Aldi’s Christmas campaign has been rated as the most effective festive ad of the year, pipping Coca-Cola, Lidl, and M&S to the post.

According to research by Kantar, the discount supermarket’s reimagining of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, featuring Kevin the Carrot and new character Ebanana Scrooge, is the Christmas ad most likely to deliver on long and short term measures this year.

Combining 3,600 consumer survey responses with facial recognition AI technology, the research saw Aldi rank top of 24 tested ads on four of five key measures, named the most ‘festive’, the most ‘enjoyable’, the most ‘distinctive’, and the most ‘meaningful’. The latter is a measure of how likely the ad is to build affinity or brand love.

The only measure it fell down on was branding, in which the supermarket’s ad ranked fifth. Coca-Cola’s annual ‘Holidays Are Coming’ film scored top in this category.

Compared against all UK ads measured in Kantar’s Marketplace database,  Aldi scored in the top 6% for both distinctiveness and enjoyability, as well as on humour and brand cues.

The 90-second animated short also scored in the top 8% of all UK ads for its ability to generate smiles, the top 16% for driving affinity with the brand, and the top 23% for its power to contribute towards the business in the long term. It was also the campaign that sparked the most conversation among consumers.

Meanwhile, facial coding analysis (pictured below) reveals that while the ad didn’t particularly evoke sadness, as many Christmas ads often aspire towards, viewers were particularly expressive when watching the spot. The introduction of Marcus Radishford, Aldi’s character voiced by footballer Marcus Rashford, drove a particularly noticeable spike in both expressiveness and smiles, which stay high until the ad’s closing line.

Created by McCann UK, Aldi’s Christmas campaign this year marks the sixth to feature Kevin the Carrot. In ghostly form, the brand character confronts Ebanana Scrooge over his humbug attitude, and reminds him of the joys of the festive season.

After showcasing a Christmas dinner full of food, the tale ends with the statement: “For you to be happy, you need to be kind”.

“Aldi’s new take on a Christmas classic is a great example of how a brand can convey serious messages about purpose and social impact while still being great fun,” says Kantar’s head of creative excellence, Lynne Deason.

“Aldi uses humour effectively, something especially important in a year when we all need an extra laugh, but it also has a deeper sentiment. The clever inclusion of ‘Marcus Radishford’ highlights a worthy cause – the campaign to provide meals to those in need – without coming across as too sombre to viewers. And by borrowing from one of the most well-known and loved Christmas stories of all time, it sets out a complicated narrative without ever being confusing.”

The runners-up

Following Aldi, Coca-Cola’s Holidays Are Coming was deemed the second most effective ad of the season, followed by Lidl, Marks & Spencer, and Celebrations.

With the arrival of the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas trucks each year, The Holidays Are Coming has been an icon of the season since launching in 1995. Unsurprisingly, the ad therefore ranked in the top 2% of all ads in the UK in terms of brand connection, which Deason says will translate into long-term brand loyalty.

But while the ad ranked highest for branding, second for festivity, and fifth for distinctiveness, the spot failed to make the top five in either the meaningful or enjoyable categories.

Lidl similarly performed well on branding with its future-themed Christmas ad this year, finishing a close second behind Coca-Cola on the measure and in the top 5% of UK ads. It marks a turnaround for the Aldi rival, which was on the verge of being in the bottom third of all UK ads for branding with its 2020 festive campaign, in which the grocer took fire at Aldi and poked fun at Christmas clichés.

Meanwhile, like Aldi, Marks & Spencer benefited from its focus on brand characters this year. The supermarket’s food ad leant on its Percy Pig character, voiced by Tom Holland, which Kantar says created a greater emotional reaction among audiences than the brand’s ads in previous years, contributing to its increased effectiveness.

The Percy Pig fronted ad ranked as the third most enjoyable ad of Christmas this year, as well as third on branding.

Chocolate box specialist Celebrations rose up the ranks with its humorous ad following the Lonely Bounty’s search for love. The campaign was the second most distinctive of the season, and followed Aldi as the second most funny.

According to Kantar, the ads that most struggled to resonate with viewers this year have been those with sad or complex storylines, where the audience is left feeling confused.

Deason concludes: “Overall it has been another tough year for advertisers to get right. This crop of ads made people smile, but less so than previous years.

“The ones that did landed best, and people responded better to ads which weren’t afraid to be funny, after the past eighteen months we all need a bit of that. Of course, success is still reliant on being relevant, well-executed and having close links to the brand, all of which 2021’s front-runners achieved.”

Kantar’s findings mark the second significant accolade Aldi has received for the effectiveness of its advertising this year, having won the Grand Effie at the 2021 UK Effie Awards in October.

The supermarket’s ‘Free Cuthbert’ social media campaign was also chosen as one of Marketing Week’s best marketing campaigns of 2021.

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