Merry Christmas!

While most of us are enjoying a Summer of sport, planning hols in hot climes or drinking Pimms, some of us are thinking of Christmas.

If you work on a retail account, a tech brand or a fashion label, chances are that your festive campaign planning is now in full swing.  In fact, as the nights are now drawing in, it’s quite possible that your creative work as has already been produced and is just being adjusted for the correct level of tinsel.

As such, you won’t be musing on England’s World Cup exit but one of life’s other great conundrums – how to create a campaign that feels Christmassy, without being generic or cheesy.

Of course, in recent years, this perennial challenge has got even trickier, thanks to the phenomenon that is Adam & Eve’s John Lewis campaign.  While some industry insiders quibble over the merits of recent executions (mostly, I’ve noticed, people who know very little about effective communications) the campaign’s place in the nation’s hearts remains unchanged.  And for all other agencies, trying to create something fresh, it casts a long shadow.

In recent years, many brands have tried to emulate the campaign, but have ended up looking like pale imitations.  Emotional storylines, tinkling piano tracks and haunting voices have simply melted away into the Christmas snow.  Or, all too often, turned to slush.

But one retailer has prospered by following its own star.  Like many, I was really pleased to see Harvey Nichols win a double Grand Prix at Cannes last week. Despite (or perhaps because of?) being another Adam & Eve client, it has resisted the temptation to “do a John Lewis”. Instead, it has offered its own view on Christmas, that ticks off all the festive boxes (gifting, family gathering, trees and decorations), while simultaneously subverting all the rules.

Importantly though, what both John Lewis and Harvey Nichols teach us, is not just how to do great Christmas advertising.  But the value of holding a strong opinion and having confidence in your brand’s voice, year-round.  Once you have that, your “take” on the festive period (or any other event) should come much more easily.

The only snag, if you’re reading this now,  is that the Summer’s far too late to be working all that out.  So pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and make a New Year’s resolution to start earlier next time.  And in the meantime, the whole of London should wish a Merry Christmas to the all-conquering team at Bishop’s Bridge Road.

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