In recent years, Christmas adverts have famously become quite competitive, as though every big brand wants to have the ‘best Christmas advert’. In 2016 Marks and Spencer’s answer to John Lewis’ eagerly anticipated adverts was their ‘Love Mrs Claus’ campaign, which was focused around the female Claus. The television advert shown above featured an emotional storyline about a young boy who wanted to make his big sister happy at Christmas. There are two interesting elements in this advert: the impact of emotion and the impact of challenging gender stereotypes in advertising.
The impact of emotion on the effectiveness of advertisements can be seen as a peripheral mechanism of persuasion within the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Research suggests that a positive emotional tone increases the likelihood that someone will share a video or advert with someone else, as well as having the greatest influence on someone’s attitude towards the advert and the whole brand (Eckler & Bolls, 2011). A study by Ruiz and Sicilia (2004) found that the most effective use of an emotional advertisement is when the audience has an information-processing style that is receptive to emotional stimuli. This means that this Christmas advert is likely to be effective if M&S customers tend to process information in an emotional way.
Another message that M&S have tried to convey in this campaign is the idea that their brand is a modern one. From the helicopter instead of a sleigh to challenging the typical male gender stereotype of Santa Claus, there are many elements in this ad that scream “we’re a modern 21st century brand”. The question is: do challenges to gender stereotypes improve attitudes towards a brand? Jaffe and Berger (1994) claim that adverts that feature women portraying a ‘superwoman’ role generally appear to be preferred by a female audience compared to traditional adverts. Another study by Zawisza and Cinnirella (2010) also found that non-traditional gender portrayals were more effective compared to traditional portrayals in influencing several variables, including affective response to the ad and brand recall. However, it was noted that overall, advert effectiveness was not influenced much by attitudes towards gender roles.
Eckler, P., & Bolls, P. (2011). Spreading the virus: Emotional tone of viral advertising and its effect on forwarding intentions and attitudes. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 11(2), 1-11.
Jaffe, L. J., & Berger, P. D. (1994). The effect of modern female sex role portrayals on advertising effectiveness. Journal of Advertising Research, 34(4), 32-42.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.
Ruiz, S., & Sicilia, M. (2004). The impact of cognitive and/or affective processing styles on consumer response to advertising appeals. Journal of Business Research, 57(6), 657-664.
Zawisza, M., & Cinnirella, M. (2010). What matters more—breaking tradition or stereotype content? Envious and paternalistic gender stereotypes and advertising effectiveness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(7), 1767-1797.