Christmas ads 2016: Social listening data proves the winner

Posted By Axonn on 8th December 2016

Christmas is fast approaching, and we’re seeing more festive ads than ever hitting our TV screens and spreading across social media.

From a dog on a trampoline to bears travelling home for Christmas, these ads vary from hilarious to heart-wrenching. We’re not left wondering what anyone thinks of each brand’s attempt either, with people airing their views across every social platform – the good, the bad and the ugly!

What we didn’t know, however, is who’s actually winning the battle of the Christmas ads on social.

So, we decided to take a data-led approach to look at John Lewis, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Aldi to see whose ad was coming out on top.

And the winner is John Lewis!

John Lewis wins the Christmas ad battle of 2016
Star of the winning ad: Buster the Boxer

How social listening data proved a winner

To reach this conclusion, we conducted a social listening exercise. This involves pulling data from the web about a specific brand or topic, then quantifying and analysing what’s being said.

Social listening tools are able to pull in public data only, which includes tweets, blog posts, forum conversations and online news articles within the allotted time frame. Any private data such as Facebook posts, or dark social (such as WhatsApp or email sharing) is excluded from analysis.

There were huge amounts of data to sift through, but our team narrowed it down and interpreted the numbers to understand what was being said about each of these brand’s ads.


What did the data say?

From the date the ad was first posted on Twitter on November 10th, until November 15th, John Lewis had a whopping 165,334 mentions on social media. In comparison, M&S, which was posted on November 11th, generated 33,292. Sainsbury’s ad hit Twitter on November 13th, and pulled in 13,277 by November 15th, while Aldi, whose ad went on Twitter on November 7th, had 5,739 mentions.


From these numbers, it’s clear that John Lewis’s ad was the most talked-about on social.

Although this metric speaks for itself, every brand’s ad was still considered a massive success, with the reactions by the brands themselves on social no doubt boosting perceptions.

Sainsbury’s, for example, was inundated with unrelated customer complaints about grocery shopping. However, this was swiftly handled by the social media team, meaning the overall effect was a positive one.

sainsburys christmas ad customer complaint.png

Aldi’s social team also took on a particularly light, friendly and humorous toneā€¦

aldi christmas social media.png

Over three-quarters of social posts were positive for every brand, although John Lewis again came out on top with 97.6 per cent positivity. M&S’s social mentions were just as glowing though, with 97.3 per cent of posts about them being positive.

Where did this conversation take place?

Of the platforms we tracked, Twitter was the key driving force of the success of these ads. We saw this both from retweets of, or reactions to, the brand tweets of the video, and second-screening activity (people tweeting about the ad as they watch it on television).

It was second screening activity that tended to reveal opinions of the ads, with people regularly stating whether they liked or disliked the ad and comparing it to others they’d seen.

Mentions in major national online press were just as important though, if much less frequent, as these were much more likely to reach older audiences who might not be active on Twitter.

Why John Lewis?

We already know, anecdotally, that many people see the John Lewis Christmas ad as the starting pistol for the start of the festive season.

Buster on the trampoline

Of course, there are also many other brands both big and small that are still releasing their ads, with Heathrow Airport, H&M and Amazon all being heavily discussed.

John Lewis is synonymous with Christmas though, and has seemingly risen to a position of authority in the Christmas ad world. While this will never take away from the success, or even failure, of other brands’ ads, this is a highly coveted spot that is unlikely to be taken away from the brand while it continues to release ads that are so popular across Britain.

You can read more details about the data we looked at and how we analysed it to draw our conclusions in our new ebook. Or check out our social listening services.