“The biggest PR event all year”, is how the John Lewis Christmas ad was described to me this morning.
I quite liked Emirates’ #HelloJetman – certainly a more impressive feat than floating presents up to a lonely old man.
But the best adverts need to be memorable. This has never been more important – we’re targeted through email, on Facebook, before our favourite cat video on YouTube, on TV (remember those?), and even via texts to our mobile phones just by walking past a shop. There are hundreds of adverts to forget every day.
So how do you make your two minutes the most memorable of the lot? You have to provoke an emotional response. Emotion is one of the most powerful ways we form memories – and sad emotions trump the happy ones. We remember sad events more readily – and they affect us more deeply – because that’s how our primitive brain tries to protect us from going through that negative event again in the future.
So the best shops give us “tear jerkers” at a time in the advertising calendar that is the busiest it will be all year – because they’ll be remembered over the sea of upbeat ones. John Lewis’ Christmas adverts get everyone talking – whether they like it or not – and people seem genuinely moved by them.
The only problem with a brand provoking negative emotions is that those negative emotions can become associated with that brand. And evolution has taught us to stay away from things that make us sad – for our own sake.
I’m tempted to actively avoid John Lewis because of their Christmas advert and the way it tried to make me “feel”. I take Charlie Brooker’s side; I can’t cry at an advert for a shop.
But I would like to know if they’re selling any cuddly toy moons I could buy for my niece… Or a cuddly old man… Or I wonder if they sell the same telescope that girl uses…. Or those balloons…
So what can we learn from John Lewis’ Christmas ads?
– Timing is everything. Get all other headline grabbing events out the way first (Halloween, the Million Mask March) to maximise the impact.
– Produce a campaign for your campaign. We all knew about the hashtag and the Twitter page before the ad even aired. There was a popular social media presence established before anyone knew what the product was.
– Use emotion. The stronger the emotion the more memorable your campaign.