See all Blog posts

How ‘shoppable’ are the UK’s holiday ads this year? Let’s find out.

Gift Face, Man on the Moon: UK retailers got creative for 2015's Christmas adverts. Here we rate them for shop-ability including John Lewis & Net-a-Porter.
How ‘shoppable’ are the UK’s holiday ads this year? Let’s find out. | EDITED

In the UK, retailers’ Christmas adverts are a huge deal. They’re beautifully produced, big-budgeted affairs that are often two sweet spoonfuls of sentimentality (hi, John Lewis) and one spoonful of ‘here are some gifts you should buy’. They’re also a wonderful and iconic part of the UK’s holiday tradition. In fact, many Brits recall Christmases past not by the time they spent with family, but by the theme of the year’s best videos. We kid… sort of. Really, whose cheeks aren’t still a little damp after last year’s ‘penguin Christmas’? And who can forget 2013’s Hare & Bear? (It rhymed!)  They’re not all tear-jerkers, some are humorous, whimsical or even downright ridiculous. But they all play a giant role in communicating seasonal themes, trends and products.

Here we assess the commercial pros and cons of this year’s finest. We’re rating the videos not just on the their content, but how shoppable they are. This means whether featured products are available in stock and easy to find.

1. John Lewis

Launched: Television: Nov 6. Featured on retailer’s homepage: Nov 7.

Pros: Bow down at the feet of the Christmas video masters. These guys (plus one agency) know how to tell a story that yanks at the heartstrings of the British public all humanity. First up, the video promotes a charity: Age UK. Viewers can text donations, donate in stores and through purchase of merchandise. They’ve also got an augmented reality app. Customers can point phones at the ‘man on the moon’ image on posters and shopping bags to unlock content. This is a fully realized omni-channel experience. In store, online, mobile, it’s all been given expert attention. 

And then there’s the merchandise. There are 72 ‘man on the moon’ products, of which only eight are out of stock. Moon boots, printed childrenswear, moon-related toys and learning games, chocs, star-print accessories, telescopes (seen in advert) and globes. Only two of these items are seen in the video, but it doesn’t matter. John Lewis will create a trend with this theme. 

Watch this space, @johnlewisretail will create a trend with their ‘man on the moon’ merchandise.

The emphasis on nightwear is also spot on, given the timing of release. November sees a lift in pyjama and nightwear sales as the nights draw in and weather cools.

Cons: Um… It cost £7 million? But look at it! Watch it again. Sob. 

2. Harvey Nichols

Launched Teased on Twitter: Nov 7 . Released everywhere: Nov 9.

Pros: There’s a lot to like about this. First, they coined an expression: ‘gift face’. That’s “the contortion of one’s face when feigning excitement, happiness or gratitude for a terrible, terrible Christmas gift.” This humorous tack is brilliantly on brand for the retailer’s quirky character. It’s also perfectly reflected in their merchandise with lots of fun pop-art and kitsch accessories e.g. the Moschino Flash bottle iPhone case. We also love that the online content directs shoppers to ‘Giftologists’ – tweetable gifting experts! That’s a second word Harvey Nichols can lay claim to this season!

The video itself links to an online Christmas boutique which is easy to use and full of inspiration. Five products flash up at the end of the video, of those, two are still in stock, the whiskey and the Fendi sunglasses (which arrived mid-October).

ConsThree of the five products at the end of the video aren’t shoppable. The Stella McCartney silver chain bag is in stock, but is not linked in their Christmas gift edits. The gold sandals aren’t in stock and have never been online; the doll isn’t online either. Harvey Nichols has also tweeted the same campaign link, here, many times. That’s a shame because with a campaign this characterful, there are lots of directions to take it in.

3. Net-a-Porter

Launched: YouTube: Nov 2. Newsletter and Instagram: Nov 3.

Pros: Net-a-Porter was first out of the gates, releasing its video earlier than John Lewis, which owns this space! The video features beautiful storytelling appropriate to a luxury retailer. The peek behind-the-scenes, albeit fictional, creates a wonderful relationship and creates a strong desire to shop with the retailer rather than going brand-direct. They’ve incorporated just the right amount of ‘ye-olde yesteryear’ flourishes which people love this time of year. The origami butterfly which turns into a Richard James pocket square is featured in the men’s gift edit and is still in stock.

Cons: The online gift edit lets you filter by designer, color and size, but not by category. That makes it tricky to find a dress or pair of shoes you might have spotted in the video. Furthermore, the featured Valentino two-tone wool canvas gown seen on the floating personal shopper isn’t linked in gift edits. It’s there on the site in two sizes, one of which is already sold out. 

4. Marks & Spencer

Launched: Newsletter & social media: Nov 6. Television: Nov 8.

ProsThe food features – it’s been a strength for the retailer when fashion has struggled. Childrenswear, toys and nightwear are also a focus. In all, we counted 93 shoppable items, so it directs shoppers to a broad range of merchandise. And the majority of it is in stock. The faux-leather leggings on the dancers have sold well already. They arrived in stock the day the video came out and were out of stock in five sizes by the end of weekend. Since then they’ve been restocked and sold through in 4 sizes again. There’s a satin lace camisole & short pyjama set which is also featured on dancers. Those sold well back in August, so it was wise for M&S to bring them back for the gifting season.

Faux leather leggings on dancers in @marksandspencer holiday vid sold out twice in majority of sizes.

Cons: In a bid to be ‘digital’, M&S have come off a little cold. And it looks a bit like a Drake video. M&S shoppers head to its stores for quality over price. A less product-laden video with more sentimentality might have tugged at the family heartstrings at little more. 

5. House of Fraser

Launched: Newsletter & Instagram: Nov 16. Television: Nov 18.

Pros:  We like that they shared the video with their loyal customers/insiders first. Also that it’s packed with a variety of products across men’s, women’s, kids’, homewares and cookwares. The supporting content online is strong, including articles like ‘how to personalize your jacket’ (the video features embellished-back jackets) and how-to guides for the festive nails.

It’s also wise to have featured biker jackets, a hugely successful retail trend. HoF dropped 57 new biker style pieces of outerwear in the month leading up to the video’s release, bringing their total available to 116. They span wide price points too, $37.89 to $803.28, showing this to be a strong category for the retailer. The video features exclusive HoF products like the Helen Moore Vixen dipped long faux-fur scarf. At $147.00 there were only 11 left in stock the day after the Instagram release and the day before the TV launch.

Cons: The video doesn’t link to HoF’s gift edit at the end! There were also key products not in stock online when video was released. For example, customers searching online for those cute antler hair slides, which will be a sell out, are directed to a (comprehensive) selection of Antler luggage. Probably not what they’re after.

There’s a total of 75 shoppable items in the gift edit, but 63% of featured products are already reduced. That includes the striking Adriana Papell floral evening dress from the opening scene, which is reduced by 30%. It was featured in a newsletter promoting reductions before the Christmas video was released. Retailers should be looking to optimize the attention on their holiday campaigns by featuring full-priced items with good margins.