.”

The ad was part of a partnership with Age UK to show the plight of a million older people who will go a month without speaking to anyone.

Hotfoot CEO Juanita Neville Te-Rito echoed Farman’s thoughts in a recent column on The Register, asking, “Where’s the wow this Christmas?”

She wondered why New Zealand retailers aren’t taking the opportunity to capture consumers’ imaginations about Christmas like brands overseas do.

However, it’s worth noting that the John Lewis ad cost £1 million (NZ$2.26 million) to make, with the moon scenes being shot at Warner Bros studios and the set specially built by the team behind the soon-to-be-released Star Wars movie.

This isn’t exactly achievable for most New Zealand companies, which have neither the budget nor the resources to pull something of that scale together.

But all hope is not lost. Kiwi retailers have been commended on their ads this year, many of which many avoid pushing the sales aspect altogether and instead focus on the emotional side of things.

The Warehouse’s campaign by DDB called ‘What if we let the kids do the family Christmas shopping?’ is a refreshing take on Christmas shopping.

Kids are left up to their own devices to run around The Warehouse and pick gifts for their family, resulting in adorable in-store pandemonium.

“Christmas is about bringing people together, reuniting families, celebrating and rewarding each other,” The Warehouse Group’s spokesperson said of the ad.

“You’ll still get a bargain, and now you’ll remember the joy of these kids while shopping for one.”

Countdown’s latest Christmas spot also uses children as talent, but this time with food. The ad captures the look of joy on children’s faces when making and eating traditional Christmas fodder.

Meanwhile, New World’s latest campaign employs an employee called Noel to lurk about its stores and get up to some suspiciously Santa-like behaviour.

It seems as though some retailers are on the right track, although the same can’t be said for the likes of Whitcoulls and its latest ad.

It can’t be tracked down online, but it features shop assistants in Santa hats singing about the store’s product offerings. As Neville-Te Rito said in her column, “Bah humbug.”

This story originally appeared on The Register

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