02/12/2010

Online advertising in the UK has outstripped broadcast advertising by revenues this year. In the run up to Christmas, All About Brands' advertising guru, Simon Impey, looks at what drives sales at this time of year and concludes that despite the advent of digital, television commercials are as much part of the advertising mix as Christmas itself.

Having three children under ten, means that Christmas is still a special time in our household.

We are, at present, living in Abu Dhabi where the summer temperature of 49 degrees has recently reduced to a blissful winter’s 30 degrees. Therefore when we asked the children what they wanted for Christmas this year, it’s not surprising they all unanimously said ‘snow’.

However, when they say they want snow, what they are actually asking for is to go back to Scotland, see their grandparents and cousins, and have a family Christmas.

As we’ll be flying in last minute though, we’ll be able to make the most of Christmas whilst still managing to get out before the New Year sales hit the stores.

Meanwhile, everyone else is already having to endure the barrage of Christmas TV commercials, newspaper adverts and billboards featuring; various Santas, Christmas trees, snow scenes and endless traditional greetings.

The holiday season is the most competitive business period of the year for advertisers, providing a window of opportunity that opens only once a year where most retailers rely on making most of their money.

It’s not that advertising is wrong at Christmas, it’s just wrong in November!

The ASA has received more complaints on this issue this year than ever before, suggesting increasing consumer frustration.

Advertising too far in advance of Christmas could cost you a great deal more than the media space and it has proven to prolong the amount of time your customers feel financially burdened.

So how can advertisers open this window of opportunity earlier without alienating potential customers?

Digital!

Buying Christmas presents online makes life a lot simpler, with hundreds of online directories providing lists of suggestions. This helps you avoid the angry Christmas crush on the high street, and at the post office, with the added bonus of getting your presents delivered gift-wrapped.

It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s going to be a white Christmas or not, you can rest assured it will be a digital Christmas - and this year more than ever. Many advertisers and brands have already cleverly planted their seeds, long before the Christmas run-up, in preparation for the ‘Manic Monday’ predicted to fall this year on Monday 29th November.

On this day, believed to be the busiest online shopping day for toys, electronics and other Christmas gifts, shoppers were expected to flood the internet in record numbers, with online sales anticipated to hit £537 million - that is the equivalent of £22.4 million an hour!

This year Facebook pages and Twitter accounts will be playing a large part in many business marketing strategies as more companies embrace social media to help drive Christmas sales. Popular high street store Argos has announced that they are launching a ‘Wish List Campaign’ using Facebook as their medium. The application will allow children to choose toys and games from the Argos collection and share them with their friends. Heinz have also realised the benefits of online marketing and have smartly started to push their brand through social media with 24,000 mums already signing up to Heinz’s online baby club.

This year households throughout the UK are expected to spend more than a fifth of their Christmas budget shopping online and Internet marketing has played a pivotal role in helping drive sales in the six weeks leading up to Christmas day.

Amazingly, on the high street retailers are expected to experience their busiest day on Saturday 18th December. On ‘Panic Saturday’ 10 million shoppers will hit the high street, spending a projected £1.11 billion — the equivalent of £764,000 per minute.

Surely the three weeks up to Christmas is ideal time for the traditional ad spend to be spent as it is widely considered to be part of the Christmas season, and will help consumers decide what to buy when they are actively in the Christmas shopping mood.

James G. Carrier, a scholar who has studied ‘present giving during the Christmas season’, considers present giving to be as essential a part of contemporary Christmas. Carrier argues that Christmas shopping is the cultural ritual through which we transform mundane, lifeless commodities into personal, meaningful gifts, given to each other to express affection within our relationships.

The role for advertising in all this is clear. It must promote, not only shopping, but also the idea of imbuing goods with social significance. Advertising must urge the consumer to purchase this or that, gift and communicate the pleasure, significance, and human values that giving it will bring. This all plays a significant part in promoting the Christmas, gift giving ‘spirit’ within our nation of consumers.

Thus, it is a no-brainer that, in the long run up to the big day, companies should use digital to not only build brand awareness but also to interact with consumers via both comments on forums and social networks to improve people’s opinions of your brand.

But now that December is almost upon us, let’s use traditional media, such as the all singing, all dancing commercials, which are now as much a part of the Christmas tradition as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and the family favourite ‘It's a Wonderful Life’, to remind us all of the true spirit of Christmas.

Meanwhile I need to get online to ensure I get my hands on ‘Stinky the Garbage Truck’ before the warehouses run out, let alone the shops on the high street.


All About Brands (AAB) is a group of international companies collectively dedicated to building business value for clients through the effective development and management of their brands. To find out more visit www.aabplc.com


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