Tis the time to cut the marketing crap

At the beginning of the year, we did a blog on the business buzz words everyone should really stop using. Leverage, journey, skin in the game all made it onto our list, but with Christmas just around the corner we thought it was time to add a few extra. Why? Because we will soon be facing an onslaught of ridiculous ads and marketing activity that all try and shy away from the one thing their ads are about – Christmas.

Don’t get us wrong. As a global agency we understand the need for brands to produce campaigns which work across different territories, and we appreciate not everyone celebrates Christmas. But when you’re marketing in the UK, a country where 86% of people do celebrate Christmas, we firmly believe brands should embrace it and tell it how it is.

Here are just some of the phrases, we really hope advertisers avoid this year.

Enough of your Happy Holidays

Let’s get our pet hate out of the way first. For once and for all, Christmas is not a holiday. Yes, most of us will get a few days off work, and a lucky few might even get to go away somewhere hot, but just to hammer the point home, Christmas is not a holiday!

A holiday, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling.’

And is that what the majority of us will be doing this Christmas? No. We will be spending it at home drinking too much, eating too much and having an argument over whether Die Hard is really a Christmas movie while counting the seconds until our beloved relatives go home.  We will be celebrating over a lunch full of too much meat, overcooked veg and a stodgy pudding we would never eat at any other time of the year. And is it called a holiday lunch? No, it’s called a Christmas lunch.

So why is it that brands, such as Apple, BMW, H&M  insist on using ‘Holidays’?

Some argue that holidays works better as it’s catch-all phrase that includes other celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Hannukah and New Year. Others argue it’s simply more inclusive as it doesn’t offend those that don’t celebrate Christmas. We would argue, it’s just lazy marketing.

What happened to producing content for a specific target audience rather than the masses? What happened to producing content for specific occasions, rather than lumping everything together? Talk about bad marketing. And has it ever occurred to brands that catch-all phrases such as holidays, does nothing but offend those who do celebrate Christmas i.e., the majority of the UK!

If you’re planning an advertising campaign in the US, by all means use your wishy-washy ‘happy holidays’, but here in the UK call it what it is, and that’s Christmas.

We don’t want your Season’s Greetings

This one is so bland and woke that in some ways it’s worse than Happy Holidays. Yes, it is inclusive as it doesn’t reference Christmas and just alludes to what’s going on, but in some ways that makes it worse. And you could even argue it’s fair enough, if it wasn’t for the imagery used in many of these ads.

Look at this one from Mastercard which clearly references numerous Christmas traditions including Christmas trees, presents and Christmas food.  It even evokes Christmas through the colours it uses – red, gold and green and its plinky-plonky music.

But if brands are so intent on being inclusive and not offending anyone then maybe they should stop referencing Christmas at all.

In fact, why even bother producing Christmas ads? It’s obvious they’re doing nothing more than trying to please everyone and capitalise on the fact it’s peak selling time and an opportunity to make trucks loads of money. And that’s not very Christmassy.

Holidays are definitely not coming

Talking of trucks, you’ve got to hand it to Coca-Cola – not only do they manage to get the dreaded ‘holidays’ into their ad, but there is also a reference to ‘season’ and they finish with a reference to Christmas. Nicely played. Just one thing – it might be time they updated their ad, as, put it this way, it’s not exactly inclusive.


Avoiding the word doesn’t make it right

But maybe the worst offence of all is when brands say nothing at all. Take this ad from M&S.

Obviously, a Christmas ad, but not once is the Christmas word used (unless you count the sneaky X added to M&S and the yukky music). Or this one from notonthehighstreet which talks about ‘lists’, shows Christmas decorations and a Christmas Tree but doesn’t mention Christmas, the season or even holidays!

Given Christmas has been around for a fair amount of time (it dates back to the Roman times), why can’t brands call it what it is?  Are they really that scared of being called out for not being inclusive or are they simply trying too hard to please everyone?

We don’t rebrand Diwali, Eid or Hanukkah as holidays or seasons so why do we insist on doing it to Christmas?

So, a plea to brands.  Don’t be scared of using the C word. Admittedly, it might not be right for all your territories, but here in the UK where 9/10 brits celebrate it, call it what it is and be brave enough to wish your customers a ‘Happy Christmas’!