Over the years, Christmas adverts have become an institution. The competition for the best one has become as anticipated as the Olympics (well, almost), and it’s safe to say that when we catch our first glimpse of one, it seems to signal that Christmas is really here. The decorations fly out from their dusty boxes, frantic shopping trips are made, and tree hunting begins.
John Lewis has brought us iconic Christmas adverts over the years, but I think they really have outdone themselves this time round. The 90 second advert, entitled ‘The Journey’, is all about searching for the perfect gift for a loved one. The story centres around a snowman embarking on an epic journey to find his snow-wife something perfect for Christmas. Gabrielle Aplin serenades the audience with a soft, acoustic version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. The gorgeous landscape of New Zealand where the scenes were shot adds to the mysterious and magical atmosphere created by the creative production team at John Lewis. The tag-line ‘give a little more love this Christmas’ rounds up the story nicely, and tugs on the heartstrings of even the Scrooges in the room. However, some might question whether the commercial is emotionally manipulative, simply hoping to result in shoppers sprinting to John Lewis, credit cards at the ready.
Waitrose’s Christmas advert contribution contrasts starkly with the decadent offering of the magical snowman. The short scene involves no special effects, story or gimmick. The unpaid Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith are accompanied by the strap-line ‘giving more this Christmas.’ The supermarket claimed their ‘unglamorous’ commercial makes it possible to donate up to one million pounds to charity, on top of the £600,000 the brand would normally give at this time of year. Although it’s true that this unique approach is one way to get people talking about Waitrose, the advert could hardly be considered ‘feel-good’ or Christmassy in a traditional sense. While Waitrose cannot be criticised for the commendable act of giving a large sum of money to charity, I can’t help thinking that some might find their choice in broadcasting slot a little odd. Waitrose have said repeatedly that their aim was to make a completely cheap advert, in order to allow them to give more money away, and yet they’ve paid for a slot during prime-time Saturday night television. On top of this, if the supermarket were seriously making it ‘all about charity’, why bother having two celebrity chefs to present the commercial? Surely this could ultimately discourage people from shopping at Waitrose altogether, as the brand appear to be trying to achieve an appearance of worthiness that simply isn’t the case, especially when their ad is compared to those of other charity organisations this Christmas.
This year’s Christmas advert from Asda seems to have got a lot of people talking and caused a bit of a debate as to whether the commercial is sexist. Their portrayal of Christmas captures a mother’s hectic schedule as she tries to make Christmas happen with very little help from the rest of her family, including her husband. The tagline is ‘behind every great Christmas there’s Mum, and behind every great mum there’s Asda.’ The humorous, slightly tongue in cheek ad may have offended some, but honestly in many cases, this is the reality of Christmas. For many families, dads carry the tree, go in the loft for the decorations and kill the odd spider that may have crawled into the tinsel over the year. The Asda commercial is perhaps a slightly exaggerated story of everything a mum might have to get done over Christmas. But despite what critics say, the satisfaction she feels at the end of the advert, after making her family happy, is truthful and heart-warming.
Sainsbury’s has a similarly honest theme of what Christmas time really means to most families. Entitled ‘Christmas days with Sainsbury’s’, there are different clips of mince pies going missing before Christmas day, tree lights getting tangled with other decorations and attempts to impress the neighbours with fancy treats and nibbles. The commercial, like the Asda one, is easy to relate to and provides a laugh for an audience who can relate to the characters’ festive antics.
Whether you love the Christmas festivities or not, it can’t be doubted that Christmas adverts are an ingrained part of them now. You could be getting lost in the dream like world created by John Lewis, chuckling at the mysterious missing chocolates in Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas Days’, or pondering whether Waitrose ethical or not. But whichever you’re watching, any of these adverts encourage giving at Christmas, and promote the importance of making others happy around the festive period. So buy those gloves for your mum from John Lewis, pick the mulled wine up for the party from Asda and slip some change into the collection at Waitrose. As whoever wins the imaginary award for best advert this year, all of them have made us feel that bit more Christmassy this December. All this sparkly advertising will continue to signal the beginning of Christmas for years to come, I’m sure.