Brussels Sprout Marketing: 6 Christmas campaigns you'll either love or hate

Maeve Taylor

We hear about the most successful Christmas marketing campaigns due to the hype created around them, but do you consider those that aren’t as successful? Those campaigns which failed to amuse, tug on the heartstrings and resonate with the intended audience.

We hear whispers, we see tweets, but some go further and officially complain. Did you know, Christmas TV adverts featured prominently in both the 2014 and 2015 most complained about ads.

Simply, not all strategies succeed, we have put together a list of the best ‘Brussels Sprout’ marketing campaigns. What do we mean by Brussels Sprout Marketing? Basically, you’ll either like it or loathe it.

1. John Lewis’ Moz the Monster

As always, people waited with baited breath to see the 2017 John Lewis approach to Christmas advertising. Luckily, we aren’t focussing on the advert itself but the branded products on sale – Moz. Moz was the feature of this year’s campaignand he received a great reception across the country; however, the cuddly toy of Moz wasn’t quite as loved. Many have even compared the situation to Tinder – the expectation vs. reality – poor Moz!

The marketing elf says… make sure reality meets audience expectations.

2. Sainsbury’s Football at Christmas

Who would have thought this campaign would end up on the naughty list? This Sainsbury’s Christmas advert which is sure to have stuck in the minds of viewers appeared on our screens in 2014. The advert – made in association with The Royal British Legion – showed a sporting event taking place during the First World War on the 1914 Christmas Day truce.

Now, this advert was one to divide people. Some loved the advert – Christmas throughout the years – but some were not as keen. In fact, 823 complained about the advert to the ASA. Most addressed the use of the First World War events to advertise a supermarket, suggesting this was in poor taste. I guess some will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

The marketing elf says… be careful on sensitive issues.

3. Greggs’ Advent Calendar

Greggs attempted to delve into the market of advent calendars in 2017. While a fantastic idea, it didn’t leave everyone impressed. The advent calendar displayed the nativity scene with the three wise men gathered around the manger. Greggs adaption of baby Jesus, turned into a sausage roll, didn’t go down so well with many. The UK Evangelical Alliance even accused the company of deliberately causing a scandal to increase sales.

The marketing elf says… think about the wider connotations of your campaign.

4. Paypal’s Santa reveal

PayPal got into the Christmas spirit in 2015 with their advert depicting two children who were worried their parents hadn’t shopped for their Christmas presents. Their advert, like that of Sainsbury’s, appeared on the 2015 naughty list of adverts. The complaints were concerning the revelation of Father Christmas and the secrets behind his existence; with PayPal, the secret was nearly uncovered!

The marketing elf says… be careful when incorporating seasonal traditions.

5. WKD’s Christmas appeal

With their tongue-in-cheek marketing approach, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that WKD made it onto the list. In 2012, they approached Christmas with a spoof appeal. Outdoor poster adverts included a campaign strapline reading, ‘Just a few pounds a week could give this dog a home. It could also buy you a WKD.’

This campaign was criticised heavily by dog lovers and the RSPCA claimed it took away from the severity of the issue of thousands of animals abandoned across the country every year who require new homes.

The marketing elf says… make sure the campaign doesn’t overstep the mark.

6. Mr. Kipling’s Nativity

It’s a good job that they’re exceedingly good at making cakes because the same can’t be said for all their adverts. This one is slightly historical but a Christmas cracker all the same.

If you’re going for the Most Shocking Christmas Advert award, then Mr. Kipling wins! The brand decided to take the Nativity and giving its own rendition and if I’m being honest, I do quite like it! It’s a pretty bold move and it is reflected in the showing figures. The advert was only aired a handful of times on TV so most people will have missed it – watch it here. Interesting, right? I think it’s a nice attempt but possibly a little shocking for some people’s taste.

The marketing elf says… remember who your audience is likely to be.


As you can tell, companies don’t always get it right but when you get it wrong it isn’t necessarily a complete failure. Some will like it, and some will hate it – Christmas marketing campaigns are the Brussels Sprouts of marketing. We all have different preferences, things we want to see, things we like, things we associate with Christmas. You must just try and succeed with the masses.

So, when you do succeed with the masses? My colleague, Alex, has looked at some of the best Christmas campaigns out there which you can read right here.

If you don’t want to end up on the naughty list next year, then reach out to TBT Marketing – we can help you create magical campaigns all year round.

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