Click to enlarge.
It comes as no surprise that the latest House of Fraser Christmas ad was described as the “antidote to the festive fuzzy norm”. The store’s campaign, titled ‘Your Christmas Your Rules’, aims to challenge traditional notions of Christmas and pays tribute to a sense of rebellion, of abundance of style, of unapologetic fierceness.
With its elaborate hip-hop dance routines choreographed by Parris Goebel, who has worked with the likes of Beyonce and Justin Bieber, and its mixture of punk, plaid, pastel and over-the-top eyeliner, it is perhaps one of the least ‘Christmass-y’ ads of the year, but it certainly is eye-catching. I find it somewhat a breath of fresh air in the general moppiness of the John Lewis’ patented seasonal ad recipe (which I will write about in another post), but for some of the more traditional festive cheerers this may come across as a little too different and a little too out of tune with the rest – which after all is exactly what the campaign aimed to do.
House of Fraser’s director of brand and creative, Tony Holdway, explained: ‘This time of year is all about inspiring our customers to curate their own fashionable and bespoke Christmas, free from stress and brimming with ideas and individuality. Challenging the norm is exactly what we’ve tried to capture in this year’s multi-channel campaign and we hope it will encourage people to think far more openly and creatively this festive season. I think it’s a campaign like no other.’
Anna Carpen, creative director at 18 Feet & Rising, the agency that created the campaign, added that the campaign is not to be taken as anti-festive, but simply as something to ‘cut through the usual jingle bells’.
House of Fraser wasn’t the only one this year to try and stir away from the John Lewis’s heart-tugging formula, with brands such as Marks & Spencer, Coach and Mulberry all preferring to inject a bit of humour and festive energy. What’s yet to be seen is which of the two directions will generate more sales.
Click here to read my post on Burberry’s 2015 Christmas campaign, which celebrates Britishness and pays homage to Billy Elliot in its 15th-year anniversary.
Something I have had the chance to learn during my time at uni so far is that the way brands promote themselves changes not only from label to label, but also throughout the decades. There is always more to a brand than just a logo, or just a signature item, or just a name: all of these elements and more make up what we could define a brand “menu”, a sort of equation, which, when carried out well, is what will make that brand surface among all the rest and stand out on its own.
But it is the public which defines which part of this mix should have the most focus, which over time has dictated what card brands have been playing the most. For example, in the 50s and 60s a signature and a crest were what made the world go round (think Schiaparelli), in the 70s and 80s a monogram logo (think Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana), in the 90s and 2000s a dominant colour or pattern (Burberry check anyone?). And so on.
Nowadays, people have grown bored of all this. Probably because of the huge amount of information we are constantly exposed to, the multitude of products available to us in the matter of a click, the millions of new brands that try to essentially sell us the same old product and have to find a new way to present it. There are fewer and fewer amazing inventions that change our everyday life dramatically (one could argue that there are none), so it isn’t about selling the product anymore, so much as it about selling an idea, a way of life, a value. If you pay attention you will notice that hardly any TV ad focuses on the product they’re selling anymore: they tell you a story, be it about romance, about family, about trust, about freedom, about luxury – and then feature the actual product maybe at the very end.
Which is what leads me to write about Christmas ads.
Christmas ads I believe are a perfect example of this phenomenon. It is a time of the year in which almost all brands gather their creative teams to come up with a new, compelling campaign that will draw customers towards their stores for their Christmas shopping. So, what do they try and appeal to? What aspect of the consumers’ minds and souls will they attempt to communicate to? Which need will they convince you that they alone can fulfill?
I will begin with Burberry’s campaign, if solely because it was the winner at the British Fashion Awards for the category Creative Campaign.
The running theme is a celebration of Britishness (as portrayed by so many British stars to make up a whole constellation) and an homage to Billy Elliot, a British cinematic classic, recreating the film’s opening scene to mark the 15th anniversary of its release. This is clearly consistent with Burberry’s message of quintessential British heritage and tradition.
‘Billy Elliot is an incredible film full of so much joy and energy, so it was a real thrill and a great honour to be able to celebrate its 15 year anniversary through our festive campaign,’ said Christopher Bailey, Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer. ‘It was also a huge privilege to work with such amazing and iconic British talent – the cast are quite simply some of the biggest names in film, music and fashion and it was so much fun working with them all to make this special film’.
In it, 12-year-old Romeo Beckham, who was also the face of their last year’s Festive campaign, sports a classic Burberry-check scarf in red as he jumps up and down on a trampoline. He is soon joined by a dazzlingly British cast, featuring the likes of Julie Walters (who starred in the 1990 film), Sir Elton John (who wrote the music for the staged musical), Naomi Campbell, George Ezra and James Corden – all wearing some kind of Burberry trademark (Julie’s scarf has even got her initials sewn on the back). Following the music (‘Cosmic Dancer’ by T. Rex, from the movie’s original soundtrack) the ad ends with a firework-like explosion of glitter and confetti which just brings the audience back to what this was all about in the first place – Christmas time! Or, as they prefer to word it, general festiveness and celebratory feel, as the brand made it a point to call it a Festive campaign, and not a Christmas campaign, in order to include those who do not celebrate the Christian holiday.
On top of all this, the campaign aims to make a charitable, philantropic gesture, in pure Christmas spirit. Quoting from the Vogue website:
The original production of Billy Elliot established a legacy of charitable support for the local community of Easington, County Durham where the film is set. Inspired by this, Burberry is making a donation of £500,000 to be split between two charities, Place2Be and the County Durham Community Foundation, which have projects focusing on reducing barriers to education, training and employment in the local area. None of the stars who took part in the film were paid for their involvement, all choosing to donate their fee to the charities as well.
My first thought watching the ad was, how are they keeping such straight faces and badass poses while being thrown into the air by a trampoline?! And my second thought was – I wanna join them!
What do you think of this ad? Do you love it or hate it? I will be writing about a few other Christmas campaigns that have caught my attention, so stay tuned if you want to read some more about it!