Holiday ads get a musical boost

With the last morsel of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers reluctantly ingested and Santa’s elves finally starting to see the light at the end of the sweatshop tunnel, the Black Friday shopping tills are ringing out the sound of an imminent Xmas day.

The average Stateside shopper is anticipated to shell out around $854 per person this holiday season, up around 32% and close to the pre-recession high of 2007, according to the American Research Group. Meanwhile, over in the UK, eager shoppers will be racking up a hefty £22B tab over the Xmas period.

As ever, our TVs are awash with suitably festive ads all vying for the silver sixpence at the core of the season’s lucrative marketing pudding. With emotions naturally running high at this time of year, music once again has a vital role to play at the heart of a successful ad campaign.

Here we take a look at some of the key ads and the music tracks that are helping them ramp up emotional engagement with the brand. 

Gap – Love Comes in Every Shade

The US fashion chain has a long history of music and celebrity inspired holiday ads, and 2012 treads a similar path, enlisting a multitude of famous faces in its latest effort to hone in on the festive season.  Michael J Fox and his wife, the band mates from The Atomics (pictured) and rapper Nas and his father are among those donning their festival jumpers this time around to highlight the various shapes and sizes of love.

The music itself comes courtesy of the rather talented Nylon Studios in NYC, who deliver the suitably indie sounding ‘Just You and Me’, which despite being an in-house produced track, feels achingly credible.

Yes, it's bright, bold and celebrity laden, exactly what we would expect from Gap in the run up to the holidays. However, as with so many ads this year, it is also somewhat stripped back and directly focused on family unity, something that appears to be the trump card to be played, both musically and aesthetically in 2012. 

John Lewis – The Journey

The annual John Lewis commercial has become something of a landmark ad moment in the UK festival calendar, with a strong run of campaigns that have honed in on the emotional value of a bespoke music sync, utilising everything from Elton John to Guns n Roses covers.

Although cute, this year’s ad seems to have lost the all-important human element that helped its predecessors tug at the heartstrings. It’s somewhat harder to strike an attachment to an experessionless snowman (displaying a typical lack of creativity at female present buying) than it was the boy desperate to give his parents a present on Xmas morning. That said, the continued use of emerging artists – Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of ‘The Power of Love' in this case (sadly not the Huey Lewis version) – is still a strong draw, and helps give the ad its emotive edge. Not to mention the PR column inches focused on the success of an unknown singer it helps to generate.  

Boots – Let’s Feel Good

Boots has ditched its brash 'Here come the Girls’ style ads in favour of a more down to earth set of vignettes that showcase a diverse aray of families exchanging gifts. Elton John offers the soundtrack here, with "Are You Ready For Love" underscoring the on screen action. It’s simple, wholesom stuff, strongly rooted in the reality of present buying.

The focus here is on authenticity, with the campaign using real couples and families – some great back-story footage on the characters can be found here – avoiding the strong female-only focus of past campiagns. Still led with a humourous edge, these ads look to emulate the actual shopping experience of everyday people, with the music used more sensitively apllied than the in-your-face Sugababes track from previous years. 

Coca-Cola - Together we make the magic happen

Coca-Cola has a long tradition of associating music and the holiday season, and 2012 is no exception with a brand new track launching its seasonal campaign across 100 countries. The ad itself sees the famous ‘Holidays are Coming' Coca-Cola truck delivering an oversized Xmas present to a small town and the community coming together to bring a giant wooden Santa marionette to life.

The featured song, ‘Something in the Air’ – which encompasses Coca-Cola’s iconic 5-note melody - is sung by a trio of emerging artists (Grayson Sanders, Lauriana Mae and Jono), following in the footsteps of last year’s 'Shake Up Christmas' promotion with Natasha Beddingfield.

An extended cut of the TV ad shows the three artists recording the track in the studio, plus consumers will be able to download the track and create a personalised album cover with photos from their Facebook account. 

Canadian Tire - Runway

Emanating from the same John Lewis school of Xmas sentiment, this ad, from Canada’s largest retailer and automotive services company, highlights a young boy’s concern at being forgotten by Santa when his family moves to the middle of nowhere. 

It’s a warm, accessible, family orientated ad, focused directly on father/son bonding, with the automotive sales aspect subtlety pared down (the vechile plays a key role both at the ad's start and climax). The music, ‘Stars and Satellites’, plucked from singer/songwriter Dan Griffin’s inaugural 2007 album, delivers an equally cosy soundtrack. 

Target – Big Dog

Target started celebrating Xmas in early October, as one of the most eager US brands on the Xmas circuit, rolling out an ad that contained that sure fire winner outside of endearing children, a dog. The comemercial is basic enough; presenting us with a Godzilla sized Bullseye (the chain’s mascot) bounding down the street to the tune of ‘Are you Ready?’ by Kate Miller-Heidke.

In addition, proving that Xmas ad land is not all about trying to recreate It’s a Wonderful Life in 30 seconds, the big box retailer also opts for a much more jarring approach, focusing its ‘duelling duets’ series (HallelujahLets Go Together and Gifts for You, Gifts for Me) on the mayhem surrounding Xmas present buying.  Bold, brash and a far cry from the indie songstrels that pepper most Xmas commercials, this in your face approach may not be the most comfortable to watch (or listen to), but it may actually be more realistic when it comes to the Black Friday rush for deals pre-Xmas.

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