Oh what a joyous TV ad season it is and aren’t we are all just so happy that they started airing in November (advent calendars hitting the shelves in October, I might add). We’ve seen the carrot and the dinosaur and some drummers and even Frozen have teamed up with Iceland (do you see what they did there? Frozen… Iceland… Frozen… Iceland?! Quite the coup).
Are these ads still actually made for TV, though? Does anyone still sit there and watch the adverts? Be honest: you go on to your second screen, or you pause and then fast forward after you’ve got yourself a drink, or you're watching on ad-free catch-up anyway!
We still hear about above the line vs below the line… but there isn’t really a line… it’s all just content. And is terrestrial TV dying a death? It’s pretty clear that there is quite a big change going on - 860,000 TV licences were cancelled in 2017-18, and in that same timeframe Ofcom reported that digital streaming overtook traditional television for the first time. That’s right: there were more UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and NowTV (15.4 million) than to traditional “pay-TV” services such as those offered by Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk (15.1 million). Christmas ads are highly creative and very amusing, but let’s face it - we might call them TVCs, but they aren’t really. Maybe a rename is on the cards.
We all know that when it comes to Christmas ads, we’re only actually waiting to hear that the holidays are coming on the big red lorries thanks to warm Coca-Cola nostalgia and to see what John Lewis has in store for us... and did anyone actually watch those for the first time on their TVs? We will have to ask the over-30s because no one under that age really watches live TV anymore. That’s not a sweeping generalisation either, I’m afraid. 16 - 24-year-olds spent an average of 1 hour 25 minutes each day watching live TV in 2018, 15 minutes less than the year before. Their slightly older counterparts, the 25 - 34s, only watched an extra half hour. And every year, it’s dropping. Average viewing of public service broadcasters is in slim, steady decline. Even the oldies are watching less and less - they must finally be learning how to use Net-flicks or Alexa Prime. As the SVoD market continues to grow, pay-TV’s grip on us will fall to numbers not seen since before 2011. And it’s only going to get worse and worse, because guess what? All those people under 30 will one day be well over 30, and whilst they might start wanting to wear more comfy clothes, they most likely won’t suddenly decide to start watching TV if they haven’t done so before. Ebiquity’s analysis suggests that there will be a 15 - 20% decline in TV ad viewing among all adults in two years, and the volume of TV ads seen by 16- to 34-year-olds will fall by 45%.
But despite this decline, Christmas ads are still booming… If you’ve been following our Christmas Ad-vent on Facebook you’ll have seen for yourself: year upon year, brands battle it out to produce the most memorable, hilarious, unique Christmas ad yet. They skirt around rehashing old material, try to avoid been-there-done-that clichés and attempt to come up with something original. This year there’s been a good deal of praise for fresh material, like this comic piece from IKEA. It’s estimated that John Lewis spent a mahoosive £7 million on their spot this year (1 million for the ad itself, and the rest on TV slots and other digital ad spend). Sainsbury’s went all out with an old-school Dickensian piece. But again, a TVC only gives you thirty seconds to play with, and I’m sure Mrs Sainsbury is just hoping you’ll jump onto YouTube to watch the full two minute piece. It’s official: the TVC is no longer the ‘proper’ version of the film.
So if people aren’t watching TV ads anymore, and it’s not even the whole film, why are we still making them? Christmas ads are celebrated so much because they are possibly the least commercial TV commercials that brands may ever produce. Which is kind of ironic, when you’re trying to figure out if they should be called TV commercials anymore. They make you feel good - or, on the contrary, help you flush out a year’s worth of deeply-buried emotions (thanks for that, Apple). So by having the same piece of content across multiple platforms, you’re including everyone. All the old biddies can sit in front of the fire watching the breaks in their entirety while waiting for X Factor to come back on, whereas all the millembryos can binge watch them on their phones, skipping the ads before the ads.
So yes, a rename is certainly on the cards. They aren’t just TVCs, but whilst they are still on TV let’s call them TVADMFYC (TV and Digital Media Facebooky Youtube Commercials).
WINGers Top Three Christmas
IKEA - Silence the Critics
Arguably the best Christmas ad this year. No soppiness allowed, just a fresh Christmas ad without a half-baked sombre acoustic cover as the soundtrack.
Burberry - What Is Love?
It's nice to see a premium fashion brand not taking themselves (Bur)berry seriously. More an art piece than an ad. You’d be forgiven for not even noticing this is for Christmas.
Argos - The Book of Dreams
A dad, a daughter, and drums. This one has big vibes from BBC’s Dancing Dad piece a couple of years back - but we still love it.