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Creative with Character: The Christmas Edition

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Born Licensing's David Born takes a look back at some of the best uses of famous characters in Christmas advertising

Creative with Character: The Christmas Edition

The countdown to Christmas has begun so for this month’s Creative with Character column we’re taking a look back at some of the best uses of famous fictional characters, clips, and entertainment IP in Christmas ads. 

Whilst we already know that fictional famous characters are under-utilised in advertising (in the UK you are 13.4 times more likely to see a celebrity, sports star, or musician in an advert than a fictional character), we were nonetheless surprised at how little advertisers have embraced fictional characters for Christmas campaigns. As Marketing Week said in a recent article, “It’s hard to tell a great story without a great character”. Christmas is the season for emotive story telling – typically it’s a time when we’re feeling most nostalgic – so using loved characters from our childhood is a great way of connecting with an audience and making a campaign stand out. We hope more advertisers will see the benefits of using famous characters in the future but in the meantime, here are some of our favourite examples from the past!


‘Home Alone Again’ with Google Assistant

In this 2018 spot Google reimagined one of the most popular holiday movies of all time…Home Alone. The 60-second spot by Arts and Letters Creative Co sees Macaulay Culkin reprise his role as Kevin, parodying classic scenes from the movie with a modern twist thanks to Google Assistant. According to Hollywood Reporter the spot had 39 million views on YouTube within the year. It was so popular that a follow up ad was created in 2019 with Joe Pesci watching the ad with friends waiting for his cameo. ‘Home Alone Again with Google Assistant’ is a great example of how effective parodying or paying homage to classic films can be without the need to feature original footage. 


‘Another Miracle on 34th Street’ by Macy’s

In 2012 department store Macy’s saw the return of the Santa Clause character Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street. Macy’s creative agency JWT New York worked with visual affects company Framestore and 20th Century Fox (now Disney) to cleverly integrate original black and white cut-out footage and dialogue of Kris Kringle into the present-day Macy’s store (with cameos from Taylor Swift, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Justin Bieber, and Tommy Hilfiger!). Those who have seen the movie will remember that much of the film took place in and was filmed at the Macy’s flagship store. At the time, Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer at Macy’s said “Miracle on 34th Street is a holiday classic that appeals to every generation and is part of the DNA of the brand.” Finding true congruence with a character and brand is important in creating an impactful ad and it’s what makes this particular spot so brilliant! 


‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’ by Barbour

Next up is a perfect example of creating bespoke animation using a classic property. Barbour have become experts in tapping into the nostalgia and magic of heritage properties such as Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, Father Christmas, and now this year Paddington Bear. In a space saturated with celebrity endorsements luxury brands such as Barbour and this year Balenciaga (The Simpsons) are tapping into the effectiveness of breaking the mould and using famous characters to get people talking about their brands. Raymond Briggs’ classic story The Snowman was updated for two nostalgic Barbour campaigns in 2016 and 2017.


Marks & Spencer ‘Christmas Must Haves’ with Bridget Jones’s Diary 

For all retailers, Christmas presents a huge opportunity to boost sales and reach a highly engaged audience. Retailers compete for a share of voice in a highly competitive pre-Christmas environment. Leveraging popular culture can help brands stand out from the crowd. Marks and Spencer’s 2018 ‘Christmas Must-Haves’ campaign depicted a number of quirky festive traditions including singing along with Bridget Jones to ‘All By Myself’ in the famous scene from Bridget Jones’ Diary. Marks & Spencer’s creative agency GREY London saw the value of licensing a famous movie clip that the British public would associate with watching at Christmas. Born Licensing was called on to explore various well-known movie clips and as Universal’s licensing agent (the Rights Holder of Bridget Jones’s Diary), we managed the licensing and approvals process without charging GREY or Marks and Spencer any clearance fees. 


Ford and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 

In 2020 Chevy Chase reprised his role as Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E. The 60-second spot recreated the classic scene from the movie when Clark attempts to turn on the family’s Christmas lights. Instead of admiring the Christmas decorations, the Griswold family are instead drawn to the Mustang Mach-E parked in the driveway. “We were interested in making a statement for the brand and being part of the cultural conversation,” said Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of US marketing. As with all these spots that feature loved film and TV characters, press coverage was significant not only in industry circles but in consumer press with publications such as Forbes, Daily Mail, and CNBC covering the story. 

There are endless unique and creative ways to utilise entertainment IP in advertising to create stand out popular culture moments. During a season where the public often feel bombarded with advertising, using film and TV characters and IP allows brands to cut through the noise and drive organic conversations. 

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Born Licensing, Wed, 24 Nov 2021 09:42:07 GMT