Member Q&A Series: Christmas and Holiday Media Planning 2021

On October 07, 2021 Research & Resources

Marketers will need to approach Christmas and seasonal marketing different ways in 2021 from their media planning, creative development and ensuring that goods are available for consumers in time for Christmas. In this Q&A a range of industry experts give guidance on making Christmas 2021 a success.  We dive into what the current circumstances mean for both brands and retailers themselves and the opportunities that are available. We will look at how consumer behaviour has changed in the last 6 months and how to best navigate this space to maximise the impact in the lead up to the Christmas period.

Thankyou to those who contributed from Bench, Shopfully, Snap and Skimlinks


Mark Titley, Head of Client Services, Bench

With changes in delivery times and product supply how can marketers develop an agile digital advertising plan to suit 2021? With the ad market bouncing back, what tips do you have to help campaigns stand out and advertisers have a strong share of voice?

With all the uncertainty that 2020 and 2021 have brought, it has highlighted the need for flexibility within marketing plans. With different states and territories going in and out of lockdown, a national approach just doesn't make sense. A lot of dollars have been wasted on locked in traditional media that don’t have messaging suited to the situation. Accentuated further by businesses that have a heavy bricks and mortar presence with poor online experience. Businesses that have pivoted their models to both capitalise in the huge growth in e-commerce but also consumption of digital media have reaped the rewards!

This is where programmatic comes in as the smart marketing choice. The flexibility, scale, speed to market and efficiency that it provides makes it the wise choice in the ever-changing dynamic in Australia. With access to the vast majority of traditional channels (excluding print) and especially the ability to access DOOH,  programmatic is not just the performance driver that it once was. Marketers are outsmarting their competition with the advantages that it provides. Reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right message and connecting the dots between their activity.

As was brilliantly covered by Les Binet, if you want to increase your share of market you need to have a higher (effective) share of voice. The key word here is effective… It doesn't mean you need to outSPEND your competition but it does mean you need to outSMART your competition. Giving you a higher share of voice efficiently and effectively where it counts - with less wastage. I know where I would be spending my money!

Heading into the busiest retail period of the year (Oct-Dec) with so much uncertainty combined with supply challenges it will be imperative to remain flexible and be able to pivot so that you don't miss out on the biggest opportunity available.

May the odds be ever in your favour!

Sam Thompson, Head of Media and Partnerships, Bench

Even though many states are not currently in lockdown and others are on a clear path out of lockdown some marketers are nervous around locking down their plans too early. What recommendations would you make to help marketers make the most of Q4 advertising opportunities? 

Given there is so much uncertainty in the market regarding lockdowns, consumer spending, shifts in media consumption trends, and marketing flexibility, it is understandable that marketers are nervous about locking in plans with their agency and media partners too early. Societal changes are happening incredibly quickly. Being locked into deals while attempting to maximise return on ad spend in Q4 can have a detrimental effect on a businesses bottom line. 

Fear not, there is a simple solution that can help to combat this challenge, which is very much engrained in some marketers plans, while others are just scratching the surface. The solution is to transact media via programmatic technology. The easiest way of describing the value that a marketer can obtain by delivering media programmatically is the ability to control your media buy and be flexible when it comes to a range of factors such as creative messaging, media access, and targeting. Marketers no longer have to lock themselves into traditionally rigid deals and can now react to market changes with speed, flexibility and efficiency.

Imagine a scenario in which a marketer has locked in a national deal with a number of OOH media-owners for a product launch in Q4. If Sydney and Melbourne have a snap lock down at any stage, an OOH campaign has the potential to continue to serve in those areas that are receiving no foot traffic and create little impact for the brand. By transacting media programmatically, marketers have the control to tactically run DOOH in areas that will create the most impact (states that aren’t locked down), while shifting budget in lock-down areas to other awareness channels in which people will be consuming media indoors, such as BVOD.

Having the flexibility to react to change, while accessing high quality branding channels, that will create the most impact for a brand is your key to success, and very much achievable despite uncertain times.


Dean Vocisano, Country Manager Australia, Shopfully

How has consumer behaviour shifted in the last 6-12 months and what do you think this means for the next 3 months of retail leading into Christmas?

If we look at what has happened in the world in the last 6-12 months, it is safe to say consumers’ ability and willingness to adapt is greater than ever. Consumers no longer see the difference between online and offline – and this is particularly true from a retailing perspective, with consumers wanting the best of both worlds delivered as we continue to navigate the short-term and long-term impacts of the pandemic.

However, the upward trend we’re seeing is how consumers will continue to research for products from their couch, virtually shopping from their favourite retailers and sourcing more information from a single tap, before saving the best offers for later shopping in-store as allowed by evolving health regulations. In fact, recent Nielsen research has found 57 percent of Australians preferred to do research online and then buy the same item in-store.

Moreover, as we head towards the Christmas and holiday season, purchase preparation from home will remain a key part of the shopping journey as consumers have become more careful with their spending and we have come into the realisation that physical in-store shopping cannot be as it once was. There will be limits on shoppers and time limits in stores, and the need for proof of vaccinations into the near future. 

What top tips would you give to brands who are thinking about their retail activations for Christmas?

With how shopping behaviours have evolved in the last 6-12 months, the retailers and brands that want to thrive in this new environment cannot simply ignore that consumers want and need a connected shopping experience. It is not an option today to either be in-store or online, retailers and brands today need to allow consumers to have the convenience of online shopping, while enjoying a return to physical stores when able.

Take a step back and dig deep into the data and analytics your business can provide from the back end, whether that be customer data from in-store or online shopping, and other offerings such as catalogues and loyalty programs. These types of data and analytics can provide you with a wealth of insights that can help you craft omnichannel marketing strategies such as personalised offerings online and connecting this to an in-store experience, to both drive sales in a safe way, and increase customer satisfaction.


Kathryn Carter, General Manager APAC, Snap

Even though many states are not currently in lockdown and others are on a clear path out of lockdown some marketers are nervous around locking down their plans too early. What recommendations would you make to help marketers make the most of Q4 advertising opportunities?

It’s true the Q4 holiday and shopping period is going to be one like no other. UBS economists report households have amassed extra deposits since the pandemic first struck, with many suggesting consumers are ready to loosen the purse strings as the country re-opens.  

While it’s exciting to see a predicted rise in consumer spending for Q4, we know advertisers will be facing fierce competition as many brands compete and try to claw back lockdown-related losses.

Long-term brand building remains a priority, however conversion via digital and ecommerce channels is no doubt the focus for many advertisers in Q4. It’s important to not discount one for the other, and in fact, we find that marketing on Snapchat is most effective when brands leverage multiple ad products tied to a defined advertising goal. For example, Snap Ads and/or Commercials (video ads) can be combined with an AR Try-On Lens – delivering significant reach while driving conversion with the ability to both try on and buy without ever leaving Snapchat.

For us, the focus is on driving concrete, measurable business results for advertisers, and we have spent much of the last three years building out on one of the most full-featured and advanced sets of self-serve ad tools on the market – for both brand and direct response advertisers. This has been the cornerstone of our video ad offering, and has helped build Snapchat into a powerhouse for direct response advertising.

Excitingly, we’re now bringing the same level of data-driven measurement and management that’s available for video ads to AR so that brands running innovative AR campaigns can optimise against many of the same goals - be it clicks, shares, visits, purchases, and more - we offer for video ads.

Today, every great advertiser is a performance advertiser – whether brand or direct response, the only difference is the time horizon. The best advertising appeals as much to the CFO as it does to the CMO – meaning, it’s an essential investment in the future of a business.

How has consumer behaviour shifted in the last 6-12 months and what do you think this means for the next 3 months of retail leading into Christmas?

COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the move to a more digital economy. Over the past 12 months, the technology and advertising industry has undergone rapid change to keep up with changing consumer needs, from user privacy to eCommerce and AR try on.

In a year where in-person experiences were drastically limited, AR really came into its own with brands and consumers. With brands ramping up their eCommerce focus, they turned to AR to drive real business results, bridging the experiential gap between instore and online shopping experiences.

In the past 12 months, we have partnered with leading brands to leverage our AR technologies to power virtual storefronts and try on experiences with FARFETCH and Prada, built a workout Lens with Aussie fitness company Sweat using our 3D full body tracking, let Snapchatters travel through the camera to see Christo wrap the Arc de Triomphe and in an Australian automotive first, we launched an AR experience for the new Hyundai Kona.

Looking ahead to the Q4 shopping season, it’s important to note that Gen Zs and Millennials expect a high standard in experiential retail and are looking for brands to go the extra mile and entertain them during their shopping journey.

Almost half (45%) of Snapchatters are using AR for shopping, and 37% are using AR to try products out. This adoption of AR to solve eCommerce pain points is promising for the AUD$99.5 million return problem, which AR can help fix. We know for example, that AR-guided purchases led to a 25% decrease in returns. 

Our recent research into ‘connected shopping’ found that shoppers say they want to enjoy the benefits of online shopping, in-store. As we begin to open back up ahead of Christmas, it’s important to implement a ‘connected shopping experience’, where consumers combine a digital experience with being in a physical store, and vice versa. For example, four in ten (40%) Australian consumers expect AR to be available when shopping in the coming year. It’s key to translate the convenience and safety of online shopping into brick and mortar stores.


Camilla Pacelli, Director of Partner Development APAC, Skimlinks, A Taboola Company

Even though many states are not currently in lockdown and others are on a clear path out of lockdown some marketers are nervous around locking down their plans too early. What recommendations would you make to help marketers make the most of Q4 advertising opportunities?

To make the most of Q4 advertising opportunities marketers should really focus on planning across the breadth of Q4 as a whole. The smart approach is to plan for the whole season, as well as around key moments like Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Boxing Day to give shoppers the broadest possible choice. That gives you room to manoeuvre and depth in which to respond to changes in the situation across the states. This flexibility extends to your promotional strategy too: You want to have a variety of promotions to share and messaging that you can tailor dependent on the changing situations with state lockdown and potential logistical problems in supply chains.

From a promotional perspective, the big developments we see for Q4 are the growth of click-and-collect as a delivery option, which is motivated both from safety concerns and convenience, and the increased popularity of digital gift cards, which again enable brands to drive sales, while offering consumers flexibility on when they make their purchases. Flexibility in shipping and returns can also be a key purchase factor, so investigating what flex if any marketers are able to offer here will help increase competitiveness in Q4.

How has consumer behavior shifted in the last 6-12 months and what do you think this means for the next 3 months of retail leading into Christmas? 

The most obvious shift is people shopping online. Australia post data shows over a million households shopped online for the first time in 2020 and once those people have shopped online once, they continue to do so over and over again. The key now for brands is understanding how to acquire these online customers and retain them, which ultimately boils down to offering a fantastic online experience and a putting user-friendliness at the centre of your digital offerings.

On top of that ethical factors like sustainability are now much more important to shoppers and given the mental toll of the pandemic, personal wellbeing is a keen priority informing people's shopping. People want to buy things that make them feel good. On top of that there are also practical concerns around delivery and particularly in light of border restrictions, with many loved ones overseas people will once again be looking for brands that have good international delivery options.

The online shift and change in shopping decision-makers will all impact the months leading to Christmas. On top of that, key verticals that typically benefit from offline purchases like luxury fashion should expect big online increases, as people adapt to enhancements in digital offerings from these brands.