Christmas adverts in the UK have become much more of a ‘thing’ in recent years and, whether you love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that the retailers behind them certainly put lots of time, effort and money into their TV and online video adverts every festive season.
It probably started with the Coca Cola Santa truck advert in the 1990s, where the phenomenon of seeing essentially the same advert every year seemed to bring on an infusion of festive spirit for millions, but things really took off between competing brands after the John Lewis’ ad ‘The Long Wait’ came to our screens in 2011. The influx of emotive Christmas storytelling adverts from retailers has exploded since, along with consumer anticipation for them to arrive.
At No Brainer, we’ve been tracking how some of the UK’s biggest retailers have been doing in the annual Christmas advert campaign ‘wars’ over several years now. We look at online search trends, social media data and engagement and have compiled our latest findings.
The Best Christmas Adverts 2023
When it comes to the class of 2023, the Christmas ads from leading retailers in the UK have seen very high levels of interest online as usual. We looked at search trend data, along with online and social media video views and engagement rates during November 2023, to determine which retailer’s Christmas ads were the most popular.
Most watched Christmas ads of 2023
1) John Lewis – Snapper: The Perfect Tree
This video has racked up more than 37.6 million views so far on the retailer’s official channels, despite being released more than a week later than most of the competition’s efforts. This later release date certainly helps to ramp up anticipation from consumers. Facebook and TikTok are the platforms on which this video has been watched the most, with more than 30 million of their total views happening across these two sites/apps.
2) Aldi – Kevin and the Christmas Factory
Kevin the carrot returns with his latest adventure, drawing inspo from the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This savvily coincides with the December 2023 release of the new Wonka film too.
With over 30 million views so far across their official Youtube, X/Twitter, TikTok and Facebook channels, Kevin and his pals seem to be as popular as ever.
3) M&S Clothing & Home – This Christmas, do only what you love
After a slightly stilted start, where M&S had to apologise for an associated image they used on Instagram, their somewhat controversial Christmas ad, featuring some very well-known faces, has significantly fewer online views that the top two on our list, but still comes in third place with nearly 9 million watches. The majority of these come from X/Twitter, with the ad being uploaded much later to YouTube so racking up far fewer watchers.
4) Asda – Make this Christmas Incredibublé
After the success of integrating Will Ferrell’s Elf into last year’s ad, Asda have followed it up by centring this campaign around the festive crooner himself, Michael Bublé. With just under 7 million views across their YouTube, Facebook, X/Twitter and TikTok channels, Asda is some way behind Aldi in the supermarket ad battle, but second place in this race isn’t really bad going at all.
5) Argos – Dancer
A rather surprise entry to round off the top five is Argos, with Connie (the non-branded fashion doll) and Trevor the dinosaur having a rather undramatic adventure featuring a dance and a self-obsessed T-Rex. It’s not exactly emotive storytelling that brings you to tears like some of the other retailers attempt to do, but it seems to strike a chord on some level as it’s racked up nearly 7 million views, primarily on their YouTube channel.
The best of the rest: Christmas adverts in 2023
In order of highest online views, the next five most popular retail Christmas ads in 2023 are:
6) Lidl – A Magical Christmas with Lidl
2.7 million views across the brand’s YouTube, Facebook, X/Twitter and TikTok accounts.
7) Tesco – Become More Christmas
2.3 million views across their YouTube, Facebook, TickTok and X/Twitter accounts.
8) M&S Food – Right and Left Mitten
2 million views across YouTube, Facebook and X/Twitter.
9) Amazon – Joy Ride
570k views across their YouTube, Facebook and X/Twitter accounts.
10) Morrisons – Singing Oven Gloves
415k views across YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and X/Twitter.
Other retail runners and riders this festive season that haven’t hit the same heights include:
- Waitrose – It’s Time For The GOOD Stuff (328k views)
- Boots – Give Joy (283k views)
- Sainsburys – One BIG Question (173k views)
- McDonalds – Fancy a McDonald’s this Christmas? (73k views)
Which 2023 Christmas ads are people most engaged by?
When it comes to social media engagement, such as likes, shares, comments and other reactions, some of this year’s crop of ads stand clear of the rest on their respective brand’s video content. They aren’t necessarily always the ones you might think!
However, it’s always important to caveat engagement data with the fact that sentiment doesn’t play into these stats and higher engagement doesn’t always mean that people like it more. A Christmas ad which divides opinion, such as this year’s M&S Clothing and Home advert, might have thousands of negative comments as well as plenty of positive ones. It’s also possible that some brands have paid for more reach and engagement potential on various platforms and others are purely organic.
We also noticed that some brands had switched commenting off for their content on some platforms e.g. M&S Food’s advert video on YouTube. However, engagement can still be a useful indicator of whether people find a particular online video ad makes an impact on them – whether good or bad.
Top 10 most engaging brand Christmas ads of 2023
- John Lewis – 215k social engagements
- Aldi – 130k social engagements
- Lidl – 122k social engagements
- Asda – 99k social engagements
- M&S – 47k social engagements
- Amazon – 11k social engagements
- Tesco – 7.5k social engagements
- Morrisons – 6.7k social engagements
- M&S food – 5.8k social engagements
- Boots – 1.5k social engagements
Christmas 2023 adverts: The Outcome
When comparing 2023’s crop of ads to the previous year, we can see that John Lewis has retained their popularity crown, with Aldi once again coming in a fairly close second. Adsa and M&S have swapped places in 2023, but still come in the top four.
The rest of the top 10 is slightly less predictable, but it is mainly the usual suspects that pop up year after year.
So, with John Lewis once again topping the Christmas advert tree in 2023 on pretty much every front, despite (or perhaps partly because of) a later release date than many others, it leads us to wonder exactly what is the secret to the best Christmas ads over the years?
Popular Christmas advert characters over time
Characters are probably the most important part of retail Christmas adverts. They can have cross appeal to various demographics and help the audience make an emotional connection to a brand that you don’t often find at other times of the year.
We dug into the phenomenon that is Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot, back in 2021, and despite a small blip where M&S temporarily stole his Christmas cracker crown, he’s now back on the supermarket throne – stronger than ever. Aldi decided to stick with Kevin rather than giving up that year, bringing in various peripheral new supporting characters alongside him every year, and it’s definitely been a good call.
John Lewis, the unmatched leader of the pack for more than a decade, also leans heavily into characters for their highly successful ads, but they opt for a new one each year. From Buster the Boxer to Moz the Monster, The Man on the Moon and this year’s Snapper, the feisty plant, it’s all about the characters and their story.
It’s that blend of likeable characters and strong storytelling which mean that some brands seem to hit the mark year after year, while others tend to not quite reach the same heights.
However, you don’t need a huge budget to tell great stories about brilliant characters. Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen managed it just fine in 2023 with a smartphone camera and a few locals acting.
Retail Christmas adverts look like a trend that aren’t going away anytime soon. Whether or not they actually bring in a meaningful and direct ROI for their respective companies isn’t clear, but they certainly form an important part of brand building and positioning. Most importantly, consumers seem to love them, and look forward to them annually as almost a marker of the beginning of the festive period. As long as there is demand, there will be big budget festive adverts hitting screens near you every year.
Take a look at some of the No Brainer team’s favourite Christmas adverts of all time.