'The very best Christmas PR campaigns' with Santa's hand

What are the best Christmas PR campaigns we hear you ask?

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… and that means brands everywhere are rolling out their acoustic covers and CGI vegetables to deliver messages of joy and giving to the nation.

From old staples like the Coca Cola truck to new additions such as Greggs’ gift wrapping, there have been some really memorable and effective Christmas PR campaigns in recent years – some that put a smile on your face and others that make you want to sob into your sofa cushions.

Here the Front Door elves take a look at some of the big hitters from years gone by:

Dunelm: Deliver Joy (2020 - )

British home furnishings store Dunelm launched its first #DeliverJoy campaign in 2020 and it was such a success that they’ve been doing it ever since. In true Christmas spirit, each Dunelm shop across the country has a tree in-store, decorated with tags containing the names of people from care homes, women’s refuges and primary schools in the local community.

Each tag details the age, gender and interests of each person, plus a gift suggestion, so shoppers have an idea of what to buy for a stranger in need at Christmas.

With their Christmas campaign, the brand asks kind-hearted locals to pick a tag and fill a shoebox with gifts (with a suggested £10 minimum value), which the ‘Dunelves’ then wrap and distribute in time for Christmas. So far, they’ve delivered over 40,000 gifts to local communities and still going strong!

Campaign poster for the Dunelm 'Deliver Joy' PR

Spotify Wrapped (2016 - )

Not specifically Christmas-themed, but released every December as a look back at the year in music and culture. Spotify Wrapped first launched in 2016 as a viral campaign that saw its 422 million users sharing their top songs, artists and genres for the year to social media.

The launch was such a success that it’s become a much-anticipated event every single year and gives Spotify untold reach among millions and essentially free advertising during the Christmas period.

An example of the Spotify wrapped highlights for 2022

Coca-Cola: Holidays are Coming (1995 - )

An oldie but a goodie. Every year people wait for the ‘Holidays Are Coming’ theme tune to come on to their screens to mark the real start of Christmas.

In fact, consumers feel so strongly about it, they complained en masse when the soft drinks behemoth replaced it in the early 2000s. Customers demanded that Coca Cola reinstate the red truck and catchy song, and it worked! We’ve been watching it ever since.

The PR message here is pretty simple – consistency is key. The ad has become tradition and is clearly not to be messed with. To date, the hashtag #CocaColaTruck has been used over 60.1k times on Instagram, while #HolidaysAreComing has been used over 500k times, and has been viewed 2.4million times on TikTok.

Coca Cola truck at Christmas

The Gift of Greggs (2018)

In the run to Christmas 2018, Greggs offered a free gift-wrapping service in a selection of its stores across the country.

For anyone out doing their Christmas shopping on the high street, they could pop into Greggs for a well-earned festive bake and while they wait, the staff would wrap their just-bought presents in branded wrapping paper laden with pasties and sausage rolls.

The shop also offered a range of stocking fillers to be added into the mix, including the first ever Greggs Christmas jumper, doughnut socks and sausage roll inspired umbrellas!

Two Elves in Greggs wrapping Christmas presents

As we near the end of our list, we come to two of the biggest Christmas ad campaigns to have hit UK screens – coincidentally both in the same year.

Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas 1914’ (2014)

Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion, this moving advert was inspired by real events from World War One. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the truce between the Allied troops and Germany for Christmas Day 1914, the video depicts soldiers on the front line who stopped fighting and chose to recognise the day by playing a game of football between their opposing trenches. The chocolate bar featured in the advert was available to purchase in-store, with each sale donating a percentage to the charity, to help soldiers and their families.

With the tagline, ‘Christmas is for sharing,’ the spirit and sentiment of the advert struck a chord and is still remembered as one of the best of all time. To date, the clip has over 24 million views on YouTube, with people coming back every year to watch it.

Image cred: Sainsbury's

Blue chocolate bar featured in Sainsbury's Christmas advert

John Lewis ‘Monty the Penguin’ (2014)

It will come as no surprise to see a John Lewis classic making the list – love them or hate them, the retailer has become synonymous with releasing big-hearted tear-shedders every December.

Everyone has their own favourite, but dear reader, I’ve deservedly awarded myself the final say on this one – and that is Monty the Penguin. He came into our lives at a time when the famed ‘John Lewis ad’ was just reaching the peak of its popularity and we were all well-in for a bit of festive soppery.

Monty the penguin lives at home with his human family and is finding himself increasingly lonely as the year goes on, only to wake up on Christmas morning to find that his family have brought him a lady penguin companion. Also he (and his new wife) are actually stuffed toys beloved by a small child. I AM ACTUALLY SOBBING.

The seven-week long campaign really connected with audiences, who could interact with the advert and both Monty and his Mabel across various social media platforms, as well as in-store in the form of plush toys which sold out within days of the advert’s launch.

Results wise, the penguins performed exceptionally well. Digital Uncovered reported that John Lewis’ sales were up 5.5% year-on-year, and that they also had a record sales week, taking £175million for the first time. At launch, it trended globally on Twitter, and the story of Monty was shared 202,953 times in its first 24 hours online – the first ad of its kind to do so.

Image cred: John Lewis

Monty and Mabel the penguins kissing in front of the Christmas tree

And there we have it! Some Christmas classics, and a few that I’m sure we’ll still be talking about in years to come. Whether it’s getting people into shops or onto Twitter, these campaigns all launched to great success and managed to encapsulate the spirit of Christmas all at the same time.

Have we missed anything off the list? Let us know!

Much love and merry Christmas from all of us at Front Door. x

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