High streets across the country have been transformed from dreary roads to decked out in fairy lights, Slade are back on the radio and nipping out to the shops on a Saturday afternoon has become more riotous than retail therapy. Yep, Christmas has well and truly arrived!

Young girl looking at a Christmas tree

They say ‘tis the season to be jolly… But as the Christmas season rolls around once again, it’s proving to be far from a regular December. With the UK preparing to head to the polls on December 12th, the blanket media coverage of the general election is, understandably, making it a little difficult for some people to get into the festive mood.

But don’t despair. There’s one place that you can truly rely on to provide the Christmas-shaped relief you may be craving, one that will instantly transport you back to the festive seasons of your childhood… And it’s during those couple of minutes squeezed in between your favourite TV shows.

Enter: the Christmas advert.

The rise of the Christmas ad

You need only have a quick flick through the TV channels in December to be bombarded with a flood of Christmas content… But the Christmas ad is a different beast entirely.

With the average big budget Christmas ad taking up to a year to create, companies work hard all year round to get their Christmas advert right.

In fact, it is the department store chain John Lewis that can be credited with kicking off the Christmas ad competition between big brands. Their first Christmas advert was aired in 2007, but 2011’s ‘The Long Wait’ marked the start of their multi-million pound cinematic productions, depicting a heart-warming story of a young boy’s excitement to give his family a gift. Other brands have been trying to keep up ever since.

John Lewis’ winning formula lies in a stirring acoustic cover version of a popular song, a lovable protagonist and a nostalgic storyline. John Lewis then builds anticipation for the ad’s debut on TV by announcing its release date, picking a prime-time slot for its first airing and sharing an ad teaser.

What’s more, in the age of social media, brands are always looking for ways to further engage their audience and drive those all-important likes, shares and retweets.

Perhaps thanks to John Lewis, it has now become a December ritual to wait with bated breath for your favourite brand’s Christmas ad campaign.

But what propels a Christmas ad to become the star on top of the tree, and what makes for a Christmas turkey?

The Christmas voice over

There is one interesting element that many of the successful Christmas ads have in common: A cinematic, nostalgia-inducing Christmas voice over.

On this blog last year, we looked at the magic of the Christmas voice over and discovered how brands can tap into their audience’s childhood nostalgia for magical Christmas Eve story-telling with a soothing, Santa-style voice over.

And 2019 has been no different. Following on from its success over the last few years, discount supermarket chain Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot’s ad saga has received as much attention as ever. The shop’s stuffed toy version of Kevin has seen a country-wide sell-out, and even prompted fighting in the aisles. Indeed, Aldi UK marketing director Sean McGinty confirmed, “Kevin’s popularity grows every year and he’s becoming something of a national treasure.”

One of the campaign’s secret weapons is Jim Broadbent, the beloved British actor who played Professor Slughorn in the Harry Potter film series. For Alid’s 2019 ad, he once again returns as the voice over, employing his comforting, dulcet tones in the format of the classic festive poem The Night Before Christmas, undoubtedly taking the audience back to those excitable Christmas Eves as children.

Elsewhere on TV, the 2019 Sainsbury’s advert is an epic masterclass in creating dramatic tension, using the well-loved Shakespearean theatre actor Brian Cox for the voice over on their emotive, Dickensian ‘Nicholas The Sweep’ advert, which no doubt draws on Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol for inspiration.

A Christmas ad campaign for the everyday

But discount supermarket chain Lidl, one of Aldi’s direct competitors, has taken a different route. With a chatty, down-to-earth voice over, a light-hearted tone and an everyday Christmas scene, their successful 2019 ad is a far cry from the Hollywood-style ads we’re used to seeing from the retail giants.

Claire Farrant, the marketing director of Lidl GB, says, “Christmas is a time for togetherness and enjoying your family traditions, whatever they are.

“During Christmas we are surrounded opulence and grandeur and our campaign is trying to cut through that.”

Joe Holt and Luke Ramm, the Creative Directors at Karmarama, the advertising agency who created the ad, said that the version of Christmas they want to get across is “a better Christmas than the one we see in films.”

“It’s one where love is actually in the air, where family and friends enjoying great food and drink is all that matters.

“It’s a Christmas you can believe in and you’ll find it at Lidl.”

It goes to show that, whether you have a John Lewis-sized budget or not, hiring an A-list actor certainly isn’t the only way your brand can strike the right note in their Christmas ad campaign.

With the right multimedia agency on board, anyone can harness the power of the voice over to launch a successful Christmas ad – whatever your budget.

A very VoiceBox Christmas ad

We’re excited to reveal VoiceBox’s very own take on the classic Christmas ad.

The ad introduces our adorable new mascot, Mic, as he prepares for the Christmas festivies… But not before he has sorted out all his multimedia projects for the year!

Why not check out VoiceBox’s extensive library of artists to find the perfect voice over for your project? Or, if you’re stumped for choice, get in touch with a member of our super-friendly team for a helping hand.

Article written by Sofia Ellen Lewis, VoiceBox contributor

Sofia Ellen Lewis
Sofia Ellen Lewis

Since graduating from University of Bristol in 2018 with a First in Italian and Spanish BA, Sofia has gone on to become a skilled translator, content writer and digital marketer. Sofia has a passion for storytelling and has also recently dipped her toe into journalism. A self-proclaimed language nerd, she is always looking for suggestions on which language to learn next.