The Top 5 Most Innovative Marketing Campaigns For The Holiday Season

It’s time to bring back the holiday magic, and many brands “understood the assignment” with their unique, creative and magical marketing campaigns. 

We decided to compile and review the most innovative holiday advertising campaigns for your enjoyment, all views are our own!

Google: Santa Tracker

Google Santa Tracker

Google has always been about creativity, innovation, and beautiful design. Their Santa Tracker delivers on all of these expectations this year. Google’s Santa Tracker is a microsite that shows kids exactly where the jolly Saint Nick is travelling as he delivers gifts across the world.
They can also interact with Santa’s helpers, read online books, watch animated movies, design their own elves and play Christmas-related games. In short, family activities for Christmas Eve are sorted!

Why we think it’s innovative:

  • Tech + nostalgic fun is always a winning combo
  • Google’s best features, like being able to use Google’s voice assistant to get updates on Santa’s whereabouts, are included in the microsite
  • The website helps parents take care of kids during Christmas Eve (even if it’s just for an hour or two!).

Air Canada: AC Gift of Home

On the topic of magic, Air Canada is one of our top 5 brands that brought the spirit of the holidays to Canadians abroad. Back in 2014, Air Canada decided to help Canadians who lived in the UK come home for the holiday season. This throwback ad spot follows two Air Canada pilots who give out airplane tickets to Canadians at a bar in London. The campaign was successful in many respects - not only were people who got the tickets extremely happy, social media burst with applause and *literal* tears over the campaign.

Why we think it’s innovative:

  • It’s emotional (and insightful!) - not everyone can spend time with their family during the holidays, and the video gets at what the holidays are really about 
    • We ran some research this year about what people are most looking forward to during the holiday season, and ‘spending time with family’ won by a landslide.
  • It’s straight to the point - Air Canada’s job is bringing people from point A to point B, so what better way to show that than to give people a chance to travel?

Spotify: #SpotifyWrapped

Spotify Wrapped 2021

Spotify Wrapped has become a tradition that Spotify users excitedly await every year. The campaign is essentially a smart use of data, showing Spotify lovers how they’ve used the streaming platform throughout the year. 

2021 Wrapped was no exception; the theme was the new normal and this year’s compilation covered topical news like NFTs and “no bones day”. New features include the “Audio Aura” and a quiz of Two Truths and a Lie that tested users on their listening habits.

Why we think it’s innovative:

  • Personalization - customized gifts are the absolute best, and Spotify Wrapped hits that point 100%. Every execution is unique to the Spotify subscriber.
  • Shareability - Spotify Wrapped is inherently shareable. Or, at the very least, it’s something people want to share about themselves. It’s pretty special when a campaign has built-in virality from the outset.

Hellmann’s x Animal Crossing: #HellmannsIsland

Last holiday season, Hellmann’s teamed up with Nintendo’s Animal Crossing to create a Hellmann’s island and educate people about food waste. Whenever players donated a spoiled turnip, Hellman’s made a real-life donation to the FareShare food bank.

Animal Crossing has a bit of a cult following, which means it’s a game that has a strong shareable element as players often like to show off their islands. And in this case, user-generated content got plastered around the internet, helping Hellmann’s spread the word about the campaign.

Why we think it’s innovative:

  • Gamification - Hellmann’s literally made donation rewarding; users seamlessly helped people in the real world by simply playing their favourite game. 
  • Popularity - downloads of Animal Crossing surged at the height of the pandemic, so Hellmann’s was smart with timing, using that opportunity to tap into the gaming market.

John Lewis

“I’m not crying, you’re crying!” That's probably the most common reaction to John Lewis’s annual holiday adverts. The brand kind of invented their own category of Christmas advertising and the formula seems to be working! Otherwise, it’d be hard to explain how the brand succeeded in bringing the holiday magic for the 14th year in a row.

This time, John Lewis’ ad was about a boy teaching a young alien, whose ship has crashed on Earth, about Christmas traditions. 

Why we think it’s innovative:

  • The format - John Lewis ads follow the same mini-feature film format every year. While only being a few minutes in length, the stories and quality of the ads are always top-notch. It’s no surprise, then, that the anticipation for the release of the next John Lewis’s Christmas ads is often compared to how Americans patiently wait for the Superbowl ads to drop each year. 
  • The emotions - Vicki Holgate, chief strategy officer at FCB Inferno explained why John Lewis ads always work: ‘It’s well known that advertising that captures people’s imaginations and triggers emotions is more likely to be successful, and, as previously mentioned, emotions are heightened during the Christmas period. John Lewis realized both of these things, so they changed the nature of their advertising to specifically target this.’ 

Holidays are a great time to observe how brands embrace innovation and creativity to make their marketing campaigns stand out. While some take a more tech-forward approach, highlighting features and experiences, some tap into our emotions and play on the sense of nostalgia the holidays bring up in all of us.