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Making Retail Spirits Bright: A New Trend in Holiday Advertising & Gift Giving

December 16, 2020

The Holidays are finally here, and while the Most Wonderful Time of the Year will look a little different for most of us (dinner in our PJ’s and awkward Zoom calls with relatives), some traditions will stay the same. For many who find themselves binge-watching on the couch during this time of year, cheery, funny, or heartwarming holiday ads are a classic reminder of the season upon us.

We used Phoenix Brand Effect (our in-market ad performance measurement solution) to look at the Holiday ads airing this season, and in classic 2020 fashion, we observed some new trends.

Spreading (Crafted) Holiday Cheer

At first glance, a key theme we have observed in this year’s holiday advertising is thoughtful, homemade gifts that create a personal connection. At the center of that spirit are Etsy and Hobby Lobby, both of which tend to have a smaller media presence relative to bigger, more traditional Holiday advertisers like Amazon and Kohl’s. Despite their smaller footprint, both Etsy and Hobby Lobby are doing very well this year behind the strength of heartfelt ads that showcase crafted, personalized, and budget-friendly gift options. The fact that their ads are capturing the attention of so many viewers may be a reflection of a changing base of shoppers who not only are struggling financially due to the pandemic but who also are searching for creative ways to emotionally connect with their loved ones.

Not only are these retailers keeping with this new trend of gift-giving this year, but their advertising is actually outperforming some of the bigger traditional holiday advertisers with deeper pockets. Etsy’s new “Gift Like You Mean It” campaign features three new heartwarming ads, one of which that showcases gifting a personalized ornament to a loved one’s partner. This well-executed concept has some of the best Brand Memorability (percent of real-world viewers who can recall the ad and brand the day after exposure) we’ve seen so far this season at 36%-38%, well over the 20% norm for the retail Holiday ads category.

Similarly, Hobby Lobby’s new “Christmas Is What You Make It” campaign, which features an elderly couple making crafts to match-make their neighbors is also over-performing on Brand Memorability, with an average score of 34%. Even the :10 cut-down in the campaign is standing out, reaching the high score of 40% Brand Memorability, demonstrating that a strong creative concept and execution will break through even as a 10-second ad.

These ads are blowing traditional bigger spending retailers out of the water, whose advertising typically focuses on doorbuster sales and a frantic rush to buy gifts for the holidays. Despite the seemingly endless string of bad omens and tragic events that is 2020, we’re glad to see one of the few glimmers of hope as the little guys break through the advertising clutter in a big way to spread some holiday cheer.

Honorable Mentions

While not falling in the same category as Etsy and Hobby Lobby, it would be remiss not to mention these brands also performing well with their holiday ads. Old Navy came in at the top of our advertising Nice List with their #Rupaulidays campaign, which features toe-tapping beats, colorful collages, and of course, TV personality/drag queen RuPaul. These catchy spots emerged as the top-performing holiday ads this year, with top scores in Brand Memorability, Brand Linkage, and Brand Recall. Another brand whose ads are worth mentioning this year is Duluth Trading Company. Their “Salvage the Season” campaign recognizes that 2020 has been extra uncomfy, and their humorous, animated ads take a much-needed light-hearted approach to the season and earned them above-average scores for Brand Memorability and Brand Linkage.

As the global pandemic rages on, Holiday purchasing will be different this year for half of all consumers and potentially for seven-in-ten overall. We can help you effectively track & measure your Holiday advertising so you can ensure your consumers stay engaged with your brand long after the New Year’s ball has dropped. Let’s connect!

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