By Flora Dallas

The year is drawing to a close, marking one of the most exciting events of the marketing calendar – the release of Christmas adverts. Companies across the UK invest a serious amount of time and money in perfecting these much-anticipated ads (Sainsburys began planning theirs last January). And little wonder, Christmas ads create a consumer buzz that is hard to come by the rest of year – think of it this way: can you remember John Lewis’ BAU ads from the last five years? Yes; glitzy, all singing, all dancing TV ads have become an essential part of British Christmas culture. However, from a marketing perspective, they represent more than just the nation’s festive furore, they are also symptomatic of a wider industry trend: TV first.

Back to blog home

The Problem

This is perhaps nothing new. TV has reigned supreme for decades, but in a digital era – when the average Briton spends 24 hours a week online (Ofcom) – it’s becoming problematic. Of course, the industry has noted this trend some time ago, taking a digital marketing spend into account alongside television. Yet, too often, the ghost of the old days persists with businesses merely shortening or resequencing their TV creative to fit digital formats. This approach is what media theorist, Marshall McLuhan, referred to as ‘driving into the future using only your rear-view mirror’. In other words, approaching new platforms with only a vision of the old in mind, and failing to appreciate the new platform’s features and advantages in the process.

What use is an ad concept tied together by the soundtrack (as John Lewis’, Amazon’s and Boots’ Christmas ads are) on Facebook, for example, when 85% of users watch videos with no sound on? In order to make the most of all marketing platforms, it’s imperative we start to appreciate them as platforms worthy of their own creatives – not the rehashed cast offs of others.

The Creative Solution

At Merkle, our Creative Team has been resolving this issue with a process called Digital Translation. It involves taking a main TV concept (whether our own or a collaborating agency’s) and concepting new assets for the main TV shoot specifically for digital platforms. In this way, we can build a fully optimised digital campaign from scratch that complements the main TV creative.

How this works in practice?

Case study

In the summer, long-standing client Legal & General on-boarded us to digitally optimise their September Life Insurance TV campaign ‘Protect your little monsters’, led by in-house agency OLIVER.

The original ad concept:

A playful campaign centred on two children dressed as monsters jumping out and scaring their mum. It ended on a poignant moment where the mother glances up at a photo of the whole family, who are now missing their father, giving the positive message that family life can go on with Life Insurance.  

Effective though this message was, the entire sequence was too long to perform well on a YouTube ad that’s skippable after 5 seconds. So, we devised an alternative on-theme scene specifically for YouTube.

The digital ad concept:

A shot of the children jumping out and to scare the camera instead of the mother.

It was instantly attention grabbing and complemented the original creative – qualities that also made it suitable for remarketing creatives on social and digital ads.

Alongside this, our Art Director worked on the set shoot in collaboration with OLIVER to ensure that some stills and cinemagraphs were captured specifically for use in dynamic display banners and social ads respectively.

The Results

Overall, the results reflected the value of a digital first approach; shooting a YouTube asset that was highly engaging from the outset meant that we saw the view through rate (VTR) after the first 5 seconds increase from 25% to 39% year on year, with a best in class uplift for brand consideration in financial services. Likewise, we saw VTR increase by 123% for assets shot specifically for Social (compared to January 2018). Ultimately, the video campaign received 3.1m views over September and October, with the traffic campaign driving 68,000 clicks to site during the same period.

Key Takeaways

The survival of a good story depends often, not on the content, but how the story is told. The same holds true with Christmas ads, if you want your brand’s story to resonate with your audience – to be liked, shared and ultimately remembered – then make sure it’s optimised for the platform you are displaying it on. They are your storytellers after all. 

Share this article