Originally published in CityA.M. Nov 26, 2018

Brands spend millions on Christmas TV ad campaigns, but are they effective?

Last year, John Lewis spent £7m on its Christmas ad campaign. This year, it announced that its profits had crashed by 99 percent. Debenhams also warmed the hearts of the Christmas consumers in 2017 with a sumptuous, but expensive, festive ad. In June, it announced that it would see its third consecutive profit slump.

The responsibility to drive sales obviously doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of a TV campaign, and there are more issues behind these respective falls from financial grace.

However, I find it hard from a marketing perspective not to make a connection, and question whether the big budget Christmas ad campaign is actually working.

TV commercials are seen as a relatively traditional form of advertising. But in order to achieve those much-needed bumper sales, perhaps it is time for brands to consider investing more of their budget in a modern approach, such as influencer marketing.

If a TV campaign drives people to stores, influencer marketing drives shoppers right to the checkout.

It has become window shopping 2.0. Shoppers can be inspired by their favourite fashion consultants, and can go from learning about a product, to browsing it, then to choosing to buy it in just a few clicks.

According to a study by Collective Bias, only three percent of consumers would consider buying a product in store when promoted by a celebrity, compared to 60 percent when promoted online by an influencer.

Instagram’s “swipe up” function – an immersive transaction experience that allows users to click straight from the influencer’s content to a website – is also helping to drive traffic directly from ads to checkout.

There are also far more opportunities to optimise an influencer marketing campaign than there is for a TV ad, meaning that you can deliver targeted content with trackable results and directly attributable sales.

This allows for a test-and-learn approach in the run-up to Christmas, letting brands see what content is on the nice list and what is on the naughty list, so that they can tailor campaigns accordingly.

This Christmas, it will be interesting to see how those profit warnings affect spending on traditional TV ads, and whether the big brands have considered more modern methods of driving sales.

And if they do want to invest in influencer marketing, it is still not too late.

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