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Paul Vallois: Will this Christmas be another missed opportunity for digital?

The clocks may have only just gone back, but the Christmas lights are already up in London’s Oxford Street, Selfridges’ Christmas shop’s tills have been ringing for months and the first Christmas TV ads are breaking.

In just a few weeks, ad breaks will see us inundated with Christmas deals, promotions and feel good campaigns. Retailers will no doubt lead the way again with epic cinematic experiences, planned up to twelve months in advance to deliver three minutes of viewing glory during Googlebox. If the 2013 formula is followed, these ads will then be disseminated, with sixty and thirty second edits to follow as a smattering of content is pushed out across social channels.

But whilst retailers and brands gear themselves up to release their Christmas masterpiece, a word of warning should be paid to those who overlook digital this year. 2013 showed us that very few brands stood out as having devoted the same level of planning, imagination and commitment to their digital experience as their on-air spots. This is despite the fact that we know the seismic shift in shopping behaviour continues with more and more people buying from the comfort of their front rooms (while watching X-Factor) as opposed to trudging round the streets.

Indeed, if you try to remember the last great bit of Christmas digital work you’ll struggle to think of anything that hasn’t been heavily led by TV or delivered a standout experience by any means. Even Sainsbury’s social #ChristmasInADay campaign last year was driven by TV, and it will probably come as a surprise to most to find out that last year you could download a John Lewis Bear & Hare interactive ebook via the online site.

Whilst both could be described as nice digital touches, there was certainly more that could have been done to create a more connected and engaging experience for all the second screeners, let alone continuing it into the retail environment. On that note it will be interesting to see if anyone successfully incorporates iBeacons into their campaign – a sure-fire way to deliver some festive cheer.

So, as we head through November it’ll be interesting to see what brands have learnt from last year. Whether we’ll be seeing activity that goes beyond the 40 inches of plasma remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, for brands and retailers this Christmas the digital experience is there for the taking.

Next we’ll look at 2014’s digital winners and losers.

unnamed1-300x200-200x200Paul Vallois is managing partner of Partners Andrews Aldridge

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