Mark of a great TV advert?

Christmas treeAs it is the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of the 21st century, we thought we’d mark the occasion with another blog post.  Just in case the Mayan calendar is correct and the world ends on the Friday, 21 December and we don’t have time before then to pen another post.

We wrote an article last month that looked at Christmas TV ads and one of 2012’s festive offerings has been hitting the headlines over the past week.  John Lewis pulled off another great piece of storytelling this year with its Snowman setting off to buy the perfect present to keep his Snow-lady warm.  And six weeks after first airing it is still filling column inches and sparking debate.  So does it deserve a place alongside Guinness’ Horses and Surfers, Smash’s Martians, BT’s ‘Ology’ and The Yellow Page’s JR Hartley in the UK TV advert hall of fame?

Top of the hit parade

It is not often that the sound track from a TV advert reaches the number one spot in the UK singles chart solely as a result of being used in a campaign.  That however is what has happened to the soundtrack of John Lewis’ Christmas advert.  The retailer very cleverly spotted the potential of Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of the 1984 Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit ‘The Power of Love’ and released it as a single and on Sunday (9th December) it reached to the top of the charts.

The haunting reworking of the classic is the 20-year-old Indie-folk singer’s first number one and also the first number one music hit for the high street chain.  It has previously released the soundtracks to its festive campaigns as singles, but they’ve not had the success that this year’s one has.  ‘The Power of Love’ is being tipped as a Christmas number one, but it will have to do battle with this year’s X-Factor winner, James Arthur.  His single, ‘Impossible’, is on track to be the fastest-selling debut single of any X-Factor winner and sold 187,000 copies by midnight on Monday – just over 24 hours after he won the show.  The fight for the festive top spot then could be a close run thing.

Called The Journey, the John Lewis advert has been viewed on YouTube more than 2.6million times, while Gabrielle Aplin’s single has clocked up more than 3million views on the video sharing site.

Defying gender stereotyping

The yuletide campaigns from Asda and Morrison’s were both criticised for being sexist and saw complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority by disgruntled viewers.  Some people, though, have been irked by the John Lewis advert, saying it doesn’t truly reflect Christmas shopping patterns because it is the females who do all the shopping.  If it was to truly reflect men’s mad Christmas Eve dash round the stores then the Snowman wouldn’t make it back in time for Christmas Day and his Snow-wife would be left to brave the elements on her tod, watched by some unhappy children.

Amusing follow-up

If the gender stereotyping is to be believed, and followed, then on Christmas Day the Snow-wife would smile and say thank you to the Snowman, before asking if he’d kept the receipt so she could return.  And it is this idea that has sparked some chatter online.  It is being claimed that John Lewis will follow up on its pre-Christmas blockbuster with an inspired Boxing Day sequel that promotes the store’s returns policy.  The advert will of course be vying for our attention alongside the plethora of TV adverts that appear on Christmas Day and Boxing Day from furniture stores and Next promoting the huge discounts to be had in their sales.

Sources claim that the Snow-lady will set off on her own journey across the fields to ‘Two Tribes’ – another Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit – in order to exchange the hat, scarf and gloves for a Kenwood ice cream maker, which she really wanted.  Are the rumours true?  We’ll have to wait until Boxing Day to find out!  You can read more about the rumours here.

Sincerest form of flattery

Perhaps the strongest acknowledgement that an advert is a success is when it is imitated by another brand.  Aldi has jumped on the John Lewis Snowman bandwagon with a parody of The Journey in its latest Christmas advert.  Featuring a cake decoration Snowman and Snow-lady sitting atop a Christmas cake extolling the virtues of an own brand bottle of champagne compared to a premium version, it pokes fun at the high street retailer’s 90-second campaign.  In addition, Aldi’s 20-second advert injects some humour by suggesting that the Snow-wife wasn’t very impressed by her husband’s choice of present, adding further fuel to the Boxing Day campaign rumours.

Is it a great ad then?

Well, six weeks on from its first airing the advert is still being talked about; the sound track has reached number one; it has sparked plenty of debate about the shopping patterns of different sexes; created plenty of online chatter, including rumours of a follow-up; and is being mimicked by others.  So if it has achieved all that, in addition to being beautifully and creatively shot, then here at Innes Associates we think it deserves a place in the TV advertising hall of fame.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Finally, just to confirm and put you at ease, governments around the globe have issued statements verifying the world won’t cease to exist on Saturday, 22 December.  Further reassurance comes from Mayan expert Leonzo Barreno of Saskatchewan, Canada, who in a Daily Mail article stated that it just marks the start of a new Mayan calendar and not the end of life was we know it.  So we can all sleep well on the winter solstice in the knowledge that our surroundings won’t look any different when we wake from our slumber on the 22nd.


Sending Christmas Cards

100_5817_1The tree may not yet be up, but the next stage of Christmas is well under way here at Innes Associates – the task of sending out Christmas cards.  As writer’s cramp has set in, we thought we’d rest the pen for a moment and give our fingers a workout on the keyboard by investigating the tradition of festive card giving.


The tradition of sending good wishes goes back many centuries.  There is evidence of printed cards being produced in Germany in the 14th century, where images were carved onto wooden blocks that were then covered in ink and used to print on paper.

Sir Henry Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending a greetings card at Christmas.  The first Christmas card was illustrated in May 1843 by John Callcott Horsley.  The picture, a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial.  Two batches of 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each, which in Victorian times wasn’t cheap.

However, the idea caught on and children – including Queen Victoria’s – were encouraged, Blue Peter style, to make their own Christmas cards.  The early Victorian era also saw industrial colour printing technology becoming more advanced, meaning the cost of producing cards dropped significantly.  Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off.  By the end of the 1880s sending cards had become very popular, creating an industry that in 1880 produced 11.5million cards.

The advent of postcards spelt the end of elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, the popularity of cards with envelopes was on the rise.  Modern technology has also had a go at killing off the Christmas card.  The internet and e-mail has led to the introduction of e-cards and many companies, and individuals, now plump for this option at Christmas.

E-cards versus real cards

Over the next few weeks your inbox will be pinging to the sound of many e-cards arriving and then entertaining you with static content or an all singing all dancing festive production featuring Santa Claus and Rudolf.  But once you’ve enjoyed it, you’ll probably hit delete and consign the sender’s yuletide wishes to the digital recycling bin.

Instead why not let the festive cheer that you send out remain around the recipient’s office for more than a few minutes?  Over the years at Innes Associates we have posted charity cards and sent e-cards, but this year we’ve gone for the custom-designed card that follows the style of our brochure.  They’ll be hitting the bottom of a post box in the next few days, before starting their journey to the offices of our clients, suppliers and contacts.  Instead of the ping of the incoming e-card, our recipients will enjoy the thud of a real card landing on their doormat or desk that will, hopefully, take pride of place for many weeks.  They might even think about us when they take their cards down in the New Year.

With more e-mails being sent by companies – some legitimate and informative, others just downright annoying – our inboxes are becoming clogged up.  Whereas if something arrives through the post personally addressed to us, we will usually take time to open it and read it – as long as it’s not a bill and doesn’t look like junk mail.

Christmas card recycling

Christmas card recycling

Although some people have concerns that printing, mailing and delivering cards is detrimental to the environment, many cards are now printed on recycled paper and several large retailers have card recycling points in their stores each January.  Another green option is to use your old cards as shopping lists.  We’ve designed our cards to have lots of white space on the back so they can be used for this purpose!

Posting cards also supports the economy and creates thousands of jobs.  Royal Mail recruits 18,000 additional staff at Christmas time to handle more than 130million items of festive mail each day, which is nearly double the amount it usually handles.

The era of the Christmas card is certainly not over, 2011 saw a 3% rise in card sales compared with 2009.  And although the cost of postage has increased, consider sending cards as an investment in maintaining relationships with clients, suppliers and other contacts.

So why not send a card, put a smile on someone’s face and support the Great British economy in the process.  After all, Christmas is about giving.

Some facts about Christmas cards

  • The tradition of sending and displaying cards is stronger in Britain than any other country.  The sending and receiving of cards is an important part of our culture.
  • The world’s most expensive Christmas card cost £22,250.  It wasn’t diamond encrusted, but an original card from 1843 sold at auction in 2001.
  • It is estimated that £50million is raised each year for good causes through the sales of charity Christmas cards.
  • If you were to purchase an 1843 one shilling Christmas card, it would cost around £3.52 in today’s money according to the Measuring Worth website.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s smallest Christmas card was created in Glasgow in 2010.  You would need a high power microscope to view the card as it measures just 200 x 290 microcentimetres, and 8,276 cards would fit on one postage stamp.
  • In the 12 years that the Woodland Trust has run its Christmas card recycling scheme, more than 600million cards have been recycled.