IAB Member Q&A: Seasonal & Christmas Marketing

On September 16, 2020 Research & Resources

September is the month many marketers get serious about their holiday & Christmas related ad activity. With a big jump in ecommerce activity  over the last 6 months and continuing changes in media consumption we thought it was time to check in with some IAB member experts to get some advice for marketers as we prepare for the upcoming silly season. 

Thanks to Pinterest, Rakuten, Shopper Media Group, Commission Factory and Gumtree for their contributions.



Carin Lee-Skelton, Australia and New Zealand Country Manager at Pinterest

With the increased ecommerce activity in 2020 are there any particular considerations in relation to digital advertising for marketers embarking on their holiday marketing activity?

This year has seen an unprecedented change in modern retail, and it’s an understatement to say that e-commerce has become more important than ever. As consumers shift their spending to online channels, brands should focus on inspiring ways to create an online shopping experience that feels more like “real life” and that brings a sense of normalcy and delight to challenging times.  At Pinterest, we’re focused on making our tools accessible and impactful to businesses of all sizes, so that it’s easy to bring the products from their online store shelves to the recommendations Pinners see while they’re shopping.

Marketers will want to double down on ways to digitally inspire consumers for Christmas this year through engaging and creative content. What we’ve found on Pinterest is that our users are thinking about Christmas earlier than usual. Typically, Christmas searches start around September, but on Pinterest this year we saw users begin to search and save ideas for the holidays in May. In fact, there was a 15% increase in “Christmas Holidays” searches last month, with 63% of Pinterest users saying they are planning big celebrations around holiday moments this year. People have always come to Pinterest to plan and we usually see an increase of searches around two to three months in advance of a seasonal moment.  By ensuring content is relevant and useful to the audience you’re trying to reach, consumers who are searching and saving on Pinterest will be drawn to your products to complete their Christmas shopping lists.

It’s clear that consumers are looking for a warm, cozy holiday season and a sense of normalcy by the time December rolls around. Users are also factoring in shipping delays and part of their early planning is taking that into consideration. This is a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes to reach inspired shoppers earlier this year. The vast majority of people will still prefer the ‘last-minute’ approach to Christmas shopping, so although it’s important to start campaigns early, it’s equally important that marketers ensure they’re reaching shoppers right up until Christmas Eve.


With consumer confidence and the Australian economy still challenged due to COVID what changes do expect in spending habits over the holiday season?

Despite that this year is full of uncertainties, people are actually really feeling optimistic and are for sure craving a sense of normalcy. We’ve been seeing people planning for celebrations earlier than ever but with a more deliberate and thoughtful mindset.  Not surprisingly, we’ve found that around 40% of people on Pinterest will be celebrating on a budget this year, which means that businesses will need to consider inspiring ways they can meet their customers where they are economically this year. 

Marketers can expect a large appetite for special offers such as early bird discounts, rewards or extras such as free shipping that will go a long way in encouraging sales. The holiday season is one of the largest opportunities for businesses around the world to reach Pinterest users when they are intentional, open and making purchase decisions. And, although it looks like many will be spending more cautiously this year, it’s really promising to see that so many people are already planning ahead and factoring Christmas celebrations into their budgets.


What is your favourite Christmas / holiday season ad from any era and country?

I’m originally from South Africa, and before moving to Australia, I spent a number of the years in the UK. I remember a number of great ads from my childhood in South Africa, but it’s the Christmas ads I saw in the UK that jump out in my memory – specifically the John Lewis & Partners ads. I’m sure most people would pick the John Lewis Christmas ads as their favourite, but there is a reason for that – they’re beautiful stories that embody the emotion and the hope of what we all want Christmas to be. This year, John Lewis & Partners will most likely capture the increased hope that we need for Christmas in 2020, and I look forward to the day that these ads are released. These ads are also special to me because I worked closely with John Lewis & Partners during my time at Pinterest in the UK. John Lewis & Partners had always seen Pinterest as a place for helping people to discover that personal and most thoughtful gift – a gift that is more than a simple transaction. This year, I’m looking forward to connecting to more Aussie Christmas ads – and those ads that become very much part of my son, Hugo’s, childhood.


Stuart McLennan, Senior Vice President of Asia-Pacific, Rakuten Advertising

With the increase ecommerce activity in 2020 are there any particular considerations in relation to digital advertising for marketers embarking on their holiday marketing activity? 

More so than any period in a generation, this holiday season will be do or die for many retailers. The ongoing pandemic has left substantial impact on many brands’ bottom line, making the last quarter of the year be of greater significance than ever. Marketers need to react quickly, be open to changing their pricing and messaging strategies, and consider hyper-targeted segmentation to reach the ever-growing, increasingly savvy online audience.

When optimising digital campaigns, it’s important to look at what message consumers are receptive to during this time. Our latest research “The Road to Recovery: 2020 e-Commerce in Asia-Pacific” reveals 73% of Australians prefer brands to communicate with compassion and empathy, and 36% agree that humorous tones should be avoided. Additionally, there is a strong sense of support for those on the frontline. Consumers expect businesses to do their part and offer discounts and benefits to health workers where possible.

As screen-time is at an all-time high, marketers can engage consumers earlier in their shopping journey by investing in low-risk upper funnel digital and affiliate strategies. Brands can continue to reward their customers through loyalty and cashback programs and also partner with content publishers in highly relevant categories to encourage engagement and increase awareness. Implementing a Multi-Touch Commissioning strategy in the affiliate program can enable brands to reward publishers at various touchpoints in the customer journey and identify which publisher types are performing best during these unprecedented times.

This year, 62% of Australians indicated they are likely to shop in-store this holiday season according to our “The Road to Recovery: 2020 Shopping Peaks Re-Imagined” report. Brands can consider connecting their online and in-store experience through online-to-offline (O2O) partnerships to help drive success towards year-end. Affiliate publishers can facilitate this by providing offers both online and in-store, enabling brands to create a seamless shopping experience.

Every marketing dollar is being scrutinised and it would be easy for brands to fall back on what seems comfortable. However, I would encourage brands to continually test and learn new strategies as this year’s holiday season rapidly approaches.


With consumer confidence and the Australian economy still challenged due to COVID what changes do expect in spending habits over the holiday season? 

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the way business is conducted and how consumers purchase and interact with brands across Australia. According to our “The Road to Recovery: 2020 Shopping Peaks Re-Imagined” consumer research, whilst half of Aussies have decreased their overall monthly spend, the good news for brands is that 67% don’t intend to curb spend during the holiday shopping period.

Online shopping has unsurprisingly experienced rapid growth accelerated by COVID-19. Consumers are becoming more comfortable purchasing from online retailers than ever before, and these new habits are likely here to stay. However, businesses should still prepare for changes in spending habits according to different scenarios that could potentially arise in this uncertain environment. Our research also shows that should the nation return to full lockdown, 44% of Australian consumers will decrease spend during the holiday season. On the other hand, 86% of the population plan to shop as per usual should the country resume normal operation towards year-end.

This year, Australian consumers have indicated they are willing to change when they will shop for the holiday season to save money and avoid crowds. 38% of Australians plan to become savvier by shopping during key online sale and promotional periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, whilst 26% will begin their shopping earlier to ensure on-time arrival of products.

Additionally, we should expect to see a shift in spend towards Australian retailers for the remainder of the year as 44% of consumers indicated they prefer to support local businesses this holiday season. Free shipping and discounts will be an influential factor that will drive Aussies to make an online purchase this year. In comparison to previous years, Australians are most likely to increase spend when purchasing for their immediate family (28%) and decrease spend on themselves (38%).


What is your favourite Christmas / holiday season ad from any era and country?

The original Coca-Cola truck ad! Whenever I see this ad or hear the accompanying music, I know Christmas is here!


Laura Wall, Head of Programmatic, Shopper Media Group

With consumer confidence and the Australian economy still challenged due to COVID what changes do you expect in spending habits over the holiday season?

A recent Shopper Media’s latest research study revealed that Australians are continuing to visit their local shopping centres for essential retail and to seek community connection at a local level. The same study found that 50% of consumers do not feel worried or concerned about health and safety within their local shopping centre, with 2 in 5 Australian shoppers feeling calm and under control during their visit. With centres now well equipped with hand sanitiser, cleaning wipes, and many shop assistants wearing masks, we are confident shopper sentiment will continue to be positive in small to medium size centre environments throughout the holiday period.

Karissa Fletcher, Shopper Media’s Head of Marketing, says, “Our finding showed that 75% of consumers nationally are either visiting more often or have maintained their visitation frequency patterns throughout the months of July and August. Despite ongoing restrictions, 62% of Victorian consumers are continuing to visit their local centres to top up on essential items and 17% are visiting their local shopping malls to get out of the house. These results suggest that throughout the pandemic, shopping centres have served as a purveyor of essential retail as well as being a social sanctuary for many Australians.

“This year typical traditions such as end of year parties and holiday celebrations will look different.  We expect to see a greater focus on at-home celebrations and memorable holiday occasions recreated in the outdoors. Supermarkets, liquor stores and local grocery providers will benefit from more frequents trips to the supermarket by consumers  as they top up on essential items, replenish  store-bought alcohol supplies and look  for easy and convenient ways to entertain in smaller groups in their local areas or homes.

“A recent Christmas Shopper Study survey found that  1 in 4 (28%) of consumers have already started their Christmas shopping with a further 26% due to start this month and 44% of shoppers looking to do more research prior to purchasing gifts this year indicating a longer lead in to Christmas retail  and less last minute organisation.

  • Consumer Sentiment in Centre, n=1,626 shoppers nationally between 7th to 10th August 2020
  • Christmas Shopper Study, n=3747, 11th – 14th September 2020


Do you have any case studies from previous years or research with tips on how to optimise Christmas digital advertising media planning and creative?

Gaining consumer attention is a challenge year-round, but never more so than during the holiday season. The onslaught of competition for consumer’s attention during Christmas period is higher than at any other time of year. So, how can brands achieve cut through?

Ensure your message is seen – optimise platforms to maximise viewability and engagement with the right audience at the right time. In digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertisers can leverage the impact of animation. Shopper Media will shortly release findings of a significant neuroscience study examining the impact of animation in DOOH.  The study found that animated advertising is twice as effective as non-animated advertising and two and half times more likely to secure a second glance.

Connect with consumers in the right environment – advertising in shopping centres has been proven to build trust, familiarity and connect with audiences. During this period of uncertainty, consumers remain more engaged than ever with their local shopping centres: a third of Shopper Media’s network of 370+ essential retail centres has experienced a 25% increase in dwell time, with consumers seeking the comfort and familiarity of their local essential retail shopping experience.

Anticipate shifts in consumer mindsets – as we approach Christmas 2020, advertisers must anticipate new behaviours that will impact both media consumption and message receptivity. Our recent Shopper Study revealed that 2 in 5 Australian shoppers want to see more light-hearted messaging from brands as they navigate the impact of COVID.

Brands should look to help Australians celebrate the magic of Christmas despite the challenges we have faced in 2020.


Based on data from previous years when should marketers be in market with seasonal campaigns? Do you recommend any changes in flighting from normal years? How does this differ for different types of products?

Marketers traditionally roll out their festive campaigns in the 2 months leading up to Christmas. However, a recent Shopper Media study1 revealed that 1 in 2 consumers will be doing more research before buying gifts this year indicating a longer lead into Christmas 2020.  Marketers will need to adapt to the changing behaviours  to ensure their  campaigns are timed to influence the decision-making process and ensure their brand is being considered and served up to  the right consumers with the right messages.

With respect to gift giving in 2020, Shopper Media’s study indicates that 2 in 3 Australians will research and purchase gifts online (up 55% on last year). There is of course a cut-off point when delivery is no longer viable or in doubt, and buyers begin to look for convenience.  Although the pandemic has influenced consumers to look to online, we have seen that this is not the same for food and other essential grocery items. During March 2020, as the pandemic took hold, only 3% of the nation’s total supermarket spend was taking place online. 3 Local convenience stores and living locally continues to be desirable and this is reflected in visitation patterns which remain consistent across our shopping centre networks, with dwell times in centre increasing across all states except for Victoria throughout July 2020.

Last year a Shopper Media study found that 70% of shoppers still do their Christmas shopping the week prior with last minute purchases more often than not are found in local and familiar retail environments. The same study had 1 in 3 Australian shoppers stocking up on entertaining supplies in case they entertain unexpectedly.  This figure is expected to be higher in the lead in to Christmas 2020 with recent findings revealing Australians are now more mindful of having a well-stocked pantry, a hangover from the initial panic buying of the pandemic.   

Whether its last minute Christmas gifts or food & drink, convenience is key and the local shopping centre will continue to play a huge role in the upcoming Christmas season as the home of essential retail.

  1. Shopper Study Christmas 2020, n=3747
  2. Shopper Study Christmas 2019, n=8445
  3. Roy Moran Research article ‘Leakage and larceny’ as supermarkets compete, with online grocery shopping the next big battleground, accessed 7th August 2020, https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8461-fresh-food-and-grocery-report-march-2020-202007060715


What is your favourite Christmas / holiday season ad from any era (and country).

Our favourite campaign would have to be the much-anticipated 2014 John Lewis campaign – ‘Monty the Penguin’ as it was charming, relatable, and just downright adorable.  It genuinely captured the importance of family, friendship, love, and the true magic of Christmas.



Janina Hagen – Client Service Team Leader, Commission Factory.

With consumer confidence and the Australian economy still challenged due to COVID-19, what changes do you expect in spending habits over the holiday season? 

Consumers have become accustomed to online shopping due to COVID-19 restrictions and will most likely continue to spend their money online more than in-store. A lot of people will try and avoid the busy shopping malls closer to the holidays and advertisers should prepare for an increased demand in online orders.  As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed and the government stimulus package is being reduced from October onwards, we might see a shift in the types of items consumers spend money on. However, we will not see a big decrease in overall spend.  

With Victoria only slowly easing restrictions and the retail industry fully reopening from end of October/November, we will continue to see a higher volume of online transactions during that time from that area specifically. With Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Cyber Monday falling into that timeframe, a lot of people will stock up on Christmas presents then.  

The type of Christmas presents might change slightly this year. Gym gear and gym wear have seen increased demand ever since COVID-19 started and will continue to be popular. As gyms have either not re-opened (in the case of Victoria) or have seen cases emerge (in the case of New South Wales) since reopening a few months back, a lot of people feel more comfortable working out at home. This means many people will put gym wear and gear at the top of their Christmas wish list.  There may also be an increase in local travel and entertainment this year. As borders are still closed, and will continue to be, people are looking to entertain themselves closer to home, making this a perfect Christmas gift.  Australia has also seen a spike in new homeowners with housing prices dropping across the country, making home and garden accessories another popular category for this holiday season. 


Based on data from previous years when should marketers be in market with seasonal campaigns? Do you recommend any changes in flighting from normal years? How does this differ for different types of products? 

Previous years have shown that a lot of advertisers leave things to the last minute. However, with the increased competition online this year, preparation is key. A lot of retailers have been hit hard by the lockdowns and are spending a lot of money on online strategies. This has created more competition in the online sector. Having a plan and being prepared for the major Q4 events, such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day, will be important to secure placement opportunities with the right affiliate partners. The outline of a Q4 plan should ideally be in the final stages by mid-September so that affiliate placements can be secured and locked in by mid-October.  

Advertisers should start communicating to consumers as early as possible to boost brand awareness before competitors do. Preparation is key for every Q4, but will be especially important this year.  For the travel sector advertisers should promote local travel but have a plan B ready in case national borders reopen in time for a seasonal getaway. Any bigger purchases, such as holidays, electronics or homewares, tend to have a longer decision-making phase before the sale takes place. Therefore, it will be very important for these sectors to start advertising early.  All up, this year will be more competitive than previous years, with more retailers focusing on their online business and increased numbers of consumers doing their holiday shopping online. With the type of product in mind, advertisers should start promoting earlier this year and secure prominent placements with affiliate partners in time for the holiday season. 



Shannon Fitzpatrick, Director of Advertising, Gumtree Australia

With consumer confidence and the Australian economy still challenged due to COVID what changes does Gumtree expect in spending habits over the holiday season?

As consumer confidence shifts in light of Australia’s recent economic challenges, we expect this holiday season to see some spending and behaviour shifts.

The large number of consumers staying at home in 2020 has created an incremental rise in ecommerce. Australian ecommerce grew more than 80 per cent year on year (YOY) in the eight weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation[1], giving online holiday spending a positive outlook to reach unprecedented heights this year.

This is evident on Gumtree, as we have seen an increase in time spent on site between May – July 2020 compared to the same time last year, with users spending on average 25-26 minutes browsing, buying and selling.[2] Total views are also growing, accumulating on average an impressive 232m+ views.[3]

However, we don’t only expect consumers to be spending more time shopping online. We anticipate a shift in styles of buying behaviour, with consumers preferring to buy certain items new, whilst other items are more frequently being browsed second hand to save money. According to Gumtree’s Second Hand Economy Report for 2020, the second hand economy has grown steadily alongside traditional ecommerce with the total value of the second hand economy this year $3 billion higher than any other year, sitting at a whopping $46 billion.[4]

Due to COVID-19 and the economic aftershocks, 42% of Australians say they are more likely to sell items through the second hand economy now than before COVID-19 and 56% say they think the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will cause the second hand economy to grow.[5]

We are likely to see consumers utilising the second hand economy to help make money in the lead up to the holiday spending period as a means of income. There’s plenty of opportunity for marketers in this behaviour. Gumtree’s Second Hand Economy Report uncovered that when Aussies look to sell second hand items, nine-in-ten consumers (89%) are likely to consider replacing the item that they are selling with a new item. This provides a unique opportunity for marketers in the industry to get front and centre with a new wave of consumers browsing on-site who are looking to upgrade after selling.

Alongside providing data showcasing the growth of site visits and consumer interest in second hand items, Gumtree also provides strong first hand data highlighting specific category interest. For example, this year Gumtree’s Sports & Fitness category has seen a large boost, with page views up 30% between May – July 2020 compared to the same time last year.[6] The Home and Garden category on Gumtree is also experiencing rapid growth, with over 400,000 incremental views between May – June 2020, compared with the same time last year.[7] This means advertisements can be targeted to particular categories that are in line with up to date consumer trends.

On a whole, this holiday period, we are likely to continue to see growth in online spending but also see consumers getting savvier with their money.  Whether through selling second hand as a way to raise funds for new purchases or even buying particular items second hand in order to afford other items brand new – Gumtree’s reach is growing with the second hand economy as a great place for marketers to get in front of key consumers this holiday season.

[1] Inside Australian Online Shopping 2020 eCommerce Industry Report

[2] Nielsen Digital Ratings, Time on Site, May to July 2019 vs May to July 2020

[3]Nielsen Digital Ratings, Av Page Views, May to July 2019 vs May to July 2020

[4] Gumtree Second Hand Economy Report 2020

[5] Gumtree Second Hand Economy Report 2020

[6] Gumtree Internal Data, Av Page Views, Sports & Fitness Category May to July 2019 vs May to July 2020

[7] Gumtree Internal Data,  Page Views, Home & Garden Category May to July 2019 vs May to July 2020