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Chris Slough of Havas: why ad tech isn’t the answer to us all liking all the Christmas ads

Real-time data and insight shouldn’t be the monster under the creative’s bed this Christmas, says Chris Slough, global business partner for Havas Group.

Another year, another round of festive ads, which when combined, all serve a similar underlying message – that the emotional value of togetherness is key to shopper engagement at Christmas.

However this year the nation is split and people’s responses haven’t all been warm and fuzzy.

People have flooded social media with strong reactions to a wide range of creative elements.

Some of the loudest complaints have focused on John Lewis’ Moz the Monster for allegedly encouraging young children to believe that monsters under the bed are in fact real; Tesco promising ‘a turkey for everyone’ but then being forced to admit that it doesn’t sell halal-certified turkeys, despite featuring a muslim family in its ad; plus the burglar apparently swearing at Paddington Bear in the Marks and Spencer ad (the retailer was forced to clarify that he is in fact mumbling ‘thank-you little bear’.)

One data analyst has already measured 55 of this year’s Christmas adverts and tracked 3300 viewers’ facial expressions as they watched.

It concludes that Coca-Cola’s ‘Gogglebox Meets Coca-Cola’s Holidays are Coming 2017’ is this year’s most engaging creative, closely followed by the six-part Vodafone Christmas Love Story, staring Martin Freeman, which will either add to your festive fuzziness or see scores of people reaching for the sickly green emoji as it plays out (both below).

In this age of transformative advertising, creatives have been empowered by technology to use these types of data and consumer insights to tweak and adjust campaigns, in order to optimise creative for a more positive response across individual media channels.

One could argue therefore, that extended or alternate digital versions of all Christmas adverts should be made to counter people’s complaints and provide more personalised viewing depending on people’s likes and dislikes.

On that basis however, social feedback on the child’s gender in the John Lewis ad, along with the ethnicity of the family or the cuteness of the monster, would result in personalised versions, created and shown only to people who perhaps feel greater affinity towards red-haired children, animation over costume characters or single ethnic family groups in advertising.

Yet giving Moz the Monster, or in fact any of this year’s festive ad offers alternative creative endings across different platforms would be as nonsensical as the family in the McDonald’s ad, who don’t have a bag of carrots in their fridge at Christmas and have to drive to the nearest out-of-town drive-thru, instead of popping to their local grocery store to buy these reindeer snacks.

Yes, the role of real-time data and insights has accelerated the ability to establish creative that’s truly authentic and which captures a brand’s experiential essence but, within a creative context, human intuition must always drive how and when that data is applied.

So when the collective creative aim once a year is to make people feel Christmassy, bears, love stories and family togetherness must prevail and viewers should be more willing to suspend their disbelief (after all isn’t that what makes Christmas?).

Throughout the rest of the year, adtech’s algorithms should work hand-in-hand with human creativity in order to evolve the planning, measurement and strategic processes. So long as we remember that true creative will never please all of the people all of the time but if it’s replaced with a ‘one-size fits all’ approach, the audience connection will inevitably be lost.

The most transformative adverts of the year ahead are sure to feature creativity that divides opinion, inspires satirical comment or spoofs, and gives us cause to pause and think. They will stem from the creativity of an individual or team but be underpinned by big data and analytics.

These evolving tools shouldn’t be feared like the monster under the bed. Creatives should embrace them for the new direction they can take their work and the boundaries to engagement that can be pushed as a result.

After all, it’s one thing to make people feel warm and fuzzy at Christmas, but tapping into people’s emotional consciousness all year round takes more than a family narrative and a few bears.

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