Cutting through the New Year Noise - a Tale of Two Ads

I spent a disproportionate amount of the festive period watching television.

Don’t get me wrong, I did manage to get out and about too.

I joined everyone and their dogs (and their kids and their bikes) at a National Trust property on New Year’s Day.

It’s just that I got totally hooked on Stranger Things and there always seems to be an unholy amount of live sport on the box at this time of year.

Not to mention, I have a six-month-old daughter who only ever seems to want to fall asleep on me – so I like to think I’d be forgiven for this period of televisual hibernation.

Anyway, there I was one day, agonisingly out of reach of both my phone and a full bowl of dry roasted peanuts, pinned down by a snoring child during the ad break of Sky Sports’ New Year’s Eve Super Sunday bonanza.

Then the Admiral ad started wobbling and the screen cracked.

This is different, I immediately thought.

Then the same thing happened to the next ad.

Then a small Ram forced its way into a Virgin Atlantic ad.

Then before I knew it, a Volkswagen advert featuring said Ram and the musical stylings of Lenny Kravitz was all over my field of vision.

Very impressive.

I actually rewound the ad break to show the wife when she walked in (as a Xennial, I am still genuinely delighted at being able to do this).

She wasn’t actually that bothered about the fact that a cocky little Ram had burst into a few adverts, probably more irritated at the sight of her better half groggily watching West Brom v Arsenal.

But I thought it was great!

Adam&Eve DDB have come up with a great creative and PHD have negotiated a genuinely different media buy.

It’s the best I’ve seen since the Lego break (again, PHD – respect), which to my mind will be difficult to top.

However, this was stark contrast to an ad I encountered a couple of days later on January 2nd.

This was a commercial for Just Eat, which got me thinking…

Why on earth would you run a brand campaign for a takeaway app in January? 


Dry January?

Healthy eating, join the gym January?

January, when everyone thinks about booking a holiday or sorting their finances?

My instinct told me bad timing - but I still felt compelled enough to consult Google Trends.

I’m looking at three of the largest terms in the category – Just Eat in blue, Domino’s in red and Pizza Hut in yellow.

Ok, so there’s a peak consistently occurring in the last week of December into Jan. I’m going to hazard a guess that’s not driven by the tail end of that period. Let’s have a look:

Yes, that would be a peak on New Year’s Day, when everyone’s feeling sorry for themselves.

Having said that, Just Eat did manage a much greater peak than their competitors on the day itself.

Maybe the TV campaign drove a load of interest. Who knows.

However, I did wonder what the fastest growing queries related to Just Eat would be during that week itself...



Oh. Did they have a technical issue?

Let’s check Twitter...


I’ll be honest with you...

I started looking into this as an exercise in proving that you aren’t necessarily best placed to advertise above the line in January just because that’s when your marketing budget kicks back in.

I had no intention of pouring oil on the flames of what appears to have been a below-average start to 2018 for the Just Eat marketing team.

Let’s not forget that Google Trends also demonstrated there has been no discernible uplift in interest in their brand relative to Domino’s, for example, since the broader campaign launched at the end of October.

It’s entirely possible that there is a method in Just Eat’s madness.   

They might be trying to tempt people who refuse to bend to the January pressure?

Or perhaps attempting to create a levelling off of demand for their vendors across the year?

But then again, surely when there’s a World Cup on this summer, with takeaway-friendly England kick-offs, the money is better spent later in the year?

This assumption is supported somewhat by the massive amount of noise and related costs of advertising on TV in January as well.

Even in Q1, there seems to be a peak around Valentine’s Day (romance is not dead).

TV remains a uniquely powerful driver of interest, but you have to play it right.

That said, there is still an opportunity for advertisers out of season.

I say - focus instead on owning the remnant demand.

On capitalising on the brand awareness created by your Q4 push.

On getting the Just Eat app onto the phones of those non-conformists still pigging out after the festive excess, because they may have quite the lifetime value (if potentially a reduced life expectancy).

Don’t let yourself be outbid on your own brand term on desktop, for example...

If the people you’re after are zagging when everyone else zigs (to borrow from Marty Neumeier), then do the same.

Buy the audiences of people who aren’t demonstrating an interest in getting fit or organising their finances.

Exclude the audiences everyone else is fighting for.

Bid up for your existing customers and those that look particularly like them – whether in paid search, social or programmatic display.

Categorise those that bought last January and see what characteristics they share.

Try to find advantages that will be less critical to test out of a peak period so you have more insight to really nail those peak periods. 

Come to think of it, I think what I’m saying is to be more like ‘Bam the Ram’ in the VW ad!

Just don’t wake up my new born…

January 11, 2018|

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