Christmas Campaign Review part two: The verdict on the best and worst Aussie Christmas ads of 2019

In the second edition of Christmas Campaign Review, Mumbrella invites two of the industry's most senior creatives and strategists to offer their views on the biggest Australian Christmas ads of 2019. Bashful's strategy director, Guy Marshall, and Hardhat's executive creative director, Glenn Dalton, share their views on the Christmas offerings from NRMA, Carlton Dry, IGA, Cancer Council NSW and Red Balloon.

Brand: NRMA
Campaign: Protect what’s precious
Agency: Colenso BBDO
The verdict: A great insight

Guy Marshall, strategy director and partner at Bashful, says:

“Watching that ad left me asking one big question, ‘What kind of madman or madwoman would get in a car holding a pavlova in their bare hands and travel a great distance with nothing to contain the sweet treat than their best intentions and a wilful stare?’

“As a younger man I once got into a car with a full pot of pumpkin soup. I’d prepared it for the extended family who were having dinner at my grandmother’s house. I proudly hopped into the back of my Mum’s station wagon after putting the soup in the boot. I didn’t fix the pot or lid to anything. The first corner we turned around at 30km an hour generated enough G-force to topple the pot and give the family car the smell of creamy pumpkin for the next decade.

“Which is to say that I understand the stress felt by everyone in that car in quite a tangible, bodily sense. I was tense watching that ad. The insight is strong, it does drive reappraisal of behaviour in a way that feels in line with the brand purpose. The execution is well put together with high production values. It is clearly a Christmas ad yet like none of the others out this year. Tick, tick, tick.

“It’s a shame that the same thought has been executed by both Volvo with their Slow Down Cake and Renault with the Safety Cake.”

Rating: 9/10 as an original, 6/10 as an homage

Glenn Dalton, executive creative director at Hardhat, says:

“What’s more important to you when driving to Christmas lunch — a cake in the front seat or your kids in the back? I love the insight here, and the ad’s a timely reminder that we’re always driving with fragile and precious cargo. Whilst this idea has been executed a few times around the world, the agency has done a lovely job to give it an Australian (or Kiwi?) angle. Handing the script over to to such a beautiful storyteller in Steve Rogers was smart too. In lesser hands, the message could’ve been layered on too thick.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: Carlton Dry
Campaign: It’s the most wonderful time for a beer
Agency: Special Group
The verdict: An entertaining song, but with execution lacking

Marshall says: 

“Now that’s catchy. I reckon it will be hard to unhear that song. Every time we hear Andy Williams’ crooning voice I think we’ll all replace year with beer. Successfully hacking such a strong cultural institution is a great starting point for a campaign.

“The video on the other hand is weird. Why the falling down set? It feels like it would have been a lot funnier if played straight. Personally, and here I reveal my deep-seated love for all things yuletide, I’m not sure it needs to be so negative. Could it just be a wonderful time for a beer due to the stresses of Christmas as well as the joys? That would be closer to the truth. We drink to deal with the annoying relos as much as we drink to celebrate with friends and family we love. I just don’t know that ‘Christmas Sux’ is the coolest or most supportable message. No one wants to have a beer with Scrooge.

“I presume the song is supported by a fair amount of paid. They will need it if they are going to unseat Queen Mariah. Here at Bashful HQ, we are spinning that song roughly seven times a day. Or is it 16 times a day? I, like everyone else, brainwashed by Richard Curtis, love that song but do wish it was on just a little bit less – while Carlton Dry’s ditty hasn’t yet made it onto the office playlist.”

Rating: 9/10 for the song, 6/10 for the campaign

Dalton says:

“Jingle beers, jingle beers, jingle all the — oh sorry, wrong Christmas carol. Yes, Christmas is the most wonderful time for a beer, however these days that beer isn’t Carlton Dry, it’s some regional craft brew that costs $20 for a four-pack. With beer consumption again dropping this year, Carlton Dry are hoping this silly sing-along will give them a spike in sales over Christmas. Forgetting for a moment there’s also a spike in alcohol-related domestic violence at this time of year, the ad does a neat job of using humour to reach its heartland.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: IGA
Campaign: See what’s at your IGA
Agency: The Core Agency
The verdict: Nice won’t beat price

Marshall says: 

“I love my local IGA. It’s full of all the stuff I want and need, burrata, dolmades, garlic dip, Sonoma bread. It offers me an experience I don’t think I could get at a Woolworths or Coles. So I buy into this brand strategy. It has the benefit of being true and I believe it’s what people want.

“So it’s a shame that the execution is so clunky. The storytelling style is strange. Shane Jacobson as a sort of omnipresent, unseen narrator is both odd and boring.

“Showing that you offer each community a bespoke product is tough, because by its nature it’s different for every community. You can’t make 100 TVCs. But it would be great to see IGA use less literal, more engaging creative as they have such a great product worthy of celebration.”

Rating: 5/10

Dalton says:

“When you’re not one of the big players, or one of the ‘good different’ ones, what do you do? You leverage your local touch and claim you might find a few more unique items on the shelves. IGA has done well to carve out this space over the years, and this Christmas execution is a nice extension of the positioning, but I think that’s its weakness— it’s nice. With budgets stretched at this time of the year, nice unfortunately won’t beat price.”

Rating: 6/10

Brand: Cancer Council NSW
Campaign: Why can’t we stop cancer, Dad?
Agency: Spark Foundry
The verdict: Tugs at the heartstrings

Marshall says: 

“No donation. No cure. No prisoners taken by Cancer Council on this one.

“I like the tone, the surprise got me and pulled on the heartstrings really well. I wonder if they could have gotten a bit more out of Dad’s performance but otherwise a powerful film.

“This is designed to drive donations for them over Christmas. And I think it will.”

Rating: 7/10

Dalton says:

“Tugging at the heartstrings one minute, then barking at the purse-strings the next is an interesting strategy. It’s like they hired Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi to pen the line ‘No donation, No cure’. Maybe there’s research that says this’ll work, but for me, guilting the audience, like the Heart Foundation recently did, and framing them as the problem undoes a lot of the good intent.”

Rating: 6/10

Brand: Red Balloon
Campaign: Enrichmas
Agency: In-house
The verdict: 

Marshall says: 

“Catchy? Not really.

“More than ever, we are having cultural conversations about sustainability and ethical consumption. For all the obvious reasons. More than any Christmas past it feels as though families are going to try to limit the amount of useless, unwanted landfill ‘stocking fillers.’ ING’s Christmas campaign for their program Dreamstarter captured this insight nicely.

“There are so many reasons why giving experiences can be more ethical, meaningful and straight-up fun that just giving stuff.

“I’m not sure ‘Enrichmas’ does justice to that truth. When brands successfully create language that becomes part of the zeitgeist it is incredibly powerful. ‘Enrichmas’ is not that.

“On a side note, if anyone in the family is reading this, I’d love a Bridge Climb Experience for Christmas this year.”

Rating: 4/10

Dalton says:

“It’s definitely true that more people are wanting to give and receive experiences instead of ‘things’ these days. This societal shift plays perfectly for Red Balloon, and Christmas should’ve been their Superbowl moment, but it wasn’t. While the ad isn’t elf-ful (sorry, but they started it with Enrichmas), I feel they missed an opportunity to celebrate enrichment, rather than just spruik it. Now well established, Red Balloon has the right to own a deeper, more emotive space at Christmas than Santa’s workshop.”

Rating: 5/10

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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