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The best 2014 Christmas Campaigns: Debenhams vs House of Fraser

By Vivian Hendriksz


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The battle for the best Christmas Campaign for 2014 has kicked off, with a number of UK retailers launching their advertorial holiday campaigns in the hopes of winning over consumers in time for the holiday rush. FashionUnited brings together the top Christmas Campaigns for 2014 to see which retailers are most likely to have tapped into their customers hearts and purses.

First there is House of Fraser, who has entered into Christmas television advertising game for the first time in over a decade this year, with the launch of its campaign 'Be you, no matter who, this Christmas.' Rather than creating a fictional storyline for its viewers to follow and engage in like other retailers have this season, the department store group decided to take a more realistic approach with its campaign. In its Christmas advertisements, created by 18 Feet & Rising, models are featured speaking directly into the camera as if there were at a casting session.

House of Fraser encourages consumer to be themselves this Christmas

Shot by Jennifer Vendetti, a renowned US casting director and documentary filmmaker who is best known for her 'street scouting' real people for her adverts, the short, documentary style films depicts the models discussing their experience of Christmas gifting. They answer questions pulled from a bowler hat and share who it is they find most difficult to shop for during the holiday season and what they are looking forward to the most during the festive period. Towards the end of the film, the models nominate one special person they would like to give a gift to, who then promptly arrives on the casting set and is surprised with the perfect gift, personalizing the act of gift-giving.

The 2014 holiday campaign is part of the department store's first national launch of its renewed positioning, with House of Fraser's new tagline 'Be you no matter who.' The Christmas campaign, which includes 20, 40 and 60 second adverts with different models, was first aired last weekend during X Factor on ITV, and is also supported online via House of Fraser's social media channels. “It’s great to see House of Fraser back out there in such a strong and authentic way,” commented Jonathan Trimble, CEO at 18 Feet & Rising, on the campaign.

“We’re so excited to present a fresh and original multichannel campaign that will resonate with customers as they shop for the perfect present this Christmas,” added Tony Holdway, director of brand at House of Fraser. “By showing real loved ones sharing gifts we’re positioning House of Fraser as the destination for fashionable gifting no matter who you’re shopping for.”

Next comes department store chain Debenhams, who has chosen to make a “sensible investment” in its Christmas campaign this year, after issuing a post-Christmas profit warning last season. Rather than focusing on their fashion offering in their Christmas campaign, as the group has done in the past, this year's advert, named 'Found it,' taps into consumers sentimental side and focuses on the pleasure found in gifting. The television ad also happened to cost the department store group one third of what its advert last year cost.

Debenhams hopes they are able to find it this Christmas

“It's about delivering a really engaging campaign – including an improved online gift finder and better Christmas atmosphere in our stores,” commented Richard Cristofoli, marketing director at Debenhams. The advert, which features another classic song, Paul McCartney's Frog Chorus 'We All Stand Together' as its soundtrack, depicts a group of thirty or so children searching through a empty Debenhams store for their right gift.

The children, who are all in their pajamas creep out from numerous hiding places in the advert to run through Debenhams many departments after hours, opening shoe boxes and trying on shoes, putting on scarves and hats and looking at the beauty assortment. Throughout the ad, the camera returns to one girl in a red dressing gown who seems to be searching for something she can't find. As child after child seem to find their perfect gift, wrapped in a red box, the girl seems to become more frustrated. However, just when when she is about to give up, she spots her perfect gift under a bed and rushed to unwrap it and proceeds to hug her stuffed reindeer.

The 2014 Christmas campaign was first launched online on YouTube on November 1, prior to its televised launch during ITV's X Factor on November 8 and is backed by an online campaign which encourages customers to share their “found it” moment with the hashtag #foundit for a chance to win 1,000 pounds worth of gift-cards. Debenhams will also be backing its Christmas campaign in-stores, with unique window displays, creating in-store 'hotspots' and offering gift cards with more than 120 gift messages.

“The 'Found it' campaign is about so much more than a TV ad,” adds Cristofoli. “A multi-channel world requires a multimedia campaign so it's as much about the outdoor, print, online and social media activity as it is about TV. As a multi-channel retailer our campaign seeks to engage with consumers with a multi-channel approach. It is a broad campaign which can play out across all media – paid and owned.”

Both department store groups seem to have taken a more realistic approach to their Christmas campaigns for 2014, rather than tapping into the fantastical or magical side of the festive season, as seen in other adverts this season. Both have chosen to focus on the act of gifting, rather than advertising the products themselves and both depict the struggle of finding the perfect gift, although in vastly different ways. However, which of these two campaigns has really managed to connect to their consumers wishes this Christmas and will ultimately lead to them opening up their wallets for their holiday shopping?

When it comes to Christmas marketing, this year around customer seems to be prizing creativity, originality as well as the adverts power to make an emotional connection to the viewer. For example, John Lewis's #MontyThePenguin Christmas campaign received over 16 million views online within the first week of the ads debut and Sainsbury's touching WW1 commemorative Christmas advert racked up close to 10 million views on YouTube within five days, underlining the importance of sentimental value found in Christmas adverts.

Since launching online on YouTube, Debenhams Christmas ad has just over 700,000 views and House of Fraser Christmas advert has just under 9,000 views. Although Debenhams did launch it campaign ahead of House of Fraser, when divided down into daily views, the former is still far ahead of the latter. If the number of views can be linked to sales, as seen in the past with other department stores such as John Lewis whose winning Christmas campaigns ultimately led to record breaking Christmas sales, then it can be argued that of Debenhams seems to be the stronger of the two.

Consumers have also reacted more positively to Debenhams Christmas ad online, with one user commenting: “A beautiful advert that has captured the magical feeling of joy and excitement that Christmas brings. Well done Debenhams!” Another viewer added: “My very very favourite Christmas song from my childhood, when the magic of Christmas was as it should be.” In comparison comments for House of Fraser's comeback holiday campaign were a little less positive. “Clever marketing or simply appalling?” asked one user online, with others being more outspoken in formulating their opinion: “Such a crap irrelevant advert it's like it's only aimed at models, absolute rubbish.”

So if the consumer consensus online holds to be true in real life, then it seems to be that Debenhams has managed to sneak into their customers hearts by recalling memories of Christmases long since past, which will hopefully in turn for the department store group, led to shoppers sneaking around their stores in search of the perfect gift this holiday season.

Christmas Campaign
House of Fraser
John Lewis