UK 2023 Christmas campaign tracker
November 3rd, 2023, YouGov

UK 2023 Christmas campaign tracker

Update #1: How grocery brands are faring ahead of Christmas

‘Tis (almost) the season, and the UK’s brands are launching their Christmas campaigns in earnest. But which ads are hitting ho-ho-home – and which are making consumers say “oh deer”? Whose marketing is bringing joy to the world – and whose is being roasted?

YouGov BrandIndex data will highlight the best and worst brands over the festive period. To begin with, we’re going to take a quick look at where the nation’s grocery brands stand as the festive campaigning begins in earnest.

Where are grocery brands in terms of Ad Awareness, Word of Mouth, and Buzz ahead of Xmas 2023? 

As of November 1, Tesco – who had yet to launch their Christmas commercials – were at the top of the pile in terms of Ad Awareness (which measures whether consumers have seen or heard an ad for a brand in the past two weeks) at 33.5. Aldi (who have been teasing their seasonal campaign) were further behind with 29.0, and fellow discount supermarket Lidl came in third with 27.2. M&S is  in fourth place with 26.1. Sainsbury's, whose Christmas ad featuring Rick Astley was revealed last week, rounds out the top five with a score of 23.6.

There is a wider gap between Sainsbury’s and the rest, with Asda (18.8), the Co-op (17), Morrisons (16.8), Ocado (12.5), Waitrose (12), and Iceland (8.7) some way off the top five brands. We’ll check back in to see how this changes as ads are rolled out over the festive period.

Word of Mouth scores tell a similar story, and the top five brands are still Tesco (29.7), Aldi (25.5), Lidl (21.8), Sainsbury’s (19.5), and Marks & Spencer (19.3), although in a slightly different order.

Buzz scores tell a different story however: at the beginning of November, Aldi was the top brand on the list (23.2), followed by Lidl (18.2). Lest we think budget retailers have a grip on the Christmas conversation, M&S come in close third (18), with Sainsbury’s a relatively distant fourth(11.1). Waitrose completes the top five (9.0), with big hitters like Tesco (8.4) and Morrisons (8.7) far from the top spots. As their campaigns gain traction, this picture may well change. Stay tuned for further updates!

Update #2: Marks & Spencer stealing an early lead in terms of Ad Awareness this festive season

Moving past grocery brands, let’s take a look at how fashion and beauty brands are performing in the early stages of the Christmas campaign season.

Our data shows that, since the beginning of November, Marks & Spencer’s ad – which recruited Hannah Waddingham, Tan France, Zawe Ashton and Sophie Ellis-Bextor to tell a story about the more tiresome aspects of Christmas – has seen the highest uplift in Ad Awareness. Between November 1 and 13, scores rose from 24.1 to 39.7: an improvement of 15.6 points. The ad’s high awareness may be for a mixture of reasons: for example,  the controversy around whether Christmas cracker crowns burned in an outtake from the ad resemble the Palestinian flag may have been a contributory factor. But M&S are often a strong performer at Christmas – last year, they topped the fashion & beauty sector for ad awareness as well.

No other brand in the sector has seen comparable uplift. TK Maxx’s scores went from 9.6 to 12.6 (+3.0), while scores for Boots inched up from 17.5 to 19.0 (+1.5). Sports Direct saw an improvement of +0.7 points, with Ad Awareness scores increasing from 6.1 to 6.8 (+0.7). But the other brands we’re following in this sector aren’t seeing much movement – and if they are, it’s in the wrong direction. Tu Clothing’s Ad Awareness rose from 12.7 to 11.5 (-1.2), while F&F Clothing’s scores fell from 7.8 to 7.6 (-0.2). JD Sports have seen a mild improvement from 11.5 to 11.9 (+0.4). All of these brands, with the exception of Tu and F&F, have released Xmas ads (and the latter may have been covered by their parent brands, Sainsbury’s and Tesco).

General merchandise brands: John Lewis sees the greatest uplift in November so far

John Lewis saw Ad Awareness scores rise from 9.1 to 25.9 (+16.8) between November 1st and November 13th despite only airing its Xmas ad on November 9th.

No other brands that we are following in the sector can boast this kind of uplift, although it’s worth pointing out that Amazon’s Ad Awareness – which started the month at 31.6 and was most recently also at 31.6 – remains the highest in a month of festive sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Argos also saw scores rise from 18.9 to 22.9, a four-point rise, and Very did even better, with scores improving from 7.0 to 12.2 (+5.2). It’s the same story with Apple, which hosted an event to promote its new range of M3 Mac computers at the end of October, and saw its scores improve from 25.0 to 30.6 (+5.6).

Update #3: M&S dominates Ad Awareness for grocery bands

We’re a few weeks into November now – a point where most grocery retailers have had their festive ads running for at least a fortnight. But which, according to the public, have been memorable, and which haven’t made a mark?

A look at our data shows that Marks & Spencer’s Xmas ad is top of the tree – just as it was for fashion retailers. Between 1 – 20 November, the star-studded commercial saw Ad Awareness scores go from 24 to 46.3 (+22.3): an increase that puts it quite far ahead of any other brand in terms of overall scores and improvement.

Aldi is the next highest-ranking grocery retailer for this metric, although scores haven’t moved quite as much – changing from 33.7 to 35.5 (+1.8) – despite launching its ad on 6 November. Sainsbury’s took the third spot, with scores rising from 23.6 to 33 (+9.4); its Rick Astley ad clearly hasn’t let the brand down.

ASDA comes in fourth, with scores rising from 18.8 to 30.8 (+12.0) with a little help from its Michael Bublé-starring Christmas commercial, which launched on 4 November. Lidl are a lidl further behind in fifth, with scores changing from 25.8 to 28.9 (+3.1).

Of course, Ad Awareness doesn’t always translate to public enthusiasm, but we’ve identified some grocery brands that have performed well in terms of Buzz scores too. The highest scoring brands in terms of buzz score (even though these scores have declined) are Marks & Spencer, which has seen scores move from 18 to 18.9 (+0.9); Aldi, which has seen scores fall from 23.2 to 18.4 (-4.8); and Lidl, which has seen a deterioration from 18.2 to 16.6 (-1.6). Sainsbury’s is further behind, although it did see scores improve from 11.1 to 11.6 (+0.5), while Tesco has seen scores increase from 8.4 to 9.8 (+1.4).

The most notable Buzz improver didn’t crack the top five: Iceland, which has earned positive headlines for its decision to forgo a Christmas ad in favour of price cuts, saw scores rise from 3.1 to 8.1 (+5.0). It’s a move that speaks to the logic of Marks & Spencer’s Christmas ad – which highlights the things people dislike about the festive season – and extends it to Christmas ads themselves, which have become a kind of tradition for the public to embrace or rail against as they see fit.

Update #4: Another winning ad for John Lewis? 

Benjamin Franklin once said the only certainties in this life were death and taxes; if he were alive today, he might add “public conversation about the John Lewis Christmas ad”. Once again, the department store chain has generated publicity: since November 1, Ad Awareness scores for the retailer have risen from 9.1 to 36.3: an uplift of 27.2 points, and one that handily outperforms any other chain we’ve tracked for this study.

The nearest competitor in terms of overall score if not growth, Amazon, has seen scores rise from 31.6 to 32.5 (+0.9); it started off with high ad awareness, and maintains high scores, but has not seen much in the way of any increase. Currys PC World, which has seen scores rise from 22.3 to 27.8 (+5.5) – perhaps with the help of its Black Friday offers – comes a rather distant third.

Looking at Buzz , we can also see that John Lewis’ scores have risen from 8.9 to 14.2., with the next-highest coming from Apple, who saw scores rise from 6.8 to 12.8 (perhaps helped by their end-of-October Macbook event as well as Black Friday). No other retailer has seen comparable improvements.

Update #5: M&S still the top grocery brand in terms of festive ad awareness

Writing in City A.M., our Chairman Stephan Shakespeare looks at the top performing supermarket brands in terms of Ad Awareness using Christmas tracker data. Marks & Spencer comes out on top, with ASDA's Michael Bublé ad coming in second.

Read the full article here.