As the Western world’s most consuming time of year closes in on us, opportunities for social media marketing are rife, particularly for those brands with a consumer audience. Not only do people want to buy things at Christmas time, they feel obliged to buy things. Many, many things.

Although audiences are warm in the lead up to Christmas, the social media advertising space is saturated, which means three things: it’s tough to get cut-through, you’ll spend more to reach the same amount of people, and audiences will be prone to fatigue. Here are a few hints to navigating the Christmas season, and coming out on top.

Cut through by existing outside the box

When establishing your campaign creative, don’t just think outside the box, be outside it. Nothing about this statement is ground-breaking or new; you’ve heard it six million times. But hell, is it tough to execute, and very few people tell you just how to get there. Here are a few tools to use and questions to ask yourself to do just that.

Leverage pop culture

Know what’s happening around you. Some of the funniest or most interesting advertising campaigns are inspired by current events, social media trends and popular culture. Take Legavulin’s Yule Log video, for example. Back in 2015 when the video was released, yule log videos were growing increasingly popular in the Northern Hemisphere. At a time when strategists were encouraging advertisers to create short-form, ‘snackable’ content, Legavulin put out a 45-minute video of a man sitting by a fire in silence, drinking whiskey. The brand leveraged an element of pop culture that its audience was already engaged with, and worked out a way to have millions of people watch their product being consumed for 45 minutes. If that’s not brand awareness, I don’t know what is.

Do the opposite of your competitors

Competitor analysis isn’t about working out how you can match them, trump them, beat them. It’s about how you can differentiate yourself against them. Ask yourself a series of simple questions such as:

  • What colours are they using?
  • What tone have they set? Is the creative funny or touching?
  • What elements of pop culture or current events are they leveraging?
  • Why would this appeal to my audience?
  • Why wouldn’t this appeal to my audience?
  • What is good about the creative? Clear call-to-action? Short copy? Original artwork?
  • What isn’t so good about the creative?

Use your answers to these questions to shape your own creative direction. Remember, these results should tell you what not to do, rather than what to do.

Do you have to be so tinselly?

Christmas has a distinct look about it. And that means almost every brand adopts that same sparkly, decorative tone at this time of year. We’ve compiled a list of 2019 holiday campaigns that have plenty of Christmas spirit, but have a distinctive creative approach that stands out in the newsfeed. Check it out here.

Outsmart the platforms

It doesn’t seem fair that we’re forced to pay more for a click, a view or an impression at this time of year. But, unfortunately, it makes sense. Because most social media buying systems are auction-based, the more bidders who are marketing to your audience on Facebook, Instagram, Google or Twitter, the higher the price. But there are a few things you and your agency can do, as strategic media buyers, to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Schedule your ads

Launch your campaigns as usual, and monitor performance across the course of a week. What time of day, and what day of the week is driving the lowest cost per click, cost per view, or cost per conversion? The metric you use to gauge performance will vary based on your own objectives, but this is valuable information that you can use to strategically schedule your campaigns.

A/B test targeting

Part of your paid media strategy should involve testing multiple targeting avenues and optimising based on performance. Launch your campaigns with the same creative, but different targeting, and a tracking system in place. Once the learning process is complete, review performance. Which audiences are bringing you the best results? Again, the metric you use to gauge performance will be specific to your own objectives, but once you’ve defined which audience is driving the best results, you’ll be able to turn off the poorer performers, and give all that beautiful budget to the better performers.

Check yourself and your UX

Whether eCommerce is a big or small part of your business, it’s important your website and online store are fit for your website visitors. It’s all good and well to send people to your site via social media, but if the user experience is poor, convoluted, or slow, you might as well be pouring money down Facebook’s drain.

Whether you’re using Shopify, Wix Stores, or another ECommerce platform, there are plenty of UX testing tools available online. Optimizely is one option which allows website A/B testing, or Hotjar is another good option (and it’s free).

Combat audience fatigue

In 2018, an astonishing 68% of Americans started their Christmas shopping in November or before. Although New Zealanders tend to be slightly laxer than those in the US, the Christmas season is growing longer, globally. What does this mean for advertisers? For starters, the opportunity to start advertising earlier each year is mighty tempting. But with more advertising comes more audience fatigue. Here are a few ideas to keep their exhaustion at bay.

Test Facebook’s Reach Objective

Facebook’s Reach objective is designed to get your ad in front of as many people as possible, which is unlike other campaign objectives. The best thing about this buying type is it allows you to set a frequency cap – that is, how many times one person will see your ad or ads. A forewarning: it’s not going to be appropriate for everyone, particularly if you’re targeting niche audiences. It tends to work best with big budgets, targeting mainstream audiences.

Keep promoting your bread and butter

Of course, you’ll want to push the ingenious, outside-the-box Christmas creative that’s likely taken you a lot of time and resource. But don’t forget the rest of your content. Promoting high-quality blog or video content alongside your campaign will help to give your audience a break from Christmas, and allow them to feel less of a target, and more a valued customer.

Retarget responsibly

Retargeting is one of those notoriously successful, not-so-secret weapons that the platforms give to advertisers. It’s a direct connection with warm audiences, which means the audience size will be smaller than a regular targeting avenue. Too often, advertisers overspend on retargeting, which means ad frequency is significantly higher than a regular campaign. To avoid fatigue, cap budgets on retargeting campaigns. Chances are, by the 35th time a potential customer sees your ad and doesn’t buy the product, they’re not going to.


In short, advertise considerately at this time of year, and make sure you get the best results for your investment. Be thoughtful and unique with your creative direction – give your audience a reason to stop scrolling. Spend your money wisely –  test, learn and ensure your Ecommerce journey is as smooth as possible. And finally, look after your audience and make sure you don’t lose them.

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