Over the last few weeks, the Teams chats and WhatsApp groups of creative and strategy teams have no doubt been awash with commentary on the latest raft of Christmas ads. We’re all so over it but we still can’t help but mentally tot up a list of our favourites (or least favourites) and see what’s getting the most attention.

This is often our starting point – which ads are getting people talking? So our Data + Analytics team looked into which UK ads generated the most earned attention, both in the media and on social. Each one has been ranked by the number of shared articles, average engagements, total engagements and total mentions on UK social.

  1. John Lewis
  2. Aldi
  3. Morrisons          
  4. M&S
  5. Disney
  6. Boots
  7. JD Sports
  8. Sports Direct
  9. Asda
  10. Lidl
  11. TK Maxx
  12. Very
  13. Barbour
  14. Debenhams

And if the list itself isn’t enough for you, here’s a bubble chart that maps social engagements vs media coverage.

We should caveat that this is a representative rather than watertight analysis, but it got us thinking about how each brand is measuring the impact of its Christmas ad, and which metrics matter. No doubt every brand has its own version of ‘effectiveness’ – and we’d bet that success is being scored slightly differently for each and every one.

The Marketing Week write up on Morrisons reports on how System 1 helped to measure effectiveness based on the response from the viewer and how much they recognise the brand inclusion. Morrisons is ranked third behind Aldi in the System 1 effectiveness analysis (we’re assuming John Lewis is top).

This is certainly a useful way to optimise the content and make sure it’s having as much impact as possible when it reaches the audience through paid channels. But what else could make the ad more effective? What about its ability to travel beyond paid and to demonstrate editorial value and shareability?

In our earned analysis Morrisons also ranked third, but there is an interesting difference when you take a look at the graph. Whilst John Lewis and Aldi are fairly balanced on media coverage and social engagements, Morrisons leans much more towards the latter, outperforming both Aldi and John Lewis on social. So what does it take to achieve both?

Although the John Lewis campaign didn’t feel like it was doing anything particularly different this year, the heritage that’s been built means it’s unsurprising that it’s still leading the conversation by a long way when it comes to earned. However, the coverage was mixed. A lot of it focused on the controversy over the ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ arrangement… And this year it felt like it had taken a step back from being such a big integrated campaign, beyond the TV spot. Though there are still charity partners, there was less of an overt link than when we thought back to 2015’s Age UK tie-up for ‘Man on the Moon’.

Aldi, however, did a great job not only on effectiveness ratings – it takes the top spot according to Kantar’s effectiveness analysis – but also generated media interest through its partnership with Marcus Rashford and pledging to donate 1.8 million meals to families over the festive period. A real, timely action and a smart ambassador tie in that set Aldi apart in the press.

Rashford’s tweet sums it up well – it is bigger than a Christmas ad. Aldi’s approach is reflective of an overarching shift from brands talking about ‘social good’ to delivering on ‘social action’. As well as achieving effectiveness, taking the opportunity to be effective as a brand by making a tangible contribution. Let’s hope it’s not just for Christmas, and we see more of this in 2022 and beyond.