The formula for the Christmas Ad is out and even PRs are having a go. John Lewis’s Man on the Moon and Sainsbury’s Mog the Cat may have been beamed out into the national conversation courtesy of big budgets, social media overkill and appearing on platforms that still demand attention; but a bundle of Christmas-themed videos released online by every brand under the grey clouds shows that you don’t need the budget of an Oscar-bait film to tap into the seasonal magic.
Kwik Fit’s winter safety check campaign is proof in point that PR “content” is moving further into terrains previously occupied by advertisers and the media. Christmas Surprise, dreamed up by Taylor Herring and put together by production company London Us, shows several dull family trips to the garage schmaltzed up by the discovery that Father Christmas also needs to ensure that his Dasher lights are working and that his Prancer isn’t going to seize up halfway across the Atlantic.
The simple genius of the film is that the deliberately low production values –the whole thing was shot in less than two days on no more than two cameras- gives the piece the naturalistic feel of much family friendly lifestyle TV. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it gets straight to shots of awestruck kiddies and the acceptable face of consumption.
Kwik Fit’s video might not be an advert in the conventional sense but it has attracted the kind of attention that television fare would hope for. Within its first week the youtube has been viewed over 600,000 times and it’s been picked up by the Mail Online. This is part of a growing trend in PR that sees content creation as a self-sufficient driver of brand message. PR can provide the content and PR can channel it too.
As newsrooms shrink and the opportunity for communicating across owned channels and social media grows the hubris of these ‘brand storytellers’ seemingly knows no bounds. Last month the FT’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson pointed to a recent trend of corporates, who in the past would have used advertorials for their company statement, turning to self-publishing platforms like Medium. “PR people who once tried to influence the news have discovered they can use the very tools that are shaking up journalism to write it.”
Everybody seems to think you can get sufficient awareness by mining your own platforms. Yet it is self-defeating if you are not able to reach beyond those who are already listening to you (and may well be already bored of you). As enjoyable as Kwik Fit’s Christmas film is it has to contend with the rank & vile of social media’s funny video churn. It is doubtful that it could ever become as iconic as the headline Christmas ads that find their way into our living rooms and have captive audiences of millions.