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How to Design a Great Christmas Advert

19 December 2017

How to Design a Great Christmas Advert

Christmas trees, snow, a sense of good feeling hanging in the air – they’re all signs that Christmas is approaching. There is another sign though which isn’t quite so traditional; Christmas adverts!

There’s some that we see year on year, like the Coca Cola truck advert, and there’s some that we wait for with eager anticipation, like the famous John Lewis ad. There’s been some real gems over the years and we’ve taken a look to see what makes them so great!

1.    Get the Colour Schemes Right

Colour is so important for setting the mood and some adverts have managed to use their colour schemes to great effect. Let’s start off with the king of Christmas ads, John Lewis, and their 2015 about the man on the moon.

John Lewis, Man on the Moon (2015)

In this ad, the designer creates a stark contrast between the moon and Earth through the use of colour. On the moon, everything is grey. It creates a sense of loneliness and lifelessness for the man who lives there. Back down on Earth though, the scenes are full of warm, cosy colours and everything is much happier.

Man on the Moon 1

Man on the Moon 2

This contrast makes the final twist even more effective. The little girl’s present is wrapped in bright paper and carried by colourful balloons. She isn’t just giving him a present, she is bringing colour and happiness back into his life. If it wasn’t poignant enough, this will really solidify the emotional connection viewers will have with this advert.

Sainsbury’s, 1914 (2014)

John Lewis isn’t the only one to make use of the colour scheme to emphasise its message. In Sainsbury’s touching 2014 Christmas advert, we see a re-enactment of when English and German troops lay down their weapons and came together for a game of football on Christmas day, 1914.

Sainsbury's 1914

Instead of the warm, golden tones that we normally see in Christmas adverts, this mini film seems to be under a sepia filter. The faded browns and creams remind us of old photographs that have aged over time. This is perfect for envisioning an event that we know actually did take place 100 years ago.

2.    Appeal to Your Target Audience

There’s a phenomenon in marketing whereby people who can see themselves within a brand’s advertising are more likely to find a connection with the brand and invest in it. Here are some Christmas adverts that have used this very clever trick to build a relationship with their consumers.

M&S, With Love from Mrs Claus (2016)

Last year’s M&S ad used this trick with their portrayal of Mrs Claus. They showed her as a smart, capable woman dressed in a neat, stylish dress and heels. Instead of the young models we normally see in adverts, they chose a slightly older actress to appeal to their main consumer demographic.

M&S Mrs Claus 1

Women who watch this ad will see how she is able to sort out issues that her husband can’t, all while looking incredibly glamorous. They may already see themselves as that kind of women and see that M&S is clearly the shop for them. Or, they’ll want to be that kind of woman and so go to M&S for the right look.

Debenhams, Found It (2016)

This ad does things a little differently because it doesn’t appeal their audience visually, but through voice alone. As each product is presented, a voice over speaks directly to the viewer as if the product itself was speaking. This advert shows how the audio design is just as important as the visual design because each voice is chosen to convey specific emotions and associations.

Debenhams Found It

For example, this bag is voiced by Ewan McGregor and his light Scottish accent brings out strong, masculine associations. Because it’s Christmas, viewers aren’t necessarily looking for themselves in the ads, they’re looking for the people they’re going to be buying gifts for. You never know, someone might hear Ewan McGregor’s voice and realise that this is the perfect bag to finish their unwitting partner’s new look.

3.    Mix Modern with Traditional

It’s true, many ads go for the full on traditional approach to bring out those cosy, heart-warming Christmas feels. However, some adverts know how to blend the traditional with the modern to create a great juxtaposition of styles.

H&M, Come Together (2016)

In this ad, we see a great contrast between very retro surroundings in the train and the modern clothing of the passengers.

H&M Come Together

The pastel colours of the train’s décor take us back to the 1950s, as does the train conductor’s costume (albeit his outfit is probably more colourful than they were back then). Each passenger has an old fashioned photograph of their family members and the wrapping paper they use is pretty dated too.

This creates a fantastic backdrop to contrast the passengers’ clothing against which is very modern. Of course, H&M is a clothing brand so they want to draw attention to this aspect of the ad and position themselves as a fresh and fashionable brand.

M&S, With Love from Mrs Claus (2016)

Okay, yes, we have already spoken about this ad but it is also a fantastic example of mixing styles for great effect. Part of what makes Mrs Claus appear so stylish and capable is because she’s is in contrast to her husband’s outdated style.

M&S Mrs Claus 2

M&S Mrs Claus 3

Santa uses the traditional sleigh and reindeer, he lives in a wooden lodge, and he wraps himself in worn clothes. On the other hand, Mrs Claus has all the latest gear (including the comically named helicopter, R-DOLF), she wears stylish clothes no matter the weather and refuses to go down the chimney. She is a vision of the perfect modern woman.

4.    Stick Some Animals in There

So many Christmas ads feature an animal, it would be impossible not to mention it. Of course, it is entirely possible to create a Christmas advert without animals, we’ve already talked about a few, but somehow animals make it so much cuter. The trick is to put human emotions on animal faces.

John Lewis, The Bear and The Hare (2013)

Let’s go back to a classic, John Lewis’ 2013 hit. This ad tells a wonderful tale of friendship, it’s full of emotion. The designers were able to show a range of emotions on the various animals’ faces but particularly with the Hare.

The Bear and the Hare

The designer makes use of the Hare’s ears a lot to show when it feels happy or sad and they made the mouth more expressive than an animal’s really should be. They’ve also found a way to give the Hare eyebrows which play a big part in communicating emotion in humans.

So! There are four tricks to making a great Christmas advert. Of course, a truly great Christmas advert always has something that we can never quite put our finger on – Christmas magic perhaps! Which ads have you enjoyed over the years? Have there been any this year that you think will stand the test of time?


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