Did “uplifting” Buster the Boxer Christmas ad pay off for John Lewis?

Christmas adverts are big business: according to the BBC, companies will spend £5.6bn on festive advertising this year. Press coverage of Christmas ad campaigns can play an important role in generating return on investment. So how does media coverage of ad campaigns vary from year to year? This piece will show how media data can be used to quantify campaign performance, something Signal places at the core of its media monitoring product.

Of the big retailers, John Lewis is perhaps most well-known for its Christmas efforts. Earlier this month, Buster the Boxer hit our screen for the first time in John Lewis’s £7m campaign, the follow-up to 2015’s Man on the Moon. In a year which has seen its fair share of turbulence, the word from John Lewis executive Rachel Swift was that the 2016 ad would be less “sad” than its predecessor.

We wanted to see just how this was represented in the media. So we tracked sentiment for both the Buster the Boxer and Man on the Moon campaigns over 10 days after the ads were released, to see whether their respective tones were reflected in press coverage. (This study covers online, print and broadcast media – no social metrics were incorporated).

Sentiment

John Lewis Man on the Moon Sentiment
John Lewis Man on the Moon Sentiment
John Lewis Buster the Boxer Sentiment
John Lewis Buster the Boxer Sentiment

The Man on the Moon campaign was released on 6th November 2015, while Buster the Boxer debuted on 10th November. We tracked the 10 days immediately after the launch of each campaign and evaluated sentiment for this period of time. Immediately, we can see that sentiment around Buster the Boxer was higher than Man on the Moon by a few percentage points, potentially connected to the advert’s more upbeat tone. (The y axes on the graphs in this article differ slightly due to the varying volume scales).

Volume

John Lewis Man on the Moon Volume
John Lewis Man on the Moon Volume
John Lewis Buster the Boxer Volume
John Lewis Buster the Boxer Volume

We also analysed press volume to see which campaign attracted the most overall media attention. The two graphs chart remarkably similar trajectories – a rush of press on launch day, followed by a steady stream of articles and references over the following days. However, it’s clear that in terms of media reach, Buster the Boxer outperforms Man on the Moon, registering almost twice the number of unique media mentions.

Conclusions

Congratulations are in order for John Lewis – it appears that in terms of both media volume and sentiment, the Buster the Boxer 2016 Christmas advert has improved on the partnership’s 2015 effort. Does this mean that at Christmas, uplifting ads perform better in the press than tear-jerkers? It’s not certain that this is the only reason Buster performed strongly, but it is certainly something to bear in mind for businesses crafting festive campaigns.

To quantify campaigns and analyse them against each other, businesses may need to access many months of news data. With a platform that allows you to scan news over any period, accessing information in real time, Signal is the logical solution. Sign up for a demo here.

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