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Sainsbury’s secures number one spot in top 10 Christmas ad rankings

Sainsbury’s has decisively taken the top spot in Mediaocean’s fourth annual Top 10 Christmas Ad Rankings, while Amazon and LEGO broke into the top ten for the first time.

Sainsbury’s Secures number one spot in Top 10 Christmas Ad Rankings

Using artificial intelligence to analyse millions of engagements with public social media posts across Facebook and Twitter, Mediaocean can reveal which of this year’s crop of Christmas adverts generated the most social conversation in the two minutes following the start of each time an advert is aired on TV – and how people really feel about them – between 1st November and 21st November 2020.

The rankings provide insight into the sentiment of the ads by consumers and demonstrate true brand engagement versus meaningless eyeballs/views or responses to surveys.

Analysing 3,613,230 engagements in social media posts, they found that Sainsbury’s 2020 effort was far and away the biggest conversation starter this year, while M&S and LEGO both scored highly on positive sentiment.

Other key findings include:

  • John Lewis dropping seven places to the number ten spot

  • Supermarkets once again dominating the top five

  • Average top-ten sentiment up to 86%, compared to 64% in 2019

Supermarkets take the reins

The Sainsbury’s campaign – Gravy Song, themed around phone calls between family members excited to reunite for Christmas, increased social media engagement with the brand by an average of 216%, giving it by far the highest ‘social lift’ of any advert this year – or indeed any Christmas advert in the past 4 years. The TV spot taps into the long-distance experience of family relationships many have had this year with a hopeful and optimistic look at Christmas.

In fact, supermarkets dominated the top five, with Morrisons coming in second for the second year in a row with its own vision of families reuniting. Lidl’s musical once again made it into the top ten – for the fourth year in a row – with an advert undercutting their competitors’ emotional appeals with a focus on price and quality.

Viewers respond well to messages of joy in tough times

LEGO and their ad ‘and I think to myself’ entered the top ten for the first time, scoring ninth in social lift but topping the chart for sentiment, with a 94% positive reaction, just ahead of M&S’s Olivia Colman-narrated ‘food porn’ approach. LEGO’s rewriting of Louis Armstrong’s classic ‘What a Wonderful World’ as ‘That’s a Pretty Cool World’ bucked the trend this year by focusing on comedy and chaos over sentimentality.

Across the board, however, Mediaocean found highly positive sentiment in a context where people are keen for the joy of Christmas, with an average sentiment of 86%, compared to 64% in 2019.

Aaron Goldman, CMO at Mediaocean, comments, “This year’s Christmas ad season has obviously presented brands with a unique challenge – and a unique opportunity. After the most socially disrupted year in most people’s living memory, millions are looking forward to the holiday period as a respite from the gloom, where they can reconnect with what matters most to them. In response, we have seen brands bring that Christmas spirit to people early with the majority bringing forward their campaigns by more than three weeks. And it’s unsurprising that a lot of the top-performing ads are tapping into sentimentality more than ever, from John Lewis’s mixed-style journey of kindness to Sainsburys’ family phone calls.”

John Lewis’s own advert, which is often considered the most hotly-anticipated of the season, snuck in at number ten in this year’s rankings. Its story of small acts of kindness, told through a kaleidoscope of different art styles, was well-received but didn’t generate the same buzz as 2019’s ‘Excitable Edgar’ spot, with a 59% boost this year comparing to 122% last year.

Meanwhile, key competitor, M&S, continued a long-running theme of extreme close-ups of food with luxurious narration, this year provided by Olivia Colman (star of the latest season of The Crown released this month) for a fee to be donated to her preferred charitable causes. With the third highest social lift of 2020 and extremely positive sentiment, this product-focused approach seems to have gone down better than other storytelling styles this year.

The Ho Ho Holy Grail

Continued Goldman, “Of course, generating attention is one thing – but you need that attention to be positive. Measuring marketing effectiveness is about measuring what people are saying or doing as much as it is about measuring whether they’re saying it. Our ‘Mediaocean Ad Impact Barometer’ showcases that the majority of the brands got it right this year by resonating with consumers and also being enticing. While Sainsbury’s clearly knocked it out of the park this year, I think we have to look at M&S and LEGO as big winners, too. M&S’s laser focus on their core appeal of food that makes you feel special clearly resonated with viewers in a big way, while LEGO’s humour and inventiveness will have been refreshing to people seeing lots of emotionally-charged advertising on TV.”


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