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Christmas ads: Did they win over shoppers?

Retailers in the U.K. have spent millions on advertisements during the holiday period to attract custom, but evidence suggests those costs are unlikely to change consumer behaviour.

According to forecasts by media agency ZenithOptimedia, 7.9 percent of total U.K. ad spend will take place in the month of December and will total a record £310 million ($461 million) this year, up from £287 million in 2014.

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One of the most high-profile ads in the country is for department store John Lewis. The advert, "Man on the Moon", is part of a £7 million advertising campaign and has been watched over 23 million times on video streaming site Youtube.

John Lewis's brand awareness shot up by 25 percent after the ad was released in November, according to market researchers Yougov, but it also noted that purchases consideration (a measure of whether the survey respondent would buy the brand's product) did not change significantly.

Also, it is not the most engaging ad released this season, according to a study by tech company Realeyes, which specializes in emotion analytics.

The company analysed the facial expressions of around 1,500 people as they watched 30 Christmas ads in order to measure emotional engagement. The John Lewis ad came 7th, whereas Harvey Nichols' "Avoid Gift Face" ad came top.

"John Lewis remains the undisputed champion for publicity and hype but in terms of connecting emotionally with consumers, many brands outdid them this year," said Realeyes' CEO Mihkel Jaatma in a press release.

"John Lewis' ads have become increasingly out of this world and fantasy-based, consequently, they're becoming harder to identify with. We're seeing a move away from the kind of heavy-handed emotional approach."

Despite this, John Lewis posted a 2.3 percent year-on-year rise in sales to £129.2 million ($191 million) in the week to December 26. Online sales rose 25.1 percent.

"We are seeing customers continue to enjoy our reductions across fashion, home and electricals and home technology," said John Lewis Managing Director Andy Street, according to Reuters.


UK grocers in ‘price war’

Meanwhile, with the ongoing price war in the U.K. food retail market, the holiday season is an ideal time for retailers to snatch market share, but how likely is it that consumers will change their shopping habits at this time of year?

"By and large most people continue to do the bulk of their Christmas shopping at their regular shopping destinations," Bryan Roberts, senior vice president and knowledge officer for U.K.-based research firm Kantar, told CNBC via email.

"That said, there is always a degree of trading up with a number of shoppers switching some spend into Waitrose, Sainsbury's and M&S (Marks & Spencer)."

He added that online shopping has become an increasingly attractive option as people seek to avoid crowded retail conditions in December.

In recent years, the U.K. food retail market has been disrupted by German discounters Aldi and Lidl. Competition between the discounters and the established retailers, such as Sainsbury's, has been a factor in the decline of U.K. consumer price inflation, from a year-on-year average above 4.5 percent in 2011 to a forecast 0.3 percent for 2015.

"The discounters have prioritized Christmas as a chance to play to their strengths, with both Aldi and Lidl really pushing their premium private label ranges," said Roberts.


Consumers to benefit?

The discounters are likely to do well this year and claim a decent share of total food spending, according to Shonil Chande, a senior consumer analyst for BMI Research.

"With Aldi and Lidl accounting for 10 percent of the market, now it stands to reason that discounters will claim a higher proportion of the total Christmas grocery spend than ever before," Chande told CNBC via email.

"Those that are now accustomed to doing their food shopping at Aldi and Lidl will likely also stick to them for the Christmas basket."

Chande added that, due to competition in the food market, the biggest beneficiaries this year may be consumers themselves. "With the price war remaining in full swing, the price of the average Christmas shop will probably be more competitive than ever across the formats," he said.