My Column

All ads up to good sales at Christmas

  • Date: Monday 23rd November 2020
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Last week, saw the moment of the year everyone in the nation looks forward to – the release of all the festive ads.

Traditionally, these comprise of the biggest budget adverts from some of the country’s favourite brands.  And like many others, I look forward to the eagerly anticipated release of the renowned John Lewis advert to see what treat is served up to us this year.

Like our very own Superbowl, it’s the only time of the year when people purposely flock around their TVs to see the adverts and watch the epic battle unfold between retailers to win the top spot as the nation’s favourite.

I have watched with interest this year, to see how those brands would tackle the annual push get us to part with our cash – whilst in the depths of a global pandemic.

Let’s not forget either that those big budgets and advertising spends from some of our favourite household names like John Lewis, TK Maxx, Boots, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Argos, just aren’t there this year – following a year of trading losses and uncertainty.

According to the Advertising Association it is estimated that UK advertisers are forecast to spend £724m less in 2020 than last year, which is a 10.5 per cent fall.  And as the economy dwells in a recession, do brands really have the luxury to go big this time around?

I am delighted to say, yes, they have, whilst giving a thought about the effect it will have on all of us. John Lewis played the kindness card rather than gift-giving. We have seen Argos go down a nostalgic route, reminding us of happier times and how we can make that possible again. Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer got back to the serious subject of food. In contrast, TK Maxx made us chuckle with a sassy goat.

But why, when business uncertainty is so dominant, are we continuing to see such festive masterpieces hit our screens. The answer is simple.

Christmas provides a golden opportunity for lots of business and the potential success goes way beyond the five-week run up to Christmas. The success of a Christmas marketing campaign can have both short-term and long-term effects in terms of showing an increase in sales and profits. The more buzz and chatter generated by an advert, the longer the impact it has on the brand.

For example, John Lewis estimates that since 2012, its sales have increased by more than 35 per cent thanks to the success of their Christmas advertising, whilst back in 2014, Sainsbury’s managed to generate a profit of £24 for every £1 spent on their Christmas advert.

It is a famous saying in the world of business that when the chips are down - keep marketing and advertising spend high. It is a philosophy that has been proven time and time again – especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

This mantra has seen me through in business and is a learning for all entrepreneurs looking for ways to tighten their cloth following this challenging year.

Not all businesses will be able to go to the lengths of our top retailers with their Christmas ads, but the message remains the same: invest in your brand, and consider how people get to hear about you and what they will learn about your business. It’s about creating a story for your business and exploring ways to share with the world.

Whilst the big retailers and brands will be seeing an increase in their own sales and profits following their Christmas advertising campaigns, many are also raising funds and awareness for various charities. For example, in 2020, funds raised by customers of John Lewis and its Waitrose supermarket chain for Home Start and Fareshare will be match-funded up to £2m, along with the profits from the sale of special merchandise, including a heart-shaped umbrella.

These Christmas ads serve as a great reminder to us all on the importance of positively engaging with our audience, even in toughest of times.

As we look forward to 2021, I would urge all businesses, large and small, to consider how they are speaking to their customers and how they can do this better as we enter a new year, and the fresh opportunity available to make next year a success.



You’ll recall just a couple of weeks ago that I was talking about Business Gateway and how, despite the ongoing economic turbulence we’re currently facing, thousands have actually launched their own business ventures this year.

I was really pleased to see more evidence to back this up, after recent research found that nearly 24,000 new businesses had been created between January and August of this year in Scotland.

SHL analysed Companies House data to source the results and revealed their figures during Global Entrepreneurship Week, which took place last week.

Setting up a new business in the current climate is risky, however the pandemic has changed the way people are viewing their lives and ultimately making them decide on what’s really important.

Not much good has come out of this year, but it can certainly be said that it’s the given those who had been contemplating starting their own business venture that push to do so.

What’s more, Glasgow has been named the 16th most entrepreneurial city in the UK, with Edinburgh taking 19th spot.

Scotland’s results are rather impressive, especially in comparison to the number of cities within the UK, and at a time when a number of sectors are struggling.

It gives me confidence that we can overcome this difficult period because people are still investing in new businesses - even during a time like this.

Each one of these new businesses has been started by an entrepreneur, who will never have expected to face such turmoil, so as Christmas approaches it’s important to politely remind everyone to support those small, independent start-ups on our high street.

A busy run up to Christmas could really be the difference between surviving and closing down.



I think we can all agree that we are in need of some good news, but little did we know it would be the Scotland national team who would give us that major boost.

The outstanding result from their penalty shoot-out against Serbia has given the country a well-deserved lift, truly spreading cheer amongst not only the tartan army, but the entire population.

Who knew 2020 would be the year that Scotland made it to the Euros?

You’ll have seen the hilarious clip of the team celebrating to the sound of Baccara’s Yes Sir, I can Boogie, and since then the song has gone viral.

Yes sir, fans have propelled the 43-year-old disco classic into the UK’s official singles chart and it looks like we are adopting the song as our national anthem.



Scotland has been the scene for a number of excellent TV and film productions over the years, so it was exciting to hear Ardverikie House, located near Aviemore, stars in this year’s series of The Crown.

The Netflix drama used the castle to film a number of scenes, which usually would provide a huge tourism boost to both the estate and area.

On this occasion though, despite being a lot of interest, it has just not translated into bookings due to the pandemic – with current restrictions in place throughout the country stopping fans of the show traveling from areas in level three or four.

With the owners even unsure whether they will be able to welcome international visitors next year, despite Ardverikie looking spectacular on Netflix, it’s not looking great for them in reality.



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