I know it is Christmas and I should be focusing on the enormous budgets of the big supermarket and perfume campaigns but through a combination of events I’ve skipped the lead up to Santa’s big day. In summary, Sainsbury’s got beaten up for exploiting the Great War, John Lewis went merchandising crazy, Tesco took use back to a brighter past with Flashdance, Aldi got out the crown Jools and the list goes on. I would say it is a mixed Santa sack this year, some big budget, some more sensible, some very safe, some just safe.
Sitting amongst all things festive there was this little bundle of joy in the form of the new Freeview ad from Leo Burnett. Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” is the kind of track that sets a real challenge to ad creatives. It is a huge song, massively uncool and yet everyone knows the words, immediately sings along and deep down loves it. How do you make an ad that isn’t in the shadow of the music? How do you avoid using the track as a backing to some schmaltzy montage of sad then happy beautiful people?
They have overcome all the challenges and created a piece of creative that should become the official music video, the competition for this role is not fierce, just see below. In field dominated by big budget Christmas ads it is hard to grab people’s attention but the Singing Toys have managed it, who doesn’t love the bit with the Wrestler toy. Well done Freeview and Leo Burnett, you have made Christmas better without even mentioning it.
While deep down I’m hoping that Christmas isn’t just around the corner, that would mean 2014 is all but done, it is hard to ignore the fact that Santa is on his way when the big budget Christmas ads start appearing. Like last year let’s start with Debenhams.
The ad depicts a bunch of kids in a closed department store looking for stuff they want to receive for Christmas. I’m sure if this was taking place in Tottenham it would be called looting but don’t worry they are all in the their pyjamas and dressing gowns and this is crime Debenhams style. But wait, the soundtrack to this jolly caper is the socialist anthem “We All Stand Together” by Sir Paul McCartney and Rupert Bear, so I think we should take this japery a little more seriously. Clearly these kids in their nice fluffy slippers are working as a team, coordinating the whole thing through Snapchat and BBM, and while the cameras are on they are only going for the cuddly toys but I bet they later moved on to TVs and trainers.
What is Debenhams saying with this music choice? Is this a rallying cry for the disenfranchised youth of today? Unlikely. “We All Stand Together” is certainly festive, after all it charted two Christmases in a row back in the 80’s, plus it has a choir. The problem is that nothing about this ad is surprising it feels like a Christmas shopping list written in May and completed in September. Maybe they could have tied the visual more to the music or possibly done something new with the song but as it is I’m not convinced I’ll be heading to Debenhams to do my Christmas shopping, after all I could be pick-pocketed by the Artful Dodger and his mates.
If you can’t face being a witness to the mindless looting of a Debenhams, simply watch the original video featuring the wonderful dapper Rupert Bear in a swamp.
Back in ’94 when Brian Cox was telling us “Things Can Only Get Better“, Harley Davidson was exploring new ground in audio branding. The Hog creator was embarking on a fruitless legal adventure. You see Harley Davidson wanted to cement its place in sonic branding by trademarking what it considered to be the unique “chug” of its V-twin engine. Problem was there were quite a few other manufacturers of V-twin motorbikes who reckoned the Harley “chug” just wasn’t unique. In the end Harley gave up paying the trademark lawyers after 6 years and went back to focusing on making bikes.
Fast forward to Christmas 2013, Brian Cox is now a brainy scientist bloke on the telly and Harley have finally worked out how it can own the “chug” in the minds of the public – creativity. Let’s not get carried away here. There is nothing new about using engines to create soundtracks, Mercedes recently did it in their much lauded Tinie Tempah TV ad. What I like about this is that it works so well for the brand, it is simple, loud and proud. A big bloke on a big bike making a big noise, job done. Merry Christmas Harley.
P.S. I’m not convinced he’s actually playing the tune but hey its Christmas and I’m not going to tell the kids Santa isn’t real.
The day after Lilly Allen returned to the number one spot in the UK singles chart I re-read a recent article in Music Week, “The secret to music and brand success at Christmas” which explored the importance of music in brand campaigns at Christmas. The reason I thought I’d have another read was because there was a quote from Eric Sheinkop, CEO of Music Dealers and co-author of Hit Brands, suggesting that John Lewis has in some way become “a trusted filter for great music and consumers look to them to discover the latest upcoming releases”. As a John Lewis customer my immediate reaction was “Are you mad?”, I would never want to think my music consumption was influenced by this wonderfully reliable brand that my mother loves so much. So when I saw that Lilly Allen had returned to number 1 with her Keane cover I started to question whether the new home of music really is the Electronics department in the Oxford Street John Lewis.
Let’s look at the facts. John Lewis’ annual Christmas campaign has become a national music event that is on a par with the announcement of the X Factor winner in terms of selling records and social impact. This from a brand that not long ago would never have considered doing television advertising. So far, each year the campaign has been a perfect blend of creativity with engaging visual narrative and music that is both nostalgic and current. It is not a controversial statement to say that the ads have been on brand for both John Lewis and Christmas. I bitch and moan about the John Lewis ads for their downright niceness but I’m guessing that the brief each year has a massive lump of implied “BE NICE”. But we’re not here to talk about being nice, we’re hear to talk music and John Lewis gets it bloody right, for the masses, every year. I would have burnt my Hunter wellies, if I had any, in protest at the Smiths’ cover they did a couple of years ago but even I had to acknowledge it worked and it worked really well.
So does this make John Lewis my “trusted filter for great music”? Should I be searching for the John Lewis playlist on Spotify or looking forward to the new Lilly Allen Tour sponsored by John Lewis? NOPE. You see John Lewis’ Christmas campaign is a fantastic example of how powerful music is as both a brand and marketing communicator. Once a year we all wonder what track they are going to cover in a slow and wistful way, each year we either hate it or love it but we all get it.
What the “never knowingly undersold” brand gets really right is that it never knowingly oversells its relationship with music. John Lewis doesn’t come to us making out that it is down with the cool kids. It doesn’t put on a festival in Hyde Park with vol-au-vents and comfy sofas for all. It knows its place and because of this its relationship with music is even more powerful. It produces a mega music based campaign every Christmas, revels in the glow of its achievement and then goes back to selling tellies, cutlery and comfy kids shoes. So yes it is a “trusted filter” but only when it needs to be and only when it is relevant to its brand and its consumer.
Hopefully this is the last time I will talk about the John Lewis Christmas campaign for 2013 but I bet it isn’t. In the meantime feel free to go and buy the book Hit Brands written by Daniel Jackson (CORD), Eric Sheinkop (Music Dealers) and Richard Jankovich (loads of companies) and tell me what it is like as I’ve still not got my copy.
Well Nike are not the first and they will certainly not be the last brand to use the song Winter Wonderland in their advertising. I’m left slightly speechless by this one, it sounds like Rebecca Black wrote the lyrics, here’s her new track in case you’ve missed it, some people never learn. On the upside I live in the UK so I won’t have to endure this ad on my telly box.
HOLD UP. BREAKING NEWS. Verizon have done a worse ad using Winter Wonderland. Nike you’ve been saved from finishing last this Christmas.
Bah Humbug, Tesco have just gone destroyed the career of an unheard of artist by not giving them the chance to cover a track for their Christmas ad, I thought this was the season of giving. Anyhow in an ad that has more dodgy facial hair and jumpers than any of the competition the supermarket number 1 has chosen Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young“.
Have a good weekend.
While the whole world goes crazy about John Lewis’ campaign the other UK retailers are quietly putting out their ads. A brand with a pretty good record in the sonic branding world is Boots. In 2007 they invested heavily in a cover of the Ernie K-Doe’s track “Here Come the Girls”, turning a little known track into a Top 40 hit and a valuable piece of their branding. The combination of a perfectly matched chorus and consistent use meant it was pretty hard to hear the track without immediately linking it back to Boots.
Anyway they ditched the track last Christmas, making the switch away from a single track brand approach to campaign focused selections. Since then campaigns have featured tracks from Elton John (Now That’s What I Call Music 56), Fine Young Cannibals (Now That’s What I Call Music 15), Chris Rea (Now That’s What I Call Music 7, South Africa) and Deacon Blue (Now That’s What I Call Music 1988), all of which would resonate well with their audience.
So it comes as no surprise that for Christmas 2013 they have gone for another track that will make people dream of the good old days, Bronski Beat’s classic “Smalltown Boy” (Now That’s What I Call Music 3). In an ad that avoids the subtle story telling of John Lewis, Boots are hoping that a strong soundtrack will grab the viewers attention in a way that the visuals simply don’t.
I don’t think Boots made a mistake by moving on from “Here Come The Girls” it had possibly had its time but for me “Smalltown Boy” just doesn’t feel right for this Boots Christmas Campaign, I have no idea what it says about the brand and it says nothing about Christmas. To me it feels like someone has written a script about a boy who is a bit of a tearaway and lives in a small town, titled it “Small Town Boy” and then had a eureka moment on Spotify. On the upside at least they’ve not done a slow cover of it featuring a female vocal and an orchestra.