Very surprising: online retailer beats John Lewis as most engaging Christmas ad

Dogs Trust's 'A dog is for life, not just for Christmas' comes top in brand favourability.

Very: most emotionally engaging in Unruly's research
Very: most emotionally engaging in Unruly's research

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners' "Excitable Edgar" Christmas campaign is the UK’s second most emotionally engaging Christmas ad of 2019, behind online retailer Very's "Pass the parcel", according to Unruly.

The video adtech business has compiled a list of the UK’s most emotion-inducing Christmas ads, the day after John Lewis’ highly anticipated opus, created by Adam & Eve/DDB, went live.

Very’s vibrant, animated ad by St Luke’s, which tells a tale of a community coming together to give a lonely man an unforgettable Christmas, beat John Lewis' effort by a marginal two percentage points. While the former drew a strong emotional response from 40% of viewers, the latter scored 38%.

In joint third were Sainsbury’s "Nicholas the sweep" by Wieden & Kennedy and an ad for clothing brand Barbour called "Thanks Mr C".

Supermarket Asda came joint fifth with "Make Christmas extra special", by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, alongside the Dogs Trust’s "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas" by And Rising.

McCann UK’s ad for Aldi, featuring a Robbie Williams revamp of Let Me Entertain You and starring Kevin the Carrot once again, was joint seventh with Visa’s "#WhereYouShopMatters" by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Iceland, which earned a Campaign Turkey of the Week for its in-house spot "Magic of Frozen", shared ninth with Walkers’ Mariah Carey spot by AMV, Lidl’s "A Christmas you can believe in" by Karmarama and Argos’ "The book of dreams" by The & Partnership, which was named a Pick of the Week.

The final ad to make it into Unruly's ranking was Marks & Spencer’s "Go jumpers for Christmas" by Odd.

Rank Brand Emotional engagement
1 40%
2 John Lewis & Partners
Waitrose & Partners
3 Barbour 37%
= Sainsbury’s 37%
5 Asda 36%
= Dogs Trust 36%
7 Visa 31%
= Aldi 31%
9 Walkers 29%
= Iceland 29%
= Lidl 29%
= Argos 29%
13 Marks & Spencer 28%
UK norm 20%

Several retailers' Christmas spots failed to make the top 10, among them Ikea, Debenhams and Boots.

Rebecca Waring, Unruly’s global vice-president, insight and solutions, said: "This is why I love content testing. Some may be surprised to see Very at the top, ahead of John Lewis and Waitrose, but this shows how valuable it is to test ads against a large sample of people who accurately represent the mood of the UK.

"Very has tapped into this year's zeitgeist with great success. The ad is whimsical, old-fashioned and innocent, with an emotive soundtrack – features that are shared by several of 2019's top Christmas ads, such as John Lewis and Asda. However, where other brands have gone for spectacular storytelling, Very has chosen to focus on a straightforward social message about community, intergenerational relationships and much-needed seasonal goodwill."

Very also scored highly (36%) in brand favourability, but it was beaten in that category by the Dogs Trust spot, which inspired 42% of people who watched it to come away with a better impression of the brand.

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