Who’s won the battle of the Christmas TV adverts?
10:21 19 November 2015
Nothing says “there are still almost six weeks until December 25” like the advent of this year’s Christmas advertisements from the big retailers.
Stacia Briggs reviews the big hitters and discovers that this year, it’s all about the humour and the product placement (and a man inexplicably stranded on the moon).
John Lewis: Man on the Moon (two minutes)
Heartstring-pluckers John Lewis have ramped goodwill to all mankind up a notch by reminding us all how thoughtless and hateful we are to older people. For us in Norfolk, it is even more poignant because, thanks to the nursery rhyme, we know that when the man on the moon ends his mini-break in space he’ll come tumbling down and will ask his way to Norwich. HE’S OUR OLD PERSON AND HE IS TRAPPED ON THE MOON. Frankly, I will buy any amount of telescope-related merchandise to end his imprisonment (and to help Age Concern, to be fair to John Lewis).
• Anthropomorphism: No. Although if there was an old man on the moon without the benefit of a spacesuit, he would have bloated to twice his size and died in agony within five minutes. Merry Christmas.
• Winsome female vocals: Standard
• Conclusion: Be nice to old people. Question the motives of any children who send people trapped on the moon a telescope so they can see other people enjoying themselves rather than a space rocket home or something properly good, like chocolate.
Aldi: Favourite Things (1 minute)
Think about every Christmas advertisement you’ve ever seen smashed into one minute. This is that advertisement.
• Name something distinctive about this advertisement: It’s the only one I couldn’t remember anything about when I came to write about it.
• Best bit: Nope, can’t remember a thing.
• Conclusion: My Favourite Thing was when it ended.
Tesco: Flirt (40 seconds)
There are four shorter advertisements in Tesco’s ‘little helps’ campaign for Christmas, a departure from the traditional longer-running advertisements of previous years and they’re all about shopping in a supermarket. All feature Ruth Jones from Gavin and Stacey, Ben Miller from stuff Ben Miller has been in and Will Close, who I expect I should recognise (should I?) as a family out shopping at Christmas. This creepy quarter of the Tesco Christmas advertisement pizza involves Will stalking an attractive older woman until his parents intervene. I bet he collects roadkill, too.
• What is the likelihood of meeting your future husband or wife at the supermarket? Less than one per cent.
• Tell me something about Ben Miller: At Cambridge, his thesis was entitled Novel Quantum Effects in Low-Temperature Quasi-Zero-Dimensional Mesoscopic Electron Systems. Glad you asked?
• Conclusion: The least funny of this year’s ‘funny’ Christmas advertisements.
Currys PC World: Spare the Awkward (one minute):
Now we’re talking: CPCW has recruited Jeff Goldblum for its brilliant seasonal campaign as a festive acting coach who appears in people’s hour of need as they struggle to show the appropriate reaction when gifted a pile of rubbish by their friends and family, when faced with another awful film because Nanna wants to watch it or a cremated turkey at the dinner table. Brilliantly summing up the awkwardness of Christmas, the disappointment and the genuine need to be able to pretend to be enjoying yourself, this is one of my favourite Christmas ad campaigns. Jeff, I salute you.
• Is there a parody of Jurassic Park in which video pranksters have edited the film to put high heels on Jeff Goldblum and dinosaurs? Yes. But this is not it.
• Actual curries in the Currys PC World advertisement: None
• Conclusion: Christmas isn’t about having a good time. It’s about pretending to have a good time and looking convincing about it.
Marks and Spencer: The Art of Christmas (1 minute)
I long for the heady days of 2013 when David Gandy’s clothes fell off at a gothic tea party in the M&S Christmas ad. The Art of Christmas is told through the eyes of eight-year-old Neve who walks us through The Art of Making an Entrance through to The Art of the Night Before, The Art of Noise, The Art of Surprise, The Art of the Feast and finally The Art of 40 Winks, all to an annoying karaoke version of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. I watched this ad twice and it was three times too many.
• Wasn’t there an English avant-garde synthpop group called The Art of Noise in the 1980s whose trademark was novel melodic sound collages? Yes.
• David Gandy in a state of undress: No. I don’t want to talk about it
• Conclusion: Dull. The food one is better, but only because it has more food in it.
Boots: Discover More (1 minute)
Another departure from heartstring-pulling – last year Boots featured a nurse coming home from a night-shift to find her family waiting for her (in a nice way, not in ambush situation) – this year it’s all about rampant consumerism. A bright blue light leads us through halls decked with beauty products designed to transform us all from lumpen, pallid creatures who have over-indulged at festive buffets into gorgeous sirens and polished dandies.
• Anthropomorphism: YES! There’s a firefly-cum-Tinkerbell-fairy thing that flits about looking at products.
• Pairs of actual boots in the Boots Christmas advertisement: I counted two
• Conclusion: Only beautiful people are allowed to take part in Christmas this year.
Argos: Just Can’t Wait Christmas (1 minute 5):
I like this advertisement which involves 50 professional skiers and snowboarders escaping from a branch of Argos on a Chilean mountain with tonnes of booty for the black market (or maybe they’re part of the new same-day Argos delivery team, in which case it’ll be a challenge to ski from Chile to NR2 in a day, but I’m prepared for them to try). Rousing music from Prokofiev’s Troika, beautiful snowy mountains, Kevin the Minion – job done.
• Is the Argos Alien Family in it: No, they are visiting the Man on the Moon leaving him wistful for the good old days when he was lonely.
• Is Darth Vader in it? Yes – and he is FLYING. I would definitely like my shopping delivered by a flying Darth Vader.
• Conclusion: Like Ski Sunday with Minions, fitness watches, paint bombs, exploding snowmen and foil balloons, therefore really quite good.
Morrisons: Make it Magical (1 minute)
There is no anthropomorphic gingerbread man as in days of yore, just a selection of staff telling us about lamb, salmon and other things we stuff down our gullets at Christmas. Indeed to be specific, dead things that we stuff down our gullets at Christmas. One shall not want for protein at Morrisons, they are Christmassing the heck out of all the meats.
• Ant and Dec: No, sadly not.
• Does this advertisement Make it Magical: Only if your boundaries are low.
• Conclusion: In 2013 it was about Beauty and the Beast, this year it’s just about dead beasts being roasted in an oven.
Asda: Because it’s Christmas (1 minute):
This advertisement spells out what Christmas is all about – literally. To Fleur East’s debut single Sax, slightly surreal elements of the season flash across our screens in both pictorial and word form, from a fairy-lit car to a pug in antlers, some ice-skating snowmen to a group of cheerful Asda staff patting their backsides outside a superstore.
• The number of times you would you have to play Sax on repeat to extract a swift confession from criminals in return for silence: Four, maybe three, times.
• Can you tell it’s for Asda until the very end? No.
• Conclusion: Cars look far better covered in fairy lights.
Waitrose: What Makes Your Christmas? (1 minute)
There’s a rare celebrity sighting in this montage of nice things to eat and scenes of middle-class festivities – Heston is spreading Christmas cheer or, to be more specific, sifting something or other over yuletide snail porridge or whatever he’s made for Waitrose this year. Beautifully shot, dreadfully seasonal and quite unspectacular, this isn’t one I’ll be discussing over the water cooler at work.
• Does the Man on the Moon shop at Waitrose? Yes.
• Maddest Heston Christmas product available in-store this year: It’s probably his lasagne. On the basis that it looks…like a lasagne. • Conclusion: Nice but dull.
Lidl: School of Christmas (1 minute):
Another genuinely funny advertisement and what a joy that Lidl has finally stopped producing ads that only just fall short of saying ‘we’re not as bad as you think we are, honestly’. The School of Christmas teaches students how to make snowmen, untangle fairy lights, dress dogs in amusing outfits, make leftover sandwiches, light Christmas puddings and feign joy after receiving awful presents. There are mini ads to accompany and they’re all really good. Take note, Tesco.
• So they still haven’t gone for your idea of ‘Every Lidl Helps’ as an advertising slogan? Incredibly not.
• Best bit: Stanley the dog dressed as a Wise Man.
• Conclusion: Every Lidl Helps. I won’t stop until it’s adopted.
Sainsbury’s: Mog’s Christmas Calamity (3 minutes 30. No, really)
If there was a shin-kicking competition between John Lewis and Sainbury’s the latter would have edged it for two years running. Navigating a path on the right side of the emotional spectrum, this advert manages to be poignant and warm without making you feel as if you’re actually a bit of a cad on the side what with your ignoring of old people in space and all. Having recruited national treasure Judith Kerr to write this lovely little tale of a calamitous Christmas that is mostly saved by a splendid cat and then completely saved by the community, this is really is a three-and-bit-minute slice of festive joy. Sainsbury’s has won Christmas.
• Isn’t Mog, um, DEAD? Yes, Mog died of old age in the 16th title, Goodbye Mog. Presumably this is Festive Zombie Mog.
• Features a robin with razor-teeth and the real-life Judith Kerr? Yes
• Charity tie-in: Yes, with Save the Children to promote child literacy.