Which is your favourite 2015 Christmas ad?

According to a recent Nielsen report, 9 out of 10 Malaysians believe the country is currently in a state of recession and are tightening their belts as a consequence.

This has led the Malaysia Retailers Association to lower their retail growth forecast to 4% with quarterly growth rates at their lowest since the Asian financial crisis of 1998.

Some sectors, such as supermarkets and department stores have seen quarterly slumps of 18% and with the end of the year sales and Christmas period unlikely to lift revenue, are bracing themselves for a terrible 2015.

No such issues for the UK retail industry as the Barclays Christmas survey 2015 reports 79% of UK retailers expect an increase in sales over 2014.

A far cry from 2013 when Company Watch predicted over 5,000 UK retailers would fail to make it to the ‘killing season’ the post festive months from the end of December to mid February.

With over 25% of retail sales generated in the next 6 weeks, the big retailers will be fighting tooth and nail over more than £40 billion in sales with Christmas advertising campaigns signalling the start of the contest.

Here’s a look at the first Christmas 2015 advertisements to be launched.

John Lewis – The Man on the moon
What happens – A little girl on earth looks through a telescope and spots an old man on the moon. As the seasons change, she watches him sitting on a park bench staring wistfully at earth. Christmas arrives and presents are opened while the old man sits alone. Out of nowhere arrives a gift of a telescope.
Tagline – Show someone they are loved this Christmas.
Anything else – A reminder that many people will be alone at Christmas. Aurora sings ‘Half the World Away’ originally by Oasis. A Twitter feed to keep the story going and an app.
Youtube views – 13,014,000 in the first week and 69,000 Likes.
Facebook – Only the John Lewis page.

Sainsbury’s – Mog’s Christmas Calamity
What happens – It’s Christmas Eve and the Thomas family are all dreaming except Mog the cat who is having a nightmare. In the nightmare he wreaks havoc and practically destroys the house and any chance of a joyous Christmas.
Tagline – Christmas is for sharing.
Anything else – Based on a character made famous by children’s author Judith Kerr. An illustrated book is available and profits go to Save the Children.
Youtube views – 3,526,000 in the first day and 19,200 Likes.
Facebook – Nothing yet.

Harvey Nichols – Avoid Giftface
What happens – It’s Christmas Day and a large, middle class family are giving presents. Lizzy darling has a look of concern on her face but manages to remain gracious as she’s given a series of predictably bad gifts.
Tagline – Avoid Giftface.
Anything else – A bit more cynical, goes against the grain of the other ‘feel good’ Christmas commercials. Nothing on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else as far as I can tell.
Youtube views – 672 in the first 3 days and 2 Likes.
Facebook – Nope.

Marks & Spencer – The Art of Christmas
What happens – Everything happens! Christmas isn’t just about Christmas Day, it’s about the build up, the parties, the anticipation, the surprises and excitement and finally the big day, the meal and the nap. This series of ads aims to take the viewer on a blockbuster ride through all of those emotions.
Tagline – The Art of Christmas.
Anything else – There isn’t anything else! Links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and just about every other social media channel.
Youtube views – 1,828,000 in the first week and 695 Likes.
Facebook – Only the official M&S page.

Can a cynical Christmas TV commercial save a luxury brand?

Luxury brands are beginning to feel the effects of slowing economic growth in Asia, political protests in Thailand and Hong Kong, political confrontation in Russia and Ukraine, political instability in the Middle East and the threat of Ebola.

Demand from Asia for luxury goods, especially expensive bags and other leather products appears to be on the wane. Struggling more than many others is Mulberry, one of the finest British luxury brands and manufacturers of exquisite leather goods that are actually made in England. In fact, as many brands look to increase profits by outsourcing their manufacturing to China, Mulberry is increasing production in the UK.

60% of Revenues from the UK
Mulberry generates more than 60% of its revenue from the UK but has been trying hard to grow sales outside of the UK, particularly in the US and Asia. In its quest to become a global luxury brand it has made some disastrous strategic decisions including raising its already high prices to differentiate itself from more affordable luxury brands.

For the British Mulberry was always an aspirational brand that offered affordable luxury but by going after the rich in Asia and America, it may have priced itself out of the segment it once dominated in the market it makes the most money.

At the beginning of 2014, the Chief Executive Bruno Guillon announced that he intends to bring ‘more excitement’ to the brand. From the outside this seemed to be nothing more than trying to create ever more expensive handbags that competed head on with Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. Bags that had once cost £500 got a makeover and were back on the shelves at £900.

The core customers were upset and drifted to other brands. By March 2014 Guillon was on his bike and Chairman Godfrey Davis returned to take the reins. In the summer of 2012, Mulberry’s share price topped £25 (RM140). By the time Guillon left it was around £6.40. Today it has regained some value at £7.30 (RM40) but is still off its peak.

Deserting middle England
Guillon was accused of deserting ‘middle England’ the middle classes that made the brand. Judging by the Mulberry 2014 Christmas ad it looks like the brand is trying to regain its relationship with that loyal segment.

Christmas in England is commonly associated with Santa Claus and reindeer, over eating, cottages covered with snow, a tree with lots of presents in front of an open fire, carols and goodwill to all men.

But in some families there is a darker side to Christmas that is rarely spoken about. The competition to give the best possible present, often to the most annoying and spoilt family member, can be intense. With this in mind, Mulberry has created a cynical but lovely parody in what I think is their first ever Christmas commercial.

33% of annual sales generated in November and December
In the west, retailers generate over 30% of annual sales during November and December and Mulberry will be hoping this ad will kick start the recovery of the business. Longer term they need to work on rebuilding their core values and create a Mulberry narrative that resonates with their target markets and once again become a successful aspirational brand.

But in the meantime, it’s Christmas morning, somewhere in middle England…