Inside Amazon's Holiday Campaign That Shows Off Its Growing Creative Power

Claudine Cheever, vp of global marketing, on the production and purpose of 'Joy Is Shared'

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When producing this year’s holiday campaign, Amazon wanted to be mindful of the limited spending power many customers are likely to have after a year of economic uncertainty. The creative idea would also need to work in as many countries as possible.

The retail giant’s in-house creative team would end up producing the “Joy Is Shared” campaign, with the main brand story told in the centerpiece ad “Joy Ride.” In conveying the message that Amazon’s mission is to make people’s lives a little easier, the ad has been hailed by advertising effectiveness companies as one of the best-performing spots produced by the ecommerce giant.

The story told in the 60-second hero film sees three older women who, as lifelong friends, revive the joy they felt as children at the top of a sledding hill, thanks to a moment of inspiration and Amazon’s website. Playing throughout is an instrumental cover of The Beatles classic “In My Life” to add even more pathos.

“Above all, we try to make an emotional connection through stories that only Amazon can tell,” Claudine Cheever, vp of global marketing at Amazon, told Adweek.

The ads aim to relay that the company can make the holidays more joyful while highlighting brand assets including its one-click user interface, fast shipping and the smiling box.

“It’s a rare gift to have a brand with so many distinctive and differentiated equity, and we’ve been perfecting how to deploy them for each event we have for our customers,” Cheever added. 

In another nostalgic move, Amazon is also bringing back its award-winning social video series “Amasongs” that recreate some of the company’s original commercials with a choir dressed in holiday sweaters.

Behind the scenes

Shot in Lost Angeles and Mammoth Lakes, California, as well as Vancouver, the original story did not focus on a group of entirely female friends. But the three actresses—Maya Waterman, the lead character who purchases the seat cushions, Annie O’Donnell and Susan Grace—won the team over with their auditions.

“We spotted the three of them together chatting away in the waiting area and decided it was worth seeing how their dynamic played out in an audition. As soon as they walked into the room, they completely sparkled, and we knew we’d found our heroes,” Cheever said.

The production of the holiday campaign was a global team effort within Amazon, spanning European and North American brand and retail marketing, strategy, program management and media, as well as internal creative and production teams led by global chief creative officer Jo Shoesmith.

I hope this work continues to set us apart from other retailers in ways that only Amazon can deliver.

Claudine Cheever, vp of global marketing, Amazon

Returning as director was Wayne McClammy from Hungry Man, who previously helmed this year’s Super Bowl ad “Saving Sawyer,” with editing by Cabin Editorial, special effects from The Mill and post-production audio by Lime Studios.

London-based sonic branding team Dlmdd worked on the soundtrack, which was seen as a vitally important element of the storytelling.

According to Cheever, “In My Life” was chosen not only because it is one of The Beatles’ most well-loved songs, but also because “it’s an ode to enduring friendships and shared memories, which marries perfectly with the core theme.”

Hopes for success

“Joy Is Shared” will appear across various media including broadcast, digital/online video, social, cinema, audio and out of home.

Running from Nov. 6 in the U.K. and Europe, and from Nov. 13 in the U.S. and Canada as well as 12 additional countries, the ads will appear during key sales periods such as Black Friday Week, Cyber Monday and to promote various deals from mid-October to December.

Amazon will measure the campaign’s impact through retail sales, specifically the deals being offered in different parts of the world. Beyond the usual metrics, the campaign intends to create a lasting connection with Amazon customers.

“Connected to Amazon’s company mission to make our customers’ lives better and easier every day, and to invent relentlessly to do so, it’s my team’s mission to be the most measurably effective, creatively breakthrough marketing organization in the world,” said Cheever. “I hope this work continues to set us apart from other retailers in ways that only Amazon can deliver.”

She emphasized that Amazon’s value propositions, from selection to competitive pricing and convenience, are what “help people create meaningful moments for themselves and for others. This connection to our customers is always an important focus for us, and it’s especially poignant during the holiday season.”

A strong reaction to the campaign

The response to “Joy Ride” has been largely positive, with effectiveness measurement firms declaring it a creative success.

Kantar found it to be Amazon’s most effective Christmas ad since 2019’s “Everybody Needs Somebody,” with the potential to deliver a long-term return. “Joy Ride” featured in the top 2% of ads analyzed by Kantar for being “enjoyable” and the top 4% for “emotive story.” It also landed in the top 10% for “humor.”

“People respond in a very similar way to this ad regardless of their age or gender. I think that’s hugely powerful and shows that a genuine human insight – that we can all relate to – brought to life though emotive and effective story telling connects with us all,” said Lynn Deason, head of creative excellence for the U.K. at Kantar.

What differentiates this ad is how enjoyable it is, she added, with a clear connection to the brand. “We don’t have to see ourselves, the story just has to resonate and be meaningful to us,” she said. “This isn’t just attention-grabbing, highly emotive and memorable storytelling. The brand plays an important role in the story.”

four screengrabs from the joy ride ad with star ratings
System1’s popularity ratings for Amazon’s most recent holiday campaigns

Andrew Tindall, global partnerships director for marketing platform System1, said the campaign was the culmination of six years of hard work as Amazon has been “building their advertising muscles.”

“It’s not only the most effective ad they’ve ever made, but also one of the most effective Christmas ads we’ve ever tested,” he said. “Why is this? Consistent brand strategy and brilliant creative execution.”

He cited Amazon’s commitment to making its packaging a distinctive brand asset and the hero of the “Joy Is Shared” campaign. “That makes the brand the hero in an emotional-right brain way,” Tindall added, noting that the ad earned a score of 5.9 stars in System1’s ratings platform, “the highest an ad can get for long-term effectiveness.”

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