As we dive headlong into the silly season, we’ve wrestled the Wacom tablet away from designer Richard Shilling to get his take on two Christmas ads doing the rounds on Australian TV.
First up is the battle of retail behemoths Myer and Stockland.
Each has a markedly different approach to the form and content of their ads, and the results are equally divergent.
More on that shortly. First cab off the rank - what makes a good Christmas ad in the Australian market?
Ho, ho, ho … g’day
After watching hundreds of Christmas ads while honing his craft over the years, Rich has learned the Aussie market expects its festive TVCs to reflect how we celebrate the season.
“Australian Christmas is unique in a lot of ways, and one of those is the fact we celebrate it in summer. There’s no white Christmas down under, so ads need to acknowledge that,” he said.
“Ads also need to reflect the culture we’ve built around Christmas. When it embraces that fully, it tends to resonate a lot more.
“Another thing about Aussies is that they’re pretty switched on when it comes to knowing when they’re being pandered to. So if an ad can slide in a product or service in a way that isn’t super overt, that’s a bonus.”
Myer - Christmas is Where We Are
What they say
“In playfully seeking to answer a big question facing many households this year: ‘How will Santa find me?’ we have developed a campaign that we feel will truly connect with Australians this Christmas, capturing the emotion, wonder and joy that surrounds it.” - Myer Chief Customer Officer Geoff Ikin
What Rich says
“It clearly has high production value and adopts a serious tone in its messaging. They’ve also tried to tell a story without being in-your-face with their branding.”
Stockland - The Story of Dunder
What they say
“We wanted to celebrate the unique Australian Christmas spirit that makes us all so proud to live in this country. That’s the spirit that Dunder embodies.” - Stockland General Manager Customer and Group Marketing Ben Allen
What Rich says
“While the creative approach is different to the Myer ad, The Story of Dunder is equally well-crafted. It adopts a playful, light-hearted frame for its messaging and uses animation as the medium.”
And the winner is ...
According to Rich - and each ad’s YouTube metrics - Stockland takes this one by the length of the straight. Despite launching their TVC five days later, Stockland is smashing Myer online.
As of late November 2019, Stockand’s The Story of Dunder had amassed more than 750,000 YouTube views and 116 upvotes versus 2 downvotes.
For Christmas is Where We Are, the numbers are much flatter. Myer’s ad has just clawed its way past 50,000 views and it’s been much more polarising - garnering 215 upvotes to 63 downvotes.
And that’s even with Myer’s huge YouTube subscriber advantage over Stockland (5,700 versus 937).
Caveat - there’s always a mountain of variables at play when it comes to social media numbers (not least of which can be the amount of paid promotion pumped into a given campaign), but on the face of things, Myer’s 2019 Christmas ad is lagging well behind Stockland’s.
The answers, according to Rich, are in the format, the tone and the underlying message.
“I think animation helps viewers embrace a sense of wonder a lot more than live action. It also helps people remove themselves from the realities of the season,” he said.
“There are so many Christmas ads out there that don’t really capture the ‘Australian way’ to the season, and they come off as contrived. But with animation, brands can embrace the weird and wonderful, and even exaggerate the Australian Christmas experience.
“Take a look at this year’s animated Christmas ad by Stockland and the live action one from Myer. Both use Santa as a theme, and there’s a high quality bar for each.
“But look at the YouTube view count. The Stockland ad is smashing it, and at the same time the like ratio is far more positive. That’s despite the fact that it overtly communicates the message that people ‘went to Stockland and fixed all their problems’.
“There’s just something about the animated piece that’s easier to watch. The light-hearted tone, the playful Aussie injection just resonates.
“The Myer ad has none of that. It might be Australian, but it’s dead serious by comparison and the comments on its YouTube page reflect that. They’re cynical, and even worse, political at times.
“The Myer Christmas ad failed to get the audience to suspend disbelief, so it feels contrived.”
Ouch. Play on Stockland!