Business Technology

10 most compelling Christmas ads from UK high street retailers based on facial reactions

4 min read

17 December 2014

Former deputy editor

John Lewis has topped the list of 2014's “most compelling high street Christmas ads” with Monty the Penguin, as technology startup Realeyes tracks the reactions of British viewers with its emotional analytics platform.

Google adviser Jack Hidary complimented Realeyes during an interview with Real Business on 24 November when he said the team comprises very inventive, agile-thinking entrepreneurs, commending them for entering “white space” with something fresh rather than using the “me too approach.”

Describing the company’s proposition, Hidary added Realeyes has produced a “software technology that can view a face via a camera and tell the emotional state of that person, whether they’re reacting to a video advertisement positively or apathetically, for example.”

And with the Christmas shopping season in full swing, Realeyes has used its platform for festive purposes by “measuring” the faces of Brits via webcam to gauge their reactions when viewing the merry marketing material creating by the UK’s 25 leading high street brands.

More than 2.2m facial data points were traced during the experiment, which generated “emotionally compelling” scores based on attraction, retention, engagement and impact on the viewers to reveal the top ten “most compelling high street Christmas ads” – they are: 

1. John Lewis – Monty the Penguin, which scored 84 per cent on the emotionally compelling scale. The result puts it in the top 16 per cent of ads ever measured by Realeyes.

2. Harvey Nichols – “Could I be any clearer” scored 80 per cent, with the ad designed to help people avoid receiving unwanted gifts this Christmas.

3. The Post Office – “Get Christmas all wrapped up” scored 80 per cent, featuring comedian Robert Webb and singer Pixie Lott.

Mihkel Jäätma, CEO, Realeyes, said: “There are four elements to make an ad resonate emotionally. Attract or hook the audience early, retain their attention, engage by invoking some form of reaction – the stronger the better – and finish with impact.

“Monty scored joint highest on engagement and impact with Harvey Nichols, but won because it was the best ad at retaining attention. However, both ads were very mid-table when it came to initial attraction.”

The remaining results of the top ten are:

4. Boots – “Special because” scored 64 per cent

5. Iceland – “Peter Andre and desserts” scored 63 per cent

6. Lidl – “Little present’ scored 59 per cent

7. Harrods – “Land of make believe” scored 57 per cent

8. Waitrose – “Gingerbread stall” scored 55 per cent

9. Sainsbury’s – “Christmas is for sharing” scored 55 per cent

10. House of Fraser – “Be you no matter who” scored 53 per cent

It’s unsurprising John Lewis came out on top – we’ve already reported on the success of the Monty’s Christmas ad, which generated seven million views on social media in 24 hours.

Celebrities have featured in two ads within the top ten, but Realeyes found that famous faces aren’t guaranteed to make an advert compelling success. The results show the Littlewoods promotion featuring Myleene Klass had the second lowest score of all 25 ads, while H&M’s  campaign with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet was fourth lowest.

Jäätma, added: “H&M had the second lowest retention score of all the ads, which meant by the time Gaga and Bennett appeared, audiences had already drifted off – an expensive mistake. Featuring them earlier could have made a big difference.

“Despite being top of the charts and outperforming last year’s “Bear & Hare”, Monty still didn’t reach the heights of our all-time Christmas winner, Harvey Nichols’ humorous “Sorry I Spent It On Myself” from last year, which is in the top 4 per cent of ads we’ve ever tested.”