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What prompts us to share our thoughts about TV ads on social media; which ads generate the most positive emotional responses and why?

We used the hype around the Christmas ‘16 adverts of UK retailers to take a look at the types of TV ads that win (and lose) on social and what resonates most with viewers.

But we didn’t stop at positive/neutral/negative; to really understand the conversations we added advanced sentiments to every single post analysed (8,500 in total), and then added topics to reveal which elements of the campaign these emotional responses were directed at.

Inevitably, any conversation about Christmas TV ads starts with John Lewis – arguably the benchmark for the success of any Christmas ad campaign and in our analysis it was frequently referred to as a comparison for others.

John Lewis generated the highest volume of commentary overall, but was not the winner in our research from Christmas ’16, with the likes of M&S and Aldi receiving a higher positive response overall and many expressing disappointment in John Lewis for ruining the “magic of Christmas”

The top spot for disappointment went to Boots (33%), with the commentary evolving into an online debate around gender equality.

Here’s a quick reminder of the Boots Christmas ad

And as for our winning ad with the highest positive response at a whopping 93%, M&S managed to trigger the feel good factor via a more subtle “Girl Power” angle, with Mrs Claus widely celebrated on social media. In fact the mascots were often the heroes of the campaigns, many owning their own hashtags.

Here’s a quick reminder of the M&S Christmas ad:

So the stakes are high for for 2017 – will John Lewis stage a comeback or will the underdogs continue to move up the ranks and claim the top spot in the nation’s heart this Christmas?

What did we learn?

  •  As an experienced market research agency, we were able to take an innovative methodology using social data, shifting away from a more traditional research approach on this project
  • This time and cost efficient approach by-passed the lengthy and sometimes challenging recruitment process, fieldwork and interviews that rely on consumer recollection and reflection
  • The research focused on real-time, “in the moment” feedback, providing insights from a huge, diverse audience across the open social web – the world’s largest focus group
  • Creative teams can use spontaneous consumer feedback to inform future campaigns by understanding what made the various brands winners and losers in 2016
  • End clients can receive this data in time series format and integrate with owned customer information such as transactional data to gain a more holistic overview of indications as to whether these major campaigns are impacting on footfall and ROI

We partnered with MMRI to understand the Christmas retail ads that won on social media, identifying which of the major players’ Christmas campaigns created most excitement.  The real-time commentary gave us great insight into consumers unprompted emotional responses and efficiently revealed 5 key insights across the Christmas retail ad landscape, with a wealth of additional insight for specific retailers.

Natalie Geddes, ABA Research


MMRI partnered with ABA Research to undertake this analysis as part of their Christmas Unwrapped campaign. The research was conducted using our own technology to the MMRI research methodology to code the real-time data from multiple online sources.

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