The Ingredients of a perfect Christmas ad


It’s mid November, which means traditionalists will tell you it’s far too early to start with the festive cheer. But, even the most Scrooge-like of skeptics can’t deny that we’re in full-blown Christmas ad season. Which, of course, gets earlier every year! 

This year’s haul brought no major surprises. All the big guns delivered to a degree, with a series of sweet ads that pretty much stuck to the winning recipe. But what is this recipe? 

I’ve outlined these key ingredients to a great Christmas ad below

1) It’s a film not an ad

I probably titled this article wrong, as brands don’t make Christmas ads, they make film pieces. Yes, there may be cut-downs that will probably appear on TV, but the “real” version must be a lot longer, as it predominantly lives online. This year’s Boots effort “Bags of Joy comes in at 3 minutes, while Disney’s charming “The Stepdad” comes in at 3:27. Wouldn’t fancy cutting that down to a 30”.

2) No hard sell

The brand’s message or products must be featured and integrated into the story seamlessly. No hard sells, price points or CTA’s. It’s a tricky line to navigate as the brand must have a reason to tell the story, and not just be slapping their logo at the end of a random short film. Woodie’s did this perfectly with “Mrs Higgins. The lad clearly used Woodie’s products to fix the gate, but they didn’t need to shout about it, or show him in the store.

3) Sweet moment

Your film piece should always culminate in a sweet moment at the end, which on most occasions, should come as a twist. It makes watching the whole 3 minutes worthwhile, and leaves you with the warm fuzzy feels towards Christmas and the brand. This all started with patient zero of Christmas ads – John Lewis’s “The Long Wait where it turned out the boy wasn’t waiting to open his own presents, but to give a present to his parents. We all remember that one!

4) The Music

Another trend started by John Lewis is the art of taking a much loved track, and getting a popular singer to cover it as a slowed down, acoustic version. In this year’s “Unexpected Guest” they’ve gone with a version of “Together in Electric Dreams” covered by Lola Young. There are more options though, like Amazon, who launched a brand new Adele song in their new ad “Kindess, the Greatest Gift”. Just goes to show you what Bezos money can get you.

5) A relatable insight:

Every heartwarming Christmas story must stem from a relatable insight that resonates with the audience. A feeling, a notion, a tradition, or something that we’ve all experienced or felt around the holidays. This year’s effort from McDonald’s Imaginary Iggy” shows a young girl’s relationship with her imaginary friend drift away as she grows up, only to remember him at Christmas. Just like all of us, as we regress to our most childlike state, and remember Christmases of old! 

So there you have it, all the ingredients that go into a great Christmas film.

This year, when Verve|Showrunner baked up retail outfit Gala’s first ever Christmas ad along with production company, Banjoman, we made sure to remember all of these, with the end result being a really sweet story and beautiful film piece. It centres around a young girl trying to recreate her late mother’s famous Christmas cake, after she can’t find the recipe anywhere – making many failed attempts, and many trips to Gala for ingredients – as she tries to figure it out.

Take a look at “The Recipe” below. 

Merry Christmas, 


  • Categories
  • What's
    Going On

    Our weekly blog on the world of
    brand experience, tech, events, advertising and marketing.

    Planning A Virtual Event
    or Brand Activation?