7 Content Lessons from the 7 Best Holiday Ads of 2015

We blog for a lot of different companies. And although our blog is a place to learn best practices about blogging, grammar, and strategy, it should also be a place to help inspire your own content initiatives. And what better inspiration than content lessons from the seven best holiday ads of the season!


Besides just being great pieces of advertising, I wanted to take a lesson away from each that you can apply to your content strategy.

Lesson #1: Great Writing Still Counts for Something


View the ad here. (Ugh, sorry folks. You’re going to have to view the video via a link as it’s not easy to embed. But it’s worth the click.)

This ad doesn’t work without strong copy. KitKat does an admirable job giving viewers the much needed break from the holiday hustle-and-bustle with an ad that literally lets just one guy do the talking.

And that’s pretty much it.

This ad illustrates what people are pining for online, offline and in life, really. The ability to reduce distraction and declutter. When your message is strong, you don’t need to gussy it up with filler.

It’s easy to write filler BS and hit a word count. It’s a lot harder to have the confidence to communicate something succinctly.

And another thing: We’re working on revamping our blog. The goal is to declutter. So the second lesson here is: If you’ve got good content, give your readers the best, distraction-free reading experience they can get.

Lesson #2: Hit a Pain Point

Harvey Nichols

British department store, Harvey Nichols, nails the pain point during the gift giving season: #giftface. We’ve all been there when your grandma gives you a shiny new quarter and you have to pretend you can actually buy something with it. That’s #giftface.

It’s no different in content marketing. What’s the biggest pain point your customers face? So go ahead and hit them where it hurts. But don’t forget to end on a high note.

Acknowledge the customer’s pain or problem and be sure to provide a solution.

Lesson #3: Take a Risk


I mean, this premise is so over the top you have to salute the folks that approved this ad. And yeah, it’s a bit controversial. Mulberry is essentially personifying baby Jesus as a purse. But man, what a purse!

The beauty of this spot is that the joke isn’t on the nose. Customers aren’t stupid. And holiday ads love to deliver jokes smack dab on the nose. The fact that this one doesn’t, initially, is refreshing.

It takes a second to get the joke. But once you do, it makes the whole ad.

Your content should be a bit edgy now and then. It’s ok to elicit a reaction from your customers. Making everyone happy is a recipe for boredom. Honestly, if your chance to be risky doesn’t rub at least one person the wrong way, you’re doing it wrong.

Lesson #4: Make Them Think


(Make sure to activate subtitles.)

I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile. Is it funny? Sad? Twisted? Whatever it is, it’s a viral hit generating 39 million views and counting. The spot definitely lands a punch.

You can take this ad to mean a lot of different things. Is it morally objectionable? Is it too fantastical? Is it a commentary on the aging baby boomers? Should this grandpa be put in an insane asylum?

Great content should make readers think. If I read something and take literally nothing away from it, what was the point? It’s easy to be milquetoast. It’s quite another to be thought-provoking.

Lesson #5: Sometimes It’s Better to Show Than Tell

John Lewis

Man, so many holiday ads with lonely old guys. Anyways…

The creep factor of the old guy peeping on a young girl aside, this spot doesn’t have any narration, dialogue or words (except the tagline, of course). The images do the talking.

Content can get gummed up by trying to explain and explain and explain. When really, showing can go a lot farther than telling.

Content can be great on its own, but including images, infographics, and video can go a long way in improving your content strategy. There’s a crapload of tried and true social media stats about the importance of an image in your status updates getting more engagement.

Lesson #6: Great Artists Steal

Spain’s Christmas Lottery

Some context. Spain apparently has a Christmas lottery. And unlike the typical lottery, this is a group thing. Friends, family or in this case colleagues share the winnings by buying shared lottery tickets.


This has all the familiar fingerprints of Pixar’s “Up” movie. The characters look eerily similar. The music. It all looks like very Pixar-esque.

But clearly, Pixar’s doing something right. And sorry, but everyone takes creative liberties from those they admire (whether they know they’re doing it or not). This spot is almost unabashedly Pixar. But it’s done so well that the comparisons are long forgotten after you see the whole spot.

To communicate ideas in content marketing, it’s not a bad idea to present them in a familiar format. If you see examples of content marketing that you admire, but think you can improve upon it, do it.

The rule of great content marketing when optimizing for a specific keyword is to look at the top 10 articles for a searched keyword and find a way to make your article 10x better.

Lesson #7: You Can’t Be Afraid to Experiment

Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Another ridiculous premise that worked—two million views and counting ain’t bad. It’s one thing to come up with this idea. It’s another to actually film and release it.

The takeaway here is that you won’t know if something will work or not unless you ship and experiment. You can sit around a conference table and debate the merits of doing 45 minutes of Nick Offerman sipping whisky or you can just run it and learn.

With content, we see people get chesty about quality. Quality is important. I’m not saying it isn’t. But to a point. If your goal with content is to improve SEO and generate leads quality shouldn’t be judged qualitatively but quantitively.

Before you’re ready to dismiss an idea or piece of content out of hand, run it. Experiment. You may be surprised by the results.

Bonus Lesson: Surprise your readers

Happy Holidays!

If you made it this far, you get to watch my favorite holiday ad of all time. It’s by the same people who brought you the “creepy old guy on the moon stares at girl” holiday ad referenced earlier. Of all the best holiday ads out there, this one tops them all. Enjoy and happy holidays!

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Pat Armitage

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