What Are the Best Christmas Ads EVER Made? (And Why You Should Care)

Christmas ads

Q: What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? 🦆
A: A Christmas quacker! 🤣

The only thing better than a good old Christmas cracker joke is a good old Christmas ad.

Festive, heartwarming, and thought-provoking, TV Christmas ads signify the start of Christmas.

And they’re a marketers dream. According to research, for every $1.30 that’s spent making a Christmas ad, retailers can expect to get $31 back.

How do Christmas ads generate so much revenue? When did Christmas ads become such a huge deal? What are the best Christmas ads EVER made? And what makes a Christmas ad the best EVER?

Time to find out as we get ‘Santa-mental’ and ‘sleigh’ our way through the following topics in this Process Street post:

Ready? Hold on for ‘deer’ life and let’s ‘snow’…

(The ‘presents’ of these terrible Christmas puns do ‘snow’ down – I promise.) 🎁

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ads”: When did it all start (and who started it)?

The first-ever TV Christmas ad aired in the UK in 1984 and starred…Santa gravy.

Merry Christmas from The Oxo Family” showed a typically British family enjoying a traditionally British Christmas dinner, complete with a hot, steaming jug of delicious Oxo gravy.

And, it’s unbelievably brilliant. Have watch:

No fancy celebrities, no expensive stunts, and no deep, confusing, or emotional concepts to grapple with. It’s plain, simple, and most importantly – it makes you want to buy gravy.

[Back then] the adverts were fairly basic, focusing on comedy and lightheartedness rather than creating a big-budget extravaganza like the latest John Lewis advert.” – TOPMBA, The Evolution of Christmas Marketing

So, how did Christmas ads go from homely, gravy-making commercials to highly anticipated feature films that have all the ‘jingle’ bells and whistles?

How & why have Christmas ads evolved into what they are today?

From Elton John playing the piano to a man faking his own death (more on that one later), there’s no doubt that Christmas ads are becoming wilder and more “entertaining” each year.

But they’re also becoming less Christmassy somehow.

Of course, they’re always Christmas-themed with plenty of family, falling snow, and jolly Santa’s – but they’ve lost the good old-fashioned, innocent Christmas charm.

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Why?

Because advertising is no longer only about selling a product. It’s no longer good enough to simply show a hot pot of gravy and wish everyone a “Merry Christmas!

Christmas advertising has, in recent years moved away from a product focus and toward big concepts like love.” – WARC, New Research Uncovers What Makes a Christmas Ad Work

These days, advertising is about selling the brand. It’s about making the biggest splash. Creating the most hype and excitement. Inspiring the loudest reaction, and encouraging the world to talk about, like, and share your brand. It’s about generating global awareness and interest.

The ads that work best are the ones that people want to talk about.” – WARC, New Research Uncovers What Makes a Christmas Ad Work

Plus, with consumers spending around $730.7 billion in the months leading up to Christmas – the competition to attract attention is fierce.

The only way to beat the competition and produce a Christmas ad that goes viral is to go big. To fork out for the best production, flashy celebs, crazy concepts, and a big wow factor.

But, is it worth it?

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…”: How do Christmas ads affect the bottom line?

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As we established earlier, for every $1.30 spent on a Christmas ad, retailers can expect to make $31 back.

There’s no doubt that an effective Christmas ad can make organizations a lot of money.

But, to make effective Christmas ads, retailers need to spend a lot of money. UK advertisers spend the equivalent of $9 billion on TV Christmas ads each year.

John Lewis spent about £8m on its ad featuring Elton John playing his hit Your Song.” – BBC News, Christmas Adverts – Do They Really Work?

The question is: Do the numbers add up?

The tale of John Lewis & ‘Buster the Boxer’

From the 1st November, this is all people in the UK talk about:

“What will John Lewis produce this year?” “Have you seen the John Lewis advert yet?” “When’s the new John Lewis ad coming out?!”

But it’s not only people in the UK. I mean, you’ve heard of John Lewis, right? I don’t mean the civil rights leader and politician – I mean the British department store, selling British products, located predominantly in Britain?

My point is, people from all over the ‘snow’-globe have heard about the John Lewis department store, thanks to its iconic Christmas ads.

As an example, a US university lecturer called ‘John Lewis’ often gets mistaken for the retailer on Twitter. So, he decided to make his own ‘John Lewis’ Christmas advert: #NotARetailStore (and it’s taken the internet by storm!)

But to get this global recognition, John Lewis consistently spends around £6-7million ($8-9 million) each year on their Christmas ad campaign.

For instance, remember ‘Buster the Boxer’? If you don’t, please watch this – it’s adorably funny.

It cost John Lewis £7 million to produce ‘Buster the Boxer.’

Was it worth it?

Two hours after it launched, ‘Buster the Boxer’ had received over 30,000 mentions on Twitter and two days later – it had had over 52 million views. It became the most-shared ad of 2016 and it boosted sales by 4.9% in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

So, yes – I think it was worth it!

In fact, since 2012 John Lewis sales have increased by more than 35% thanks to the success of its Christmas ads.

Our ads always deliver an excellent return on investment at a time of year that is critical for us, generally delivering 20 times the return on our original spend.” – John Lewis spokesperson

It clearly does pay to pay.

But why?

Last Christmas ad I gave you my heart”: Why are they so effective?

Why are Christmas ads – often featuring everything but the products the brand is selling – so good at making us part with our hard-earned cash?

Because of the way they make you feel.

Christmas ads are purposefully designed to build intimacy, develop relationships, and evoke emotion. And emotion makes us spend.

Emotional triggers drive us to react. Reacting can mean…feeling an emotion, and acting because of that feeling.” – Forbes, Understanding Five Emotions That Encourage Us To Spend

Christmas ads
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When you see an advert for pop-tarts or Lucky Charms, or something you loved eating as a kid, it brings back wonderful memories, doesn’t it? It triggers a happiness in you that makes you feel compelled to purchase it.

When a buyer decides to purchase a product …[they are] said to have been influenced by emotional product buying motives.” – Aditi, Buying Motives

So, with emotion being a key relationship builder and a big driver of sales, advertisers try to trigger at least one of the following four emotions when creating their Christmas ads:

  • Happiness 😊
  • Sadness 😭
  • Surprise 😮
  • Belonging 🤗

Think about it. Christmas ads are either laugh-out-loud funny, tear-jerkingly sad, shockingly surprising, or heartwarmingly Christmassy.

The crux of it all is the emotional connection that people have with the content. It’s about creating a brand message and creative content that forms a genuine connection with your audience.” – CityA.M, What This Year’s Christmas Adverts Can Teach Us About Making a Great Ad Campaign

Now we know why Christmas ads are so effective, it’s time to reveal what the best EVER Christmas ads are and why they’re the best.

All I want for Christmas ads is you”: What are the best EVER Christmas ads & why?

Nothing makes you feel more Christmassy than a good old poll!

So, to inject some Christmas spirit into the workflow software team at Process Street, I ran a series of polls to find out what the funniest, saddest, most surprising, and most Christmassy Christmas ads were.

And this is what happened… 🎅

The nominations for the saddest Christmas ad were:

Apple iPhone with their “Misunderstood” Christmas ad

A sad rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. An insolent teenage boy engrossed in his phone. A family trying desperately to involve him in the Christmas festivities, and the moment we see that the boy wasn’t behaving like a sulky teenager, he was using his phone to make a video montage for his family, makes this advert a real heart-wrencher.

EDEKA (German grocery store) with their Christmas ad

An old man sits alone in his house. His adult children tell him they’re too busy to visit him at Christmas. Suddenly the children receive bad news. They’re crying at a funeral. They’re wishing they’d made the effort to see their Dad before he died. They turn up at his house and the dining table is set for Christmas dinner?! And, behind the table is….their Dad. Alive and well!

John Lewis with their “The Man on the Moon” Christmas ad

The mournful version of “Half the World Away” is the perfect soundtrack to accompany a little girl as she sees a man on the moon looking sad and lonely. She smiles, waves, and tries to make contact with him. All her attempts fail until she sends him a telescope via balloon. Finally, the lonely old man on the moon gets to see Earth on Christmas night, and he smiles.

Sainsbury’s (British grocery store) with their “1914” Christmas ad

It’s 1914 and snow is falling as British soldiers huddle together in the cold, dark trenches. Tommy opens a parcel. Out falls a bar of chocolate. The British troops start singing “Silent Night”. The German troops follow suit. Tommy puts his head above the trench. Will they shoot? Instead of continuing the war, the British and German soldiers call a truce and play football together in No Man’s Land. Tommy offers Otto his chocolate. In return, Otto hands him a biscuit.

And the award for the saddest Christmas ad goes to…
With a whopping 75% of the vote…
🥂🍾🎉EDEKA!🥂🍾🎉

Why did EDEKA win the saddest Christmas ad?
Sad-vertisements’ like the EDEKA Weihnachtsclip are effective because they release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes connection and empathy. This release of oxytocin makes us feel generous and trusting. We end up relating to and believing in the brand so much that we feel comfortable in parting with our cash. To say the EDEKA Christmas ad was successful would be an understatement. It got 33.5 million views and was shared over two million times.

The nominations for the funniest Christmas ad were:

M&M’s with their “Faint Christmas Eve” ad:

With Santa out cold, it’s down to the yellow M&M to deliver all the presents and save Christmas. Up against the clock, the yellow M&M starts chucking presents out of the fast-moving sleigh. But, on Christmas morning it becomes clear that he’s given the wrong presents to the wrong people: A little boy opens his present to find a toaster. An old man opens his to find a pair of high-heels, and a little girl opens hers and wonders who the hell Tommy is…

Unicef with their “Three Wise Men” Christmas ad:

The three wise men are buying gifts to take to Bethlehem for baby Jesus. The first chooses incense, the second chooses gold, and the third picks Myrrh. As they’re trekking across the desert towards Bethlehem, the third wise man is asked what Myrrh is. He doesn’t know. The advert closes with the strapline: “End a 2000-year-old tradition. Give something that will actually come in use.

Walkers crisps (feat. Mariah Carey) with their “Too Good To Share” Christmas ad:

Mariah Carey is on a TV set singing “All I Want For Christmas” and handing out generous gifts to the production team. She loves Christmas. It’s a time for caring and sharing…until she reaches for the last bag of Walkers Crisps the same time as a man dressed as an elf does. With both refusing to let the packet of chips go, a tug-of-war ensues. As they tussle back and forth, Mariah sings a note so high that the elf drops his end of the chip packet and Mariah gets the packet of chips all to herself.

eBay with their “The Holiday Chill” Christmas ad:

It’s summer. A little girl is eating ice cream in the hot sun when “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” begins. Stores start to decorate their windows with Christmas decorations and swap their “Summer Sale” signs for ‘’Really Really Early Christmas Sale” and “Earliest Ever Black Friday Sale” signs. The advert ends with “Outsmart holiday creep. Get deals every day. Not just the holidays.”

Mercedes Benz with their “The Negotiation” Christmas commercial:

Santa is putting presents under the tree when a boy takes a photo of him. Desperate to stop the boy from sharing the photo with the world, Santa offers the boy “anything he wants”. The boy wants Santa’s sled. Which is a Mercedes Benz. Poor Santa has no choice but to give him what he wants and we see the boy in the driving seat of the Mercedes, with his family watching on in disbelief.

And the award for the funniest Christmas ad goes to…
It was a close call, but with 33% of the vote…
🥂🍾🎉 eBays “The Holiday Chill!🥂🍾🎉

Why did eBays “The Holiday Chill” win the funniest Christmas ad?
A funny ad attracts attention. Humor drives virality. Think about it. When you find something funny you tell someone else about it, don’t you? You want others to laugh with you. So, the funnier the Christmas ad, the more it will get shared, reposted, and mentioned.

The concept behind eBay’s “The Holiday Chill” not only made people laugh, but it also caught the attention of thousands of retailers, outraged that eBay was ridiculing them! Which made the whole campaign even funnier and more shareable.

The nominations for the most surprising Christmas ad were:

WestJet with their “Christmas Miracle: Real-time Giving” Christmas ad:

Santa appears on life-size screens at boarding gates in Toronto and Ontario and asks passengers what they want for Christmas. Behind the scenes, WestJet staff take notes, and once the plane takes off, rush to the shops to buy, wrap, and label those gifts for their passengers. When the passengers arrive at their destination and are waiting for their luggage, the gifts make an entrance on the baggage carousel.

Coca-Cola with their “White Christmas in Singapore” Christmas ad:

First, we’re in Lapland where the streets are filled with snow, kids are sledding, and temperatures are -10C. Then we’re in Singapore and it’s 29C. In both countries, we see groups of people crowding around a Coca-Cola vending machine that has a big TV screen. On the TV screens, people in Lapland can see what’s going on in Singapore, and people in Singapore can see what’s going on in Lapland. They smile and wave to each other. The kids in Lapland start shoveling snow into the vending machine and in Singapore, snow starts falling.

Air Canada with their “Gift of Home for the Holidays” Christmas ad:

We’re in London, in a busy Canadian pub – a haven for Canadian ex-pats. Two Air Canada pilots walk in and start chatting to the patrons, asking if they’re going home for Christmas. Sadly, none of them are able to. Then, the two pilots make an announcement. They’d like to buy everyone a round. But they’re not talking about a round of drinks…they’re talking about a round-trip ticket for everyone in the pub to fly back to Canada for Christmas! Wow!

Stella Artois with their “Under the Stars with John Legend” Christmas ad:

The legendary John Legend sings a beautiful rendition of “Under the Stars” with his piano, a canopy of twinkling lights, and a glass of Stella Artois.

KLM Royal Dutch Airways with their “Bonding Christmas Buffet” Christmas ad:

We’re in an airport and there’s a circle of seats around a tall pillar with a table on top. Someone cautiously sits down on a seat. The table comes down slightly. Passers-by lookup. They see the table is moving and curious, they take a seat too. Once every seat has been filled the table comes all the way down. KLM staff then appear with plates of food and glasses of wine, and encourage the people sitting at the table to eat, drink, and be merry – together.

And the award for the most surprising Christmas ad goes to…
With 42% of the vote…
🥂🍾🎉 WestJet’s “Christmas Miracle!”🥂🍾🎉

Why did WestJet’s “Christmas Miracle” win the most surprising Christmas ad?
Like with humor, innovation makes people sit up and take notice. In fact, WestJet’s commercial had over 14 million views and was featured on sites like Mashable, Huffington Post, and the LA Times. And most people now think of WestJet when they consider flying in Canada.

The nominations for the most Christmassy Christmas ad were:

Hershey’s with their “Hershey’s Kisses” Christmas ad

Simplicity definitely wins with this one. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” is played out with Hershey kisses that look and sound like bells. That’s it. But it really does get you into the Christmas spirit!

Coca-Cola with their “Holidays Are Coming” Christmas ad

A fleet of twinkling Coca-Cola trucks make their way across a snowy landscape to the infamous “Holidays Are Coming” chant. Trees, houses, and bridges magically light up as they pass. Men, women, and children stare up at them in delight. It ends with a father and son sitting in a truck drinking in the magnificently Christmassy sight.

Campbell’s with their “Campbell’s soup” Christmas ad

The weather outside is frightful, but the fiiiiire is so delightful…” accompanies a cold, snowy snowman as he shuffles his way into a warm, cozy house. He sits down at the table with a hot bowl of chicken soup. As he eats, he starts to melt revealing a little boy. It’s charming and full of nostalgia.

IRN BRU with their “The Snowman” Christmas ad

This is a cheeky adaptation of the timeless animated film “The Snowman”. The “Walking in the Air” soundtrack makes it super Christmassy and the adapted lyrics add a touch of humor. It’s a classic with a twist!

And the award for the most Christmassy Christmas ad goes to…
Taking a landslide victory and securing 75% of the votes…
🥂🍾🎉 Coca-Cola’s “Holiday’s Are Coming!”🥂🍾🎉

Why did Coca-Cola’s “Holidays Are Coming” win the most Christmassy Christmas ad?
Like with pop-tarts, traditionally Christmassy Christmas ads make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They create feelings of nostalgia and dig up lovely childhood memories which make you look at the brand more fondly. Specifically, the “Holidays Are Coming” Christmas ad prompted over two million people to visit the Coca-Cola website and inspired over 57 million retweets of the hashtag #HolidaysAreComing.

There you have it. The best EVER Christmas ads made by EDEKA, WestJet, eBay, and Coca-Cola – as voted for by the team at Process Street!

Talking of Process Street, I have a gift for you…

The gift of making recurring tasks fun, fast, and faultless for teams everywhere

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And with that, it’s time to ‘Zoom’ into ‘The Most Wonderful Time of The Year’!

Have a wonderful Christmas from everyone at Process Street!

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These are our favorite Christmas ads, what are yours? 🎄 Let us know in the comments below ⬇️ Who knows you might feature in next year’s Christmas post! ⛄

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Amanda Greenwood

Amanda is a content writer for Process Street. Her main mission in life is to write content that makes business processes fun, interesting, and easy to understand. Her background is in marketing and project management, so she has a wealth of experience to draw from, which adds a touch of reality and a whole heap of depth to the content she writes.


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