The Role of TV in Christmas 2015

It’s (almost) that time of year again. The festive period. Time to buy the bumper TV guide, get out your brightest highlighter and decide on your Christmas viewing schedule. In your mind, you will watch the Wizard of Oz/Back to the Future/any other film which is on every year for the hundredth time and it will be a magical, soothing experience where you can kick back and relax. Realistically, you’ll maybe see the middle to the end of the movie while you’re wrapping presents or preparing your brussel sprouts. That aside, television has played a crucial role in Christmas for years.

But has this view of Christmas changed recently and does TV still have the power it once did? Possibly not if John Lewis’ latest announcement is anything to go by.

Reported in Marketing Magazine, John Lewis has taken the decision to allocate more of their Christmas 2015 advertising spend to social media over traditional TV advertising. Do not despair, the TV ad will still run, but (as in recent years) it will be officially launched through social media rather than premiering during the once popular X Factor.

So why the change?

Firstly, “event TV” is slowly being phased out. There will still be the odd occasion where families will huddle around the television to watch a great event – no one can argue with the 14.5 million viewers who recently tuned in to the Great British Bake Off final – but with the arrival of catch up TV, viewers are much more relaxed and do not feel the need to be glued to their television at a specific time or on a particular day. Therefore traditionally airing the ad for the very first time during the X Factor which would have, at one time, been a TV event, doesn’t have the same draw it once did. This leads me on to my next point.

At its peak, the X Factor was taking in, on average, 14.13 million viewers each week. It would make sense that John Lewis premiered their advert during this much coveted time slot.

However, the ratings have slowly dwindled for years, with the show reaching its low point this past weekend taking in just over 6 million viewers, 1 million behind Countryfile! The audience isn’t there anymore and it is no longer a prime position.

Lastly, the power of social media must play a valuable role. At one time or another, the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert would have provided a real ‘water cooler moment’ at work the next day, and to some extent it still does. However, with the ease of sharing and retweeting, the advert can be distributed to a huge, worldwide audience - an audience that TV can only dream of. If advertisers can share their video for free online and rely on their followers to share it throughout the world, paying absolutely no media costs, why wouldn’t they?

So is this the beginning of the end for the Christmas TV advert?

I’d say, not quite yet. John Lewis are still planning to run their TV advert and there is still an element of magic around seeing a Christmas TV advert actually on TV. Families still gather round post-Christmas lunch and with everyone now owning a tablet or smartphone, there is something to be said for cross-advertising, i.e. seeing the advert on TV and immediately browsing the website.

However, with the dynamic nature of social media allowing advertisers to change out their messaging quickly and easily and not only reach, but interact with a global audience, the idea of advertising purely on social media must be an appealing one.

But with all of this, the most important question remains…how will John Lewis top last year's lovable penguin, Monty? We'll need to wait until 8am on the 6th of November to find out.

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