Christmas comes but once a year... Best get it spot on then!

Says Ant Hill, Head of Creative Agencies at Google UK

The Christmas trading period, in its full and glorious complexity, is increasingly important to the health of more and more businesses. Yet it’s getting harder and harder for advertisers to succeed in this window.

I see three main reasons for this. Firstly, economic uncertainty has knocked consumer confidence and builds a reluctance to part with hard earned cash. Secondly, as media choices continue to proliferate audiences are fragmented. Finally, cutting through with your creative is tougher than ever as more brands pile into the war for attention.

Despite these challenges, I’m convinced that there's more businesses could be doing to give themselves a better chance of success. Read on to find out the five questions that I believe will help make this difference.  

First some context. This year, BRC & The Guardian say that year-on-year footfall on the high street has fallen by an average of 3.6% in the last three months due to sluggish wage rises and high levels of inflation1. Analysts at Springboard tell us that for the Black Friday weekend as a whole, footfall dropped 5% year-on-year2. Plus a recent report by PwC stated that 77% of shoppers had held off buying anything until Black Friday weekend3.

As more people decide shopping online (or from their mobile in bed if they are anything like me) is a more convenient way to squeeze this into their busy lives then key to an effective Christmas period is to capitalise on this transition to a digital experience.

YouTube, with an audience who are more than just viewers, is uniquely positioned to deliver a successful campaign for businesses looking to reach an engaged audience.

By including YouTube on your plan you are able to reach a 16-34 year old audience whom, Ofcom and Media Nations tell us, are now watching more non-broadcast video than broadcast video (over two and a half hours a day of which YouTube represents the largest single portion). Getting more specific, Comscore have confirmed that online 18-34 year olds now watch 61 minutes of YouTube per day. Maybe this isn’t that surprising given the fact there's now over 410 UK YouTube channels with over 1M subscribers.

But it’s not just a case of simply being there. Ideas, execution and deployment as we all know matter a great deal.

This year again, there are a glut of brilliant ideas that skillfully exploit the well trodden paths to Christmas ad glory - a few of which are called out below:  

Family moments (Waitrose, Sainsburys & Next); The Christmas table (M&S Food, Tesco & Lidl); Striving for the best possible day (ASDA, Currys, M&S); The contrast with a bigger, grander purpose (Iceland & Visa); Parody (Aldi & Kevin part deux); Avoiding disasters (Argos); Or simply the magic of gifting (John Lewis & Very).

Having analysed the approaches adopted by the various Christmas campaigns on YouTube, it’s clear that there are some key behaviours which are common to exploiting the full power of the platform’s potential. They recognise that utilising the capability of our technology, alongside having great creative and building efficient reach, is the vital third factor to drive impact, creative effectiveness and ultimately business success.

Here are five questions worth asking yourselves to make sure you are optimising your presence:  

1. Who are your most important audiences? Creative can be tailored specifically for bespoke audiences as well as for a mass audience, e.g. a loyal versus a lapsed versus a new user/buyer although all relevant will all have different triggers that should be considered.

2. What devices will they be watching the ads on? Don’t forget to craft for different devices - especially mobile devices - e.g. basic point... if over 70% of YouTube is now watched on mobile screens4 then don’t forget the supers need to be large and that dark ads will be even darker as people set the brightness of their screens to preserve battery life and not to full brightness in order to enjoy the amazing ads.

3. Why are people seeing the ads? There are so many objectives to hit during this period and a one size fits all approach is lazy; instead use a multi-format, inter-connected approach to answer objectives throughout the campaign period, e.g. Mastheads for mass awareness at launch; TrueView for targeted engagement; short Google Preferred for polite forced reach; and 6-second Bumpers to have a high share of voice to drive action during the competitive periods.

4. How and when will the chosen people experience the ads? Consider the viewers’ flow through the creative deployment. Both what you can discern in advance and what you learn about people’s live reaction, e.g. whether they have skipped or not,  to your creative can enable you to change the creative messaging / creative execution that’s delivered to them. The ultimate plan should be to move them further towards the desired action and thereby drive both efficiency and effectiveness.

5. What are you learning that can be used beyond this period? Set up smaller tests / experiments of all of the above to generate learnings that can be applied more broadly.

I’m sure the brands who feature on this year's YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard Christmas Edition, which will feature the UK’s most loved Christmas ads, will have considered these questions. I very much look forward to seeing who reaches the top spot this year. All will be revealed this Thursday.

Finally, I'd also like to remind everyone that a strong and sophisticated approach to YouTube is not just for Christmas. In fact, the approaches outlined above can add more than a little woof to your plans outside the Christmas period too.  

Thanks for reading, signing off by wishing everyone, even the bah humbug’ers, a very happy holiday period. Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

6 ways YouTube is making Christmas more Christmassy