In recent years, Christmas adverts by the big retailers in the UK have become the equivalent of the Superbowl ads in the US, with creatives spending months beforehand preparing them, knowing that they have the opportunity to do something genuinely special and memorable in front of an audience of millions.

Past runaway successes include last year’s John Lewis offering, which featured a small child who couldn’t wait to give his parents a gift on Christmas Day, set to an acoustic version of The Smiths – Please Let Me Get What I Want.

These adverts are all about creating a buzz, getting people talking and leaving a lasting impression, and one of the best ways to measure the success of this is by monitoring the reaction on social media. We decided to take three of the biggest retailers’ Christmas adverts and see which ones set tongues wagging the most, and whether the reactions online have been mostly positive or negative.

The retailers we looked at were Boots, Marks & Spencer, and John Lewis. We asked our social media monitoring tool to collect mentions of their adverts from the beginning of November, when the Christmas adverts first started to air, until the 1st December.

I’ve included a few of the adverts here (in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid them), along with a sample of responses from social media.



John Lewis


Marks & Spencer




It was no big surprise to see that John Lewis came out on top in terms of mentions, but the margin with which they did so was pretty astonishing. Their advert had 61,024 mentions in November, while the M&S advert had just 5,203 mentions over the same period. Boots meanwhile (who did a whole series of Christmas adverts) had fewest mentions of all, with just 4,599.

Value of Social Media Data

One caveat here is that although John Lewis has unquestionably produced the most popular and well received advert this year, they may not have produced the most effective campaign. This article in Marketing Week suggests that despite getting the best emotional reactions from audiences, the John Lewis advert was not as effective as the slightly more conventional, product-orientated adverts of their rivals at converting viewers into paying shoppers.

This speaks volumes about the dangers of treating social media as an end in itself – social media buzz is great, but only if it leads to increased revenue by bringing in new customers or increasing the brand loyalty of existing ones. Crucially, making the decision to tweet about a brand’s new advert is very different to making a decision to actually purchase from that brand, and the danger for John Lewis is that it is getting very good at the former without giving proper attention to the latter.

For what it’s worth, I think the John Lewis advert is very smart, and we need to remember that as a seller of mainly big ticket items, John Lewis does not need to bring in the same volume of customers as Boots and M&S. As such, it values building relationships with customers and improving brand perceptions, and creating clever, fun and quirky Christmas adverts is a great way to do that.