2023 Holiday Ad Trends: Uniqueness, Unity & Unabashed Consumerism

December 14, 2023
Sarah Hiraki

Holiday Ads are kind of a big deal. We’re still living in unprecedented times economically, socially, and politically, and while that doesn’t stop brands and audiences from celebrating, it does bring deeper meaning to this season’s ads. 

Here are just a few of the standouts from this year – and the trends they exemplify:

1. Uniqueness Rules: You can go your own way

After several years of disrupted family traditions, many brands are encouraging us to forge a new path or set old, outdated traditions aside. We only get this time once a year – these ads tell us to spend it as we please.

John Lewis challenges us to pioneer our own traditions

For a heritage brand to tell us to try something new – that’s bold! I love the way this spot encourages individuality, do things differently, make space for the unusual. There are no jingle bells, no grandmas shedding a tear, no puppies – but the spot is no less meaningful. 

Creative takeaway:
Use lateral thinking to pull unexpected references – a tree becomes a venus fly trap.

Elf on the Shelf goes on a cheeky holiday with TUI

A nostalgic tune reminds millennial audiences of a happier, simpler time – while the cheeky elves are emblematic of going your own way, and shirking the status quo. 

Creative takeaway:
How can you take a familiar idea and put it in an unusual setting to tell a new story? 

Ikea gives us permission to lock the door on Christmas

IKEA completely rules at relatable content. Hiding from your mother in law, your kids, your grandkids, your coworkers during the holidays – THAT is a deeply relatable moment.

With this ad, Ikea says, “You’ve done your bit – the party looks great, why don’t you take a load off.” Thank you, Ikea. Thank you.  

Creative takeaway:
What other relatable moments could resonate for your brand, imagine a “That feeling when (TFW)…” meme format and fill in the blanks. 

Morrison’s gives us a little holiday pep-talk

Preparing a “perfect” Christmas can be daunting. Morrisons’ charming solution is for our oven gloves to hype us up with a little song – and suddenly a dropped canape doesn’t seem like such a big deal. While things in the kitchen might be messy, everyone’s smiling when we get to the table. 

Creative takeaway:
Start with a problem, a stress, an obstacle – and show how your brand helps overcome it. 

2. Embrace Excess: Sometimes More is More

These ads take one of the criticisms of the holidays and say, “humbug!” More food, more gifts, more lights – when the times get rough, we get celebrating. 

A perfectly imperfect British Christmastime from M&S

Christmas in the UK carries two things: Promise and disappointment. This ad from M&S reassures us that as long as we got our eats and drinks from the right place, the good times will roll no matter what happens.  It’s an amazing response to what feels like yet another strange year on planet Earth. 

Creative takeaway: Remember the golden rule: Show, don’t tell. This ad highlights dozens of festive products by putting them on display in subtle ways. 

Argos goes Toy Story with a bounty of gifts

Big box titan Argos embraces the muchness of the holidays in this ad. Not trying to be sappy or heartwarming, Christmas gifting and celebrating can just be fun. So go for it! 

Creative takeaway:
Ask why people come to your brand – and make that the story. Don’t force a fit where there isn’t one. 

Cadbury keeps it simple, by going over the top. 

Chocolate coins mean celebration – they’re an iconic part of British Christmastime, and more than that, they’re pure fun. This “nan’s got the decorations out” billboard brings that familiar nostalgia home.

Creative takeaway:
Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple.

3. Unprecedented Unity: Everyone’s Invited

After years of being apart, some brands just want to bring us together. Transcending language, age and gender to just be… us. 

JD sports is a guiding star in a gray London winter

The wise men followed a guiding star to the birth of their savior. In London, you follow a kid on a bike down a cold, gray street, guided only by the sheen on his yellow JD sports bag. 

The branding and art direction in this campaign are a literal beacon – holding fresh trainers, holiday leftovers, gym kit, a spare change of pants. Winter in the UK can feel dark, cynical, disconnected. This ad tells us that among the rubble shines that good, new sweatshirt feeling – and more than that, the promise that we aren’t alone. 

Creative takeaway:
It’s ok not to be all-singing, all-dancing – stay true to your audience and your brand. 

Small purchases, big difference from Amazon

A Beatles song played on a lonely piano carries this tale a long way – but the simple story does what it’s meant to do. Amazon is about making things easy, facilitating celebration – one simple, even boring product, can often make the difference. 

Creative takeaway:
Tell small stories, make a big impact. World peace, togetherness and Disney

Disney is the same in every language. With this spot, Disney is exemplifying its “something for everyone” product message in a Holiday card to the world – every single persona in this ad can derive value from Disney’s cinematic and streaming universe. 

Creative takeaway: There are some moments that don’t need customized, regionalized creative. 

Coke says you can be Santa too

Coca-Cola is credited with defining the modern image of Santa – and so for them to enter the Santa Multiverse in this ad is a powerful message. 

Continuing their core brand message of sharing, they invite all of us in to the exalted throne room of the red suit. Maybe someone will leave a Coke out for us. 

Creative takeaway: Take something you’re known for, and take it all the way to the limit.

A no-budget TikTok about a pub brings a nation to tears

Sure, it’s a predictable storyline and there’s some shoddy camera work, but this unexpectedly sweet and slow-paced ad for a local boozer has a winning combination of heart and relatability. 

Creative takeaway: You don’t need a massive budget to make a big impact. 

For more tips and inspiration to maximize your creative strategy and production, download our eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Creative Strategies at Scale.” 


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