The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014

Enjoy Digital
By Enjoy Digital
5 minutes to read

"Never work with animals and children" is a well-known saying, but John Lewis seems to be continuing to disregard best practice with their highly popular Christmas TV ad.

With more than 18 million YouTube views, Monty the Penguin has already stolen the nation’s hearts and tears, beating their previous year’s Christmas advert The Bear and The Hare (at over 14 million views), and it’s only just December!

Many brands have soon followed with their Christmas adverts including Marks & Spencer’s Magic and Sparkle fairies (over 3 million views), delivering a bit of magic to Christmas time, and Sainsbury’s epic homage to the legendary WWI Christmas Day armistice (over 13 million views) and No-Man’s Land football match in 1914, showing there really was peace on earth for one day and the message that Christmas is a time for sharing.

Sharing is certainly what we have all been doing; from word of mouth to social mentions and YouTube video views, everyone is talking about one Christmas TV ad or another.

Of course, in this digital age no TV advert can be unsupported and brands have been making the most of their content with effective cross-channel Christmas campaigns which have been delivering some fantastic results online. Here’s our review of the top 3 Christmas Campaigns for 2014.

#1 John Lewis – A Time for Giving

The Full Monty

Croud reported that “The launch of #montythepenguin was like “the build up to the release of a major blockbuster. This ad has teaser trailers, the making of, posters and even Monty merchandise”.

Not only that, the advert was hyped and released through social media days before Monty the Penguin and his human friend Sam hit our TV screens (which was eagerly awaited for a glimpse of the duo, or was that just me?). The popularity of John Lewis knows no bounds, ensuring everyone was talking about the advert prior to its TV debut, and the brand has implemented a great content-driven social and experiential strategy, to support its large on-screen investment.


Twitter is an excellent source for creating conversations between customers and brands, and since the release of the advert, @MontythePenguin (over 34,000 followers) and @MabelthePenguin (over 10,000 followers) profiles have sprung up, with tweets and tales from these two little penguins who have been given a social voice, including details of their date nights, but with no fishy business…apart from the Sushi:

The hashtag #MontyThePenguin has also been used to provide a connective method for people to discuss the advert and these two profiles, and to connect with @JohnLewisRetail, allowing them to efficiently monitor comments and reactions. As of the time of writing #MontyThePengiun has been seen on over 8m Twitter timelines showing a significant amount of digital exposure.


Despite having no clear content strategy in place, the advert has been speaking for itself, and online writers and influencers have been voicing their opinions and reactions to the little penguin, with comments ranging from; “Such a sweet advert, John Lewis have done it again this festive season” to “Like an old friend, John Lewis is welcomed back into our homes every year, leaving us warm and fuzzy”. While others just enjoyed the sentimentality: “So, John Lewis, I know you only do this to make us flock to your shops and buy your products… but your ad made me think about family, childhood, love, pride and cherishing every moment.”

A Time for Sharing, Giving and Following - The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014

John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin has certainly received a cult following, both online and offline.


John Lewis has cleverly created an entire world of Monty and penguin related goods, toys and activities for all ages; from an illustrated story book of the advert to an immersive look into ‘Monty’s Den’ with Monty’s Goggles via a partnership with Samsung, and, of course, there’s also the highly sought after cuddly toys featured in the TV advert, (though John Lewis is tantalisingly dangling the fish finger of sold-out Monty the Penguin merchandise) and the chance to adopt a real penguin in the artic. Tom Odell’s ‘Real Love’ cover from the advert (predicted to be another John Lewis Christmas song number one) will also be donating 89p from every single sold to WWF, helping real penguins.

It’s safe to say nearly all children’s Christmas lists this year will feature a penguin in some form or other. Christmas just doesn’t get much more penguin than this.

A Time for Sharing, Giving and Following - The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014

Verdict: Monty Rules the Roost

#2 Marks & Spencer – A Time for Following

Believe in Fairies

Marks & Spencer have followed on from their ‘fairytale’ theme from their last Christmas advert, which featured a magic Westie dog and sparkling model roaming the M&S range through converging fairy stories.  This year two fairies, Magic and Sparkle, are spreading festive cheer and kindness with lots of gifts and presents, and not just through their TV advert.

A Time for Sharing, Giving and Following - The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014


By encouraging viewers to ‘follow the fairies’, M&S have directly forwarded fans of the advert to twitter, where you can indeed follow @thetwofairies (with over 28,000 followers). This cheery account tweets in pure rhymes, and is not just to promote the advert, but is the epicentre for users to interact with the fairies, requesting some Christmas cheer and wishes to the account with the hashtag #followthefairies, which has been seen by more than 6.4m timelines! Lucky tweeters then receive a gift treat from the two fairies, which is a fantastic way of further spreading the message of the advert and the concept of Christmas kindness:

Thousands of requests and well-wishes have been flooding in to @thetwofairies, showing how popular and successful this M&S campaign continues to be.


The two fairies haven’t stopped with social, and have launched a blogger promotional campaign delivering food and beauty goody packages to writers on their ‘Nice’ list, who receive a visit from Magic and Sparkle, in an effort to further boost discussion of M&S and their campaign online.

M&S are also continuing to spread their festive kindness and fun by encouraging kids to create their very own fairy decorations, which will include an ‘act of kindness’ the child would like to happen on their decoration, and these decorations are to be submitted to their local M&S store for the fairies to do something truly magical with it (all will be revealed from 1st December).

Not only will this further feed their fairy campaign with a fun, mystery activity for kids to be involved in, but it will also drive footfall into the stores, encouraging visitors to spend a little (or a lot) in the shop.<


The two fairies emerged some time before the advert was revealed and connected them with M&S. Some saw the evidence and put two-and-two fairies together, but for many it was purely magical.

The two fairies have performed sparkling stunts, such as making it snow for a school in Southern Cornwall to creatingflying fairy lights using drones over the night sky of Newcastle, and providing the first Christmas cheer mystery gifts in various regions across the UK, using social listening and geotagging to deliver to their recipients and creating the basis of the previously mentioned social and content campaign.

Verdict: Magic M&S fairies give a sparkling delivery

#3 Sainsbury’s – A Time for Sharing

Raise the bar

The third to join the campaign war is Sainsbury’s. Their advert follows the legendary WWI Christmas Day Armistice and the compelling 1 day friendship between soldiers of the British and German forces as they share peace for one day on No Man’s Land and a surprise gift as they both return to the trenches.

With many stating it rivals and excels the John Lewis position of champion of the Christmas adverts, you’d think that Sainsbury’s would have supported their advert with a winning social and content strategy. Unfortunately, not so.


@Sainsbury’s social is severely lacking with regards to their advert. For such a stunning piece of filming and moving message it surely deserves more than a mere video mention, a few tweets and use as a cover photo:

Without the use of a new designated social account page like John Lewis and M&S, it seems much harder to effectively promote the advert and follow it with a subsequent campaign. Sainsbury’s could have successfully created a campaign of followers ‘sharing’ their favourite festive moments and fun tweets in the build up to Christmas, using their hashtag #ChristmasIsForSharing (seen on 5m timelines), such as one follower’s tweets:

A Time for Sharing, Giving and Following - The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014


Sainsbury’s seems to have missed a trick with social. Unfortunately it’s the same for content marketing. There doesn’t seem to be a follow-up campaign, apart from an article on their Christmas Is For Sharing Sainsbury’s page, which lists fun activities for families to share together. For arguably one of the best recent Christmas adverts, so much more could have been done to further promote their advert and message.


However, Sainsbury’s, like John Lewis, have found a way of driving footfall back to their stores with the opportunity for fans of the advert to purchase their own vintage-style chocolate bar, as featured in the advert, with all profits going to the Royal British Legion, who they’ve been supporting for over 20 years.

While some have criticised Sainsbury’s for their use of the horrors of the First World War to sell groceries, the chocolate bar is integral to their advert and message, and the funds can only help war veterans and soldiers today, providing a positive way of commemorating the soldiers who fought and died during the War.  Charles Byrne, director of fundraising for the Royal British Legion, said: “One hundred years on from the 1914 Christmas truce, the campaign remembers the fallen, while helping to raise vital funds to support the future of living.’

Verdict: Sainsbury’s Have Missed The Social Mark


Christmas is the time of year when the power of TV advertising is truly felt, as most retail businesses try to boost their key trading quarter with clever campaigns designed to win their customers hearts and minds.  Creative campaigns, with integrated on-screen, online and in-store activity, deliver incredible social effects with increased reach, meaning a significantly enhanced ROI.

The real and digital world are becoming more and more integrated, as proven by the millions of Twitter and Facebook users getting involved in retailer’s Christmas campaigns. However, a campaign which goes unsupported by content marketing and social is sure to feel the Christmas pinch as the big day gets closer and customer’s attention is divided and distracted by a much wider digital offering.

As shown during the First World War, troops have a much greater chance of success with the support of their allies, which is a lesson Sainsbury’s should consider with regards to boosting their Christmas campaign.

A Time for Sharing, Giving and Following - The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014

Despite these three main advert’s similar messages of giving and sharing festive cheer, goodwill and happiness, M&S has shown that they are the undisputed queen of the fairies with their inspired use of social and content marketing to continue their message of spreading good cheer during the festive season, creating and maintaining a highly successful campaign.

However, one thing is certain, John Lewis is a monolith of popularity, and it will take a lot to one day knock them from their Christmas advert monopoly perch, and the campaign which does so would be truly extraordinary, but until that day comes:

The Best Christmas Campaigns of 2014

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