Retailers dig deep into their wallets every year for their Christmas spots. That causes criticism.
Author: Sina Walser and Harry Stitzel
When Migros embodied the “beep” sound of the cash register in an elf in 2017, the race for the best Christmas ad in Switzerland began.
Every year, retailers woo consumers with emotional stories, press the tear ducts and plead for charity. The Migros is relying on her gnome again this year and at Coop An employee distributes compliments in the form of sticky notes.
Legend: In this year’s Christmas advert, Coop advertises with an employee who gives compliments to others on sticky notes. Coop cooperative
If you compare the different Christmas commercials, you will generally notice that they are longer than average and do not directly advertise a product.
I always say: before the wallet opens, people’s hearts should open.
The emotional approach is part of the concept, says the renowned Zurich advertiser Frank Bodin, because after all, advertising is there to sell. “I always say: before the wallet opens, people’s hearts should open.”
The pre-Christmas period is one of the retail trade’s busiest times and, according to the Federal Statistical Office, accounts for around 20 percent of annual sales.
It all started with a red truck
The global phenomenon of Christmas advertising has been around since the early 1990s Coca Cola rings in Christmas in a TV commercial with a red truck. Since then, the technology and content have changed, but the pressure on the tear gland has remained.
Legend: The red Coca-Cola truck appeared in a TV advertisement for the first time in the early 1990s. Coca-Cola / Admeira
Retailers from Great Britain and Germany also spend a lot of money on this, like the department store examples John Lewis or Edeka show. According to expert estimates, the Wirz advertising agency’s Secret Santa campaign cost Migros several million francs.
Christmas is a time when people are particularly prepared to receive messages and spend money on themselves and others, says the managing director of TBWA, Matthias Kiess. His advertising agency has been creating spots for Coop for several years.
In addition, the current situation, which is characterized by crises and conflicts, could increase the willingness to receive good stories. Retailers take advantage of this consumer behavior and design their spots accordingly emotionally, with positive messages.
Emotional buying frenzy
Driving consumption with emotions – not everyone likes that. Business psychologist Christian Fichter criticizes retailers for their Christmas commercials.
“We are paying for emotional manipulation,” he says, because after all, these big-budget commercials are indirectly financed through consumption. He regrets that the retail trade has turned Christmas into a shopping event. Companies removed Christmas from tradition and placed the emphasis on consumption.
We pay for emotional manipulation.
But the emotional world of Christmas commercials cannot be found everywhere. The online retailer Digitec Galaxus deliberately provokes this emotionalization and relies on harsh reality in its stories.
This is how you bring Santa in the current Christmas advertising no gifts, but buys lollipops and condoms “without feeling” from a lonely gas station shop owner.
Legend: At Galaxus, Santa does his late-night shopping at a gas station shop. Galaxus
This spot is also aimed at taking money out of people’s pockets, says business psychologist Fichter. But he admits: “At least you laugh about it.”
Whether with or without emotions – or with irony. The fact is: retailers are digging deep into their wallets for this and probably don’t primarily have charity in mind.