Simon Evans15/12/20

4 min read

Christmas 2020: A campaign build-up like no other


The Christmas advert has become quite the event over recent years with brands tapping into the festive feel-good factor.

Instead of product-led ads, and following in the footsteps of John Lewis, the big names have made us laugh or made us cry through short stories such as The Bear and The Hare.

And then along came 2020.

At the start of the year, early discussions about 2020 Christmas campaigns were likely around heart-warming stories of how people could still come together despite their formal union coming to an end.

Now, with us all being urged to keep well away from others, the Christmas campaigns have been influenced by covid with brands adopting quite different approaches.

A helping hand for charities

Marks and Spencer were one of the first big names to disclose their hand, announcing in early November that it was ready to donate at least £2million to a number of charities.

Nine celebrities, including Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy, being used for the store’s Christmas campaign have chosen three charities each to benefit from a £1m pot, which will also be shared among a further 10 charities selected by staff. 

A further £1m is then going to M&S’ 35 Sparks charities.

Sharry Cramond, marketing director at M&S Food, said: “This is not the year for advertising fairytales – our customers want this Christmas to be as special as possible but have told us that they want to know about the M&S Food must-haves and how we are supporting others.”

Major Christmas player, John Lewis (and Waitrose), has said they hope to raise £4m for the company’s chosen charities plus £1m for local charities. The charities will use donations to provide food, support and advice to families who need help this year.

In response to the pandemic, NHS Charities Together launched an appeal to support NHS staff and volunteers. Partners such as Marmite and Starbucks have pledged to donate a certain amount of the sale of limited-edition products during the Christmas build-up.

Here at Giant, we are supporting an inspirational young girl, called Sophia, who has faced a lifelong battle and requires a new wheelchair now that she is moving to her first years of adulthood. If you can help in any way then we’d be truly grateful.

Bringing a smile to our faces

Some big names have chosen to use a dose of humour to try to brighten up an otherwise sombre end of year.

Channel 4, which recently announced its new digital strategy in a bid to move away from a reliance on TV ad revenues, launched its first-ever Christmas campaign using some well-known - and not so famous - fairytale characters.

Beginning with Head Elf telling a diverse group of characters that Santa was considering cancelling Christmas this year, an argument breaks out between the likes of the Tooth Fairy, Cupid and the St Patrick’s Day Leprechaun before order is restored by the rather odd-looking Pancake Day Pancake.

The station says that the key message to be taken away is one of tolerance and being better when uniting...we’ll let you decide on whether it works.

Another brand choosing to use humour is Lidl, who have poked a bit of fun at the schmaltzy ads of Christmas past and written their own ditty which includes the line ‘We don’t need cutesy characters when carrots taste this good”.

Going for warm and fuzzy

While the taste of Lidl’s veg is their focus, budget competitor Aldi have chosen the cute route for their carrots. A family wait for their dad, Kevin, and he makes it back in time for Christmas thanks to a combination of a hedgehog and Santa.

Another major brand going for the more traditional approach is O2, whose advert features a girl ice-skating with a robot. The pair end up enjoying a movie on Disney+, a free membership to the streaming service being provided as an incentive to sign up to O2.

Snoop joins the festive fun

The Tesco and Sainsbury’s adverts have worked neatly but we’re going to finish with something completely different.

Food delivery service, Just Eat, has had a big year thanks to the increased time spent at home and they’ve rolled out Snoop again to provide the lyrics for their Doggy Dogg Christmas advert.


The creative forces are particularly strong in the Christmas build-up and this year has been no different. What has changed, though, is the execution. Brands have chosen a variety of approaches - from supporting charities to telling stories of helpful hedgehogs or sticking with their branded musical mutts.

Great marketing has often been driven by great ideas and this year the range has been broader than we’ve ever seen.

Creativity comes in different forms and we hope that this sparks a few ideas for your big campaigns of 2021.