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Holiday Advertising 101

November 2, 2022
Rachel Vandernick

Table of Contents

Making the most of holiday ads requires creativity, excellence in tactical execution, and the ability to predict common issues in order to side-step them early. Find your footing early and launch your holiday ad campaigns with confidence by using this quick-start guide.

Lead with excellent creative

According to 2021 data from Statista, advertisers spent $45.6 billion worldwide in holiday ad spend. For many brands, the holiday season encapsulates their top earning quarter of the year. 

Consequently, this means marketplaces are crowded and consumers are distracted during the holiday shopping season. One of the best ways to stand out in holiday ad campaigns is to differentiate your brand with unique, eye-catching creative. 

Lean into your designer’s expertise and brand aesthetic to create ads that will stop the scroll. This is absolutely the time to integrate any learning from creative test initiatives earlier in the year. This is not the time, however, to simply rely on stock photography as an accompanying image. 

Other creative considerations for enhancing your holiday campaign:

  • Animation and video.  
  • User-generated content
  • Influencer partnerships

Begin influencer gifting programs early

The holiday season is an effective time to tap into influencer gifting programs. However, many brands make the mistake of sending out their PR boxes to their influencer wishlist in early December. Influencers, like other brands this time of year, generally work ahead to create their content, film their unboxings, and establish their holiday content schedule. While they may still enjoy the gifts, if the end goal is to generate additional opportunities for influencer buzz ahead of the holiday in order to generate year-end revenue, move the timeline up. 

Plan to ship your holiday gifts to influencers by the first week of November. What you send is up to you and the perceived value of the influencer partner you’re gifting. In general, more thoughtful, impactful packages will have a greater ratio than gifting a generic smaller item to a greater array of creators. Also be aware that mega influencers simply may give away your product this time of year as their PR closets runneth over, so adopting a mid or micro approach may deliver better results.

Key reminders about influencer gifting programs:

  • Gifting programs are not the same as contracted content. 
  • Without a contract and compensation, a brand cannot dictate if or what an influencer chooses to post (or if they choose to post at all!). 
  • While it may be disappointing if an influencer doesn’t love or post about your gift, this is not the time to make specific requests if there isn’t an existing content agreement. 
  • This tactic should be used and viewed separately from “always on” or campaign-specific content that is briefed and has guaranteed deliverables attached to the effort. 
  • Be aware that if you wish to repurpose influencer content, such as reposting to your own organic channels or whitelisting for an ad campaign, an influencer is likely to request payment for usage rights. These are essential, as influencers simply creating content is not license for your brand to use it or monetize it without permission or payment.

Make the most of promo

Holiday shoppers gifting for themselves and others often also means trying to snag a great deal. Many brands opt to run some sort of promotion during year-end holiday pushes, most commonly buy-one-get-one, also called BOGO, fixed percent off, and free express shipping for guaranteed arrival. 

However, how the promotion is applied, shared, and promoted is sometimes even more important than what the promotion is.

Use this checklist to ensure your promotion is active in relevant placements across your marketing channels:

  • Pencil banner live on site
  • Discount automatically applies in cart
  • Homepage/landing page imagery reflects promo
  • Email sent to prospect lists
  • Email sent to existing customers
  • Email sent to paused/lapsed customers
  • Posts scheduled for social platforms
  • Promotion extensions applied on Google Ads
  • Promotion extensions applied on Facebook/Instagram Ad
  • Unique sale codes created for each social platform to better track conversions
  • UTM parameters applied to all shared links
  • TikTok end cards created and implemented with sale details/promo
  • Push notifications set for last minute gifting and shipping reminders
  • Final day sale emails sent

Consider shipping delays

One of the most disappointing holiday shopping realities is shipping delays. For last-minute shoppers, this is an especially troublesome hurdle. To make the most of stretched ad dollars this holiday season, factor in USPS, UPS, and FedEx guaranteed arrival dates. 

For the 2022 season, that means customers placing orders by the below dates in order for guaranteed delivery by December 25, 2022. If ads will be running past economy shipping dates, include information at checkout that clearly states arrival will be after December 25 without express shipping to avoid future issues. Keep these dates handy for the 2022 season:

2022 USPS holiday shipping deadlines


Shipping Cutoff Date

USPS Retail Ground™

Saturday, December 17, 2022

USPS First-Class Mail®

Saturday, December 17, 2022

USPS Priority Mail®

Monday, December 19, 2022

USPS Priority Mail Express®

Thursday, December 23, 2022

2022 UPS holiday shipping deadlines


Shipping Cutoff Date

UPS 3 Day Select®

Monday, December 19, 2022

UPS 2nd Day Air® services

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

UPS Next Day Air® services

Thursday, December 22, 2022

2022 FedEx holiday shipping deadlines


Shipping Cutoff Date

FedEx Ground® Economy

Thursday, December 8, 2022

FedEx Ground®

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

FedEx Home® Delivery

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

FedEx Express Saver®

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

FedEx 2Day® Services

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

FedEx Same Day

Friday, December 23, 2022

Plan for community management

Sometimes even the best plans go off the rails. Community managers and customer experience teams can feel overwhelmed this time of year by the influx of requests, returns, complaints, and questions from customers on the quest to find the perfect gift for loved ones. Now is not the time to pull precious resources from these teams. Consider adding in additional team members, or tap into your longtime skilled freelance partners, to help with comment management and questions across ads. 

Great holiday ad results are not just about stellar creative. Comments, questions, and problems posted on social media ads need quick attention, especially with year-end revenue on the line. If issues do arise, be sure to employ a proactive issue management response. Turning off comments doesn’t turn off the bad experience. Oftentimes, it only enhances it. Determine, or implement, a system for issue escalation and empower your teams to solve problems quickly.

Reporting and analysis

In 2022, a plethora of tools exist to help a brand establish quickly, and fairly real-time, which ads or tactics are hitting the mark and which are falling flat. Validate your ad assumptions with data; just because your team loves an ad does not mean consumers will respond to it favorably. 

Top recommendations for analyzing data to get results:

  • Rely on data from your CMS, Google Analytics, and ad platforms to make decisions about ad performance, looking for early signs of performance in view-through rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. 
  • Have confidence in directing resources behind the ads that are showing early promise and pausing ones that can't seem to catch up. 
  • Don’t be alarmed if costs rise above previous targets and averages as many more advertisers are in ad auctions than normal.

Wrapping it up with a bow

In short, holiday ads success or failure often comes down to strategy and planning. Year-end ad campaigns can be a meaningful revenue driver for Q4, but pitfalls that can be seen from a distance should be addressed before launch. Empathy for the consumer experience, attentive reporting, and thoughtful implementation will go a long way in helping to ensure success this holiday season.

about the author

Rachel Vandernick is a growth and performance marketing consultant and founder of The Vander Group. She specializes in helping consumer-facing brands build efficient and effective digital marketing channels including paid and organic search, paid social, and influencer ads activations.

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