• We put five of the most popular Christmas TV advertisements through a series of tests, including facial expression recognition, eye tracking and galvanic skin response (GSR).

The battle of the TV Christmas adverts

23 December 2016
Thought Leadership
5 mins

In recent years, Christmas themed adverts have become a klaxon for the festive period. For many people, the launch of these big brand TV ads is now a massive part of Christmas itself, with plenty of analysis and reviews on whose was the best.

With this in mind, if you asked someone on the street to name three of the Christmas TV advertisements by John Lewis, I imagine that they could probably answer the question in less than 30 seconds. This shows the impact that an effective TV advertisement can have and how important it is for a brand to get it right.

We put five of the most popular Christmas TV advertisements through a series of tests, including facial expression recognition, eye tracking and galvanic skin response (GSR). So here is what we really thought of the 2016 Christmas TV advertisement, and who won the battle…


John Lewis

We couldn’t write a post about Christmas TV advertisements without mentioning John Lewis once or twice! The great British department store have caught the heart of millions for numerous years with their emotional (often tear jerking) Christmas advertisements. The John Lewis 2016 Christmas advert is no different. The advertisement includes Buster the boxer as well as many other suburban creatures, that all seem to love to bounce. The heart strings are definitely pulled as Buster watches his furry friends playing outside, but unlike John Lewis’ other Christmas advertisements, the brand decided to add humour. This has a powerful impact which we think trumps their usual strategy.




Burberry are well known for their use of expensive advertising, often using celebrity endorsements such as Romeo Beckham. In line with their style, Burberry have used a star-studded cast to tell the tale of Thomas Burberry. Even though this story is a great one and the use of cinematography is amazing, we felt somewhat lost on how this links to Christmas and whether the short film was festive at all.

Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer have taken a different approach to their 2016 Christmas TV advertisement by reliving the traditional story of Mr and Mrs Claus. However, they have added a modern twist which explores how Mrs Claus also plays an important role at Christmas. Alongside this, the advert looks at the bond between a brother and a sister. Most of us know that bond all too well and this is portrayed well in the advert. This advertisement was an emotional roller coaster with parts of laughter and parts of sadness, and there were definitely a few ‘aw’ moments!





This Polish advertisement did tell a story that had us all hooked. It showed an elderly man trying to learn English, however, why he was doing this was unknown. There were laughs throughout, particularly when he sticky noted the whole of his house, even his dog! However, at the end of the TV advertisement, it was clear that the reason the man was trying to learn English was so that he would be able to interact with his granddaughter who lived in the UK. This was a really heart-warming, feel good advertisement, and even brought a tear to some viewers’ eyes!





This Christmas advert was the only TV advertisement that included animation which instantly made it stand out against the others. The catchy song, which was very uplifting, also had a lovely message behind it which we believe everyone can relate to. This message portrayed how a lot of people don’t have enough time to enjoy Christmas with their family and highlights that spending time is the best gift anyone can give.


The Verdict

Within this experiment, we measured people’s reactions to this year’s Christmas TV advertisements based on joy, emotional engagement and valiance. 

Joy was measured by tracking one specific emotional response using face coding, emotional engagement was determined from both facial coding and GSR and valiance is based on an algorithm that takes all facial expression into account and evaluates the overall reaction as positive or negative.

In terms of non-conscious emotional response there were two clear winners. Both the John Lewis and the Allegro adverts scored the highest for emotional engagement and valiance. However, it was the Allegro advert that trumped all of the others having the highest score for joy. 

Interestingly, the Sainsbury’s advertisement has less emotional engagement than M&S but provoked more joy. When subjects were asked which advert they preferred, 57% of participants provided a conscious answer that differed from their unconscious emotional response.

Below are three of the top performing advertisements for you to enjoy;








  • We put five of the most popular Christmas TV advertisements through a series of tests, including facial expression recognition, eye tracking and galvanic skin response (GSR).

Meet the Author

  • Charlotte Mill
  • Sales and Marketing Manager

Charlotte is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Lab. Her background is primarily in Marketing after completing her degree in 2015, the IDM Digital / Direct Marketing award as well as the Google Squared Digital Marketing Qualification on a full scholarship. In her spare time, she has an active lifestyle blog which mainly revolves around food and her Cocker Spaniel, Tia. Catch up with Charlotte on Twitter, @CharlotteMill_.