The Power of Visual Storytelling at Christmas

18th December 2018 / 7 minute read

alarm clock bear and the hare

Storytelling is powerful in the world of marketing, especially at a booming commercial period like Christmas!

It’s an instinct for humans to depict stories – whether it’s a photograph they’re looking at, a sentence, or even some clouds in the sky, a deeper meaning can always be extracted. It’s because of this nature that storytelling in marketing is so powerful, especially visual storytelling.

Back in May this year (which only feels like a couple of weeks ago!), I wrote a blog about visual storytelling online. The storytelling element of marketing and branding has always been a big focus for me; whether revolved around my work for EC or noticing ads out and about.

A quick recap, what is visual storytelling?

Visual storytelling is a highly effective method of telling a story through an image and minimal content input.

It’s far more impactful to show your audience a narrative rather than tell it to them. This goes for both digital and traditional storytelling.

We made a couple of our own visual storytelling ads in May – remember the British Airways dog Gary, Dave’s dodgy Airbnb booking, and our wordless Match ad? Check out the visual ads we made.

Christmas – a wonderful time of the year to review and create visual narratives!

Christmas adverts of all types utilise some form of visual storytelling. On the spot for an example, the 2013 Christmas advert ‘The Bear and the Hare’ from John Lewis comes to mind. Although it is very visual – being a TV advert and all – the meaning it creates through its visuals is what makes this advert stand out and touch the hearts of the public.

Check out the ad if you want to see it for yourself… Or continue reading and I’ll give a very brief outline of what happens below the ad.

My basic synopsis:

Essentially, a hare and a bear are best friends. It’s coming up to Christmas and although everyone is jubilant in the build up, the hare’s bear friend is sad because he will sleep through Christmas. That is until Christmas arrives and we see the bear come over the horizon.

But how!?” You ask. Due to the hare’s gift – an alarm clock!

What makes it so effective is that we know how the hare has a gift for the bear as he delivers it to his sleeping friend. But we don’t realise what the present is until the end of the advert – a shot of the alarm clock surrounded by torn wrapping paper. It’s really clever and doesn’t spoon feed you the answers. It allows the audience to piece it together.

Obviously, that advert was aired back in 2013, so let’s take a look at some of our most standout methods of promoting their business and products over Christmas.

Do be warned, some of them, well, one in particular, is very interesting… *cough* Poundland *cough*.


Let’s start tastefully with Lidl. This year they have been very clever with their advertisement. They have their TV ads, but it’s their social media marketing team that has taken centre stage.

There was so much buzz around the latest John Lewis ad featuring Elton John, so Lidl used this hype to full effect. The image alone in their tweet was genius. Just a glimpse of it and everyone who had seen or heard of the John Lewis ad knew Lidl’s game here. It’s simple but very effective.

On top of this, their tweet copy even poked at the meaning behind the ad: “Just because you don’t have £872 to spend on a piano, doesn’t mean you can’t be the next Elton.”

Fair play, Lidl.


Now, this next example was an interesting form of visual storytelling for Christmas. It’s very playful, very cheeky and was most likely established for the shock value of it. Many online have been praising Poundland’s wit, so it has certainly given them some exposure.

Poundland’s social media activity has been very reliant on the idea of ‘Elves behaving badly’, which has resulted in some very… interesting posts. All visually driven with a play on words for the social copy to complement the image.

Some of the posts are a little risqué, but check out one of their recent posts.

There are many others that you can find on their Facebook and Twitter social pages; all of which use visuals to complete the narrative.

As you can see, the opportunities are endless. These are two quite comical examples, but there are many heartfelt ads out there at this time.

We thought it would be interesting to create a couple of our own Christmas visual ads to show the true power behind visual storytelling at this time of the year.

age uk visual ad by equals creative

specsavers visual ad by equals creative

Have you spotted any cool Christmas ads that embrace visual storytelling?

If you’ve seen a powerful, funny or heartbreaking Christmas ad that uses visual storytelling, then comment below, we’d love to see it!

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