Battle for Time: Top Holiday Ad Campaigns for 2016

November 23, 2016 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai


As Canadians, winter holds a special place in our hearts.

After all, we work best during sub-zero temperatures, glide over snow like it’s nothing and know that it’s the only other true season that we get other than construction.

What makes it extra special is that it signifies the holidays.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, the general theme comes down to taking the time to think about what matters most in our busy lives.

Family dinners. Traditions with friends. The exchanging of well-wishes and special surprises.

All these little things make us warm and fuzzy on the inside despite us cursing at the mercury rating.

It’s also the time, however, for brands to really realize what they believe in (and it better be more than their products).

These are our favourite holiday campaigns of 2016, so far.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

1. Frankie’s Holiday – Apple

While there is definitely a not-so-subtle product placement just five seconds in, we love the quirkiness of this video.

At the first look, it might be confusing as to why Frankenstein is the choice protagonist. AdWeek explained it perfectly: while most Christmas ads focus on spending time with friends and family, there are those who might not have very many of either.

Someone pass the tissues.

Winning the Battle for Time has a lot to do with the content that stands out from everything else.

Especially during a time of year where people get quickly overwhelmed and annoyed with the persistent berating of holiday jingles, it’s refreshing to see stuff that doesn’t run along the same vein as everything else out there.

After all, what would the holidays be without adding some light to the darkness?

Disclaimer: we really don’t get why Brad Garrett is playing Frankie. It’s fine and all, but technically anyone could have done it minus the big star name.

2. The Greatest Gift – Sainsbury’s

Okay first off: do you know how long it takes to make a stop-motion animation? A really, really long time.

So while we sit here and press repeat to ogle at the marvellous creative work, we want you to also take note of the types of things included in the ad: multicultural characters, ranging in age, body size, gender and even sexual orientation.

Face it. We like to say it’s 2016 and that type of stuff isn’t shocking anymore. But the truth is, people still can’t wrap their small heads around themes of social and cultural belonging.

Here we have a brand openly showing how they perceive the world around them. And hey, it’s pretty accurate considering the average typecasts we see.

Since the holidays are a time for big business, there’s no better opportunity to see how a brand perceives its place in the world around it.

3. A Priest and Imam Meet for a Cup of Tea – Amazon

Speaking of hitting bigger picture ideas, Amazon is taking a stab at warm-hearted politics.

We’ve already given enough airtime to the US election, but the reality is, its results are sending shockwaves through our world.

It’s changing how we address racial and religious inclusion, women’s rights, the power of the top 1% and more.

So, what better time than for Amazon to express its bigger brand belief that the joy in sharing with others at the click of a button has the ability to break down barriers? (We wrote that ourselves, but we think it’s pretty reflective).

It’s a video that breaks down preconceived notions about the barriers between Christianity and Islam in a sweet 1 minute, 20 seconds.

It’s a great reminder to rise above and accept those around you.

4. Coming Home for Christmas – Heathrow Airport

Christmas with Love from Mrs. Claus – M&S

We’re putting these two together because they are both the classic warm and fuzzy holiday themes that we all love to love, but with little twists.

In the first one, we have teddies that are grandparents. In the second, we have a new spin on the traditional character and role of Mrs. Claus.

These are what we like to call great narratives. It’s important for brands to show off their storytelling chops because it’s a more impactful way of showing off the brand.

Whether it’s the classic family reunion or a reinterpretation of a familiar role, the traditional ad doesn’t sit right. It’s too much pitch-slap, not enough weight behind the message.

Storytelling is the oldest form of communication. That sentence in itself should explain why it’s a powerful art.

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, we all hope you take the time to remember and share the important stuff. A lot of stuff in life (yes, even in that of a business) is trivial when it’s compared to the bigger picture.

(And yes, we know it’s November. But come on, you know how the industry works with holiday timing).

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

People used to vote with their wallets. Now they vote with their time. Battle for Time, curated by The Tite Group, recaps what’s winning our minutes every week, from business to current events and everything in between. The rule of thumb for the winners? Make quality content that people need and want.

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