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Christmas. The World’s First Global Campaign?

Posted on December 7, 2011 and read 2,618 times

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kamo Christmas. The Worlds First Global Campaign?Kamogelo Sesing
Creative Group Head

Aaahhh, Christmas. That time of the year when we’re all expected to be happy when the truth of the matter is that deep down you’d rather slit your own wrists than listen to your drunk uncle desecrating Boney M songs.

Personally I don’t like this time of year. Wherever you go, the festive mood is being shoved down your throat – tinsel in offices, Christmas lights on main roads, midgets in elf costumes and of course, the horrendous Christmas ads currently plaguing our TV screens.

It may be because I used to work in a retail agency that I hate the kind of advertising the season brings, rather than the actual festivities themselves. See, when I was at this retail agency, this was our busiest time of the year as ‘the annual Christmas campaign’ would have just kicked in. One of the reasons I left that agency was because we produced a lot of drab throughout the year, but none more so than during the Christmas season. The kind of work so bad that when you ran into your industry counterparts at monthly gatherings like “Ad of the Month,” you’d try to avoid them in case they asked if you did that campaign. To which, of course, you would reply, “No, the new team did that crud.”

Here’s the thing: I fundamentally disagreed with how we generally communicated during this time of year and I still do.

My theory is and has always been simple; Christmas is a happy time of year, a time for family and friends and laughter. These are strong human feelings, qualities and desires. Those who don’t have family or many friends to laugh with, desire to, while those who do have them look forward to the time spent together. Basically, there are really strong emotional connotations attached to Christmas. So if we are to assume this, why then would an advertiser think that a theme like “Crazy Christmas” or “Festive Frenzy” would strike a chord? Surely if people are feeling a certain way around a particular time of year, the smart thing to do would be to tap into that emotional space they find themselves in and cleverly leverage it to your benefit. Hook them with something that resonates and connects before you sell them a single thing. It’s Christmas, not a clearance sale. Catch people’s hearts and the cents and pennies will take care of themselves. The latest John Lewis Christmas commercial is a great example of this. They could sell me a wet dog right now and I’d buy it.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Unfortunately, most of the Christmas campaigns I see, not only in South Africa, but globally as well, do the direct opposite. They’re too heavily reliant on product and price, and so year after year we see the same old, “This Christmas the last thing you want is to run out of ice, why not get him a Mac & Tac Ice-Maker for a cool R560?”

Now, you might be wondering, “Why would they sell ice during Christmas?” Well, this is Africa. Our festive season is during summer. Which leads me to my next and probably more important point.

Who decided that the entire world would enjoy Christmas on the same date? I only ask because for years now I’ve been seeing ads on our screens and papers using Christmas visual cues that make little sense in this market. Things like falling snowflakes, reindeer and of course Santa himself.

South Africa is a country with 11 languages and about as many ethnic groups. Throughout the year marketers seek out cultural insights, nuances and traditions they can leverage so as to create relevant communication for our diverse nation, but the minute Christmas rolls around, we adopt a one-size-fits-all approach using festive traditions and cues that are not ours.

I’d like to see how long Santa would last walking around in 34-degree African heat wearing that thick costume. I’d also like to know exactly how he plans on getting in our houses when we don’t have chimneys? Is he going to pick our locks and walk through the front door? Not in this country. His porky ass will get shot. Yes, I exaggerate, but only to show how ridiculous some of the traditionally American and European Christmas cues are in this region, yet retailers continue to use them.

We don’t get even an ounce of snow here during the festive season, yet there it is in our ads. We don’t have reindeer, yet there go Prancer, Dancer and Blitzen in our ads.

I realize that we live in global community and there is an internationally recognizable “look and feel” for Christmas but I think we also need to recognize the value of market relevance.

A South African Christmas is about beaches, parties and braais (barbeques) with friends and family. It’s about stories of breadwinners who’ve been working in cities like Johannesburg, now going back home to the rural areas to spend the season with their loved ones. Unfortunately, the only advertisers who seem to be getting this right are the cell phone networks. Their success lies in their ability to reflect the truth about the landscape they find themselves in. This in turn resonates with consumers because they’re seeing an accurate portrayal of what they know Christmas to be.

So to them I say “thank you” for saving us from the grossly off-the-mark tinsel-laden Christmas drab the major retailers seem to have no problem subjecting us to year after year.

I think it’s safe to say that Christmas has been “a very successful global campaign” but the time has now come for each region to determine what the season, and thus the campaign, becomes for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Simply brilliant. The music has a melancholy quality that transports the listener to a very different time and place. Is that a good thing?
    The end result was unexpected, the message was insightful and the sales results—let’s hope John Lewis finds something in their stocking after the Christmas rush. 

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