Updated November 18, to add Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s & TK Maxx adverts, and update the Vodafone & Lidl reviews.
No sooner have the fireworks stopped than the Christmas promotions begin in earnest. Christmas lights switch-on ceremonies have been taking place this week, while all the shops are bringing out their big Christmas displays. And for me, this will be the first time I’ve been in London for the build-up to Christmas – as opposed to being here just for Christmas itself when I visited with the family as a child.
So this year I’ll have the chance to look around the city’s festive offerings properly, and I’m looking forward to that. Walking down places like Oxford Street to look at the shop windows and the Christmas lights will be wonderful in itself, as well as other places around the city if I get a chance. If anybody wants to recommend a particular part of London for me to check out the Christmassy delights, I’d love to hear about it.
Anyway, to help get us in the mood, we’re now being bombarded by all the Christmas adverts, with companies vying for our attention on the TV and, more predominantly these days, online. They all come out at the same time, and they always cause much debate, dividing people as to whether they’re any good or not.
So, to do something a bit different for this blog, I thought I’d give my personal thoughts on the ads I’ve looked at, 15 in all, before ranking them at the end. Everyone’s views on these are unique, of course, I’m not expecting you to agree with me. And as I’m not a young child or a parent, I’m not the target audience for some of them. But that doesn’t matter. Ultimately, if you like adverts that I don’t, or vice-versa, that’s absolutely fine. I just wanted to give my own reactions to them.
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. This is the advert that everybody wants to talk about above all else every year, because they’re always lavish and expensively produced. Some reports are saying that this year’s advert cost £7 million. However, if that’s true, or even if it cost just £1 million, I would question why it’s necessary to go to that expense. The production values are good here, true, but the cost seems rather high for what we’ve ended up with.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think the advert is particularly great this year. I’ve watched it a few times to give it a decent chance, but it just doesn’t grab me or tug at my heartstrings like some of their previous work has. And in large part it’s because it doesn’t feel very festive. Yes, the child opens his presents by the Christmas tree near the end, but that’s the only significant Christmas reference you get. Beyond that, it’s just about a boy making friends with a monster that lives under his bed. Which is a nice idea, but Moz isn’t cute like Monty The Penguin from 3 years ago (my favourite of all their ads to date, he’s so adorable and it’s a genuinely moving film) and Buster The Boxer from last year. I don’t feel any sympathy or emotion towards Moz, he doesn’t feel as special. I’m sure he does in the eyes of children, who will no doubt enjoy the advert and badger their parents for the toys, but he does nothing for me.
The bigger issue though, I think, is that John Lewis are now painting by numbers and playing it safe, or that’s how it comes across to me. The kid-cheers-up-lonely-creature-or-person type of storyline has worked for them before, peaking with the penguin in my opinion, so they’re sticking to that formula. And that’s making them seem predictable and unoriginal now. Same goes for their use of ballad-style song covers to go with those stories. The song they’ve used this year is nice in itself (a cover of Golden Slumbers by the Beatles, performed by Elbow), but it feels out of place for the occasion. Because the theme of the ad is bedtime, the song is basically a lullaby, and it feels a bit sad and mournful rather than uplifting and cheery. It doesn’t say Christmas to me.
So I think they need to think outside the box in future rather than being complacent. If this were the first John Lewis ad I’d ever seen, my opinion would probably be more favourable. But having seen and enjoyed some of their previous ads, it’s taken the shine off this year’s. So they’re going to have to do something really special if they want to get back on top, otherwise the ads are going to get dull if they continue to do the same kind of thing each time. Won’t stop me shopping with them though – I love their stores, it’s just their adverts that need work.
This is my favourite of the lot so far. Yes, it is a bit of extra promotion for the new Paddington movie, but in fairness it doesn’t actually feature any scenes from the movie as far as I’m aware, so it’s not a trailer. Rather, it’s a story about Paddington mistaking a burglar for Santa, and helping him deliver all the stolen presents back to their respective houses, and showing the burglar just how special Christmas is when he sees the children opening their gifts. It’s a lovely tale, really well produced, and Paddington is wonderfully animated. And it has a positive, family-orientated Christmas message. So I really like it, M&S have done a great job this year. Picking such an iconic, well-loved character was a smart move.
Some people’s reactions to this have been quite odd though. Some claim that it promotes robbery, even though it’s clear that the burglar is being taught that stealing is a bad thing, robbing families not just of their gifts, but also the joy and emotion that those gifts bring. And, even more bizarrely, some are convinced that the burglar swears at Paddington when he says “Thank you little bear” near the end! I know it’s slightly muffled because they’re hugging, but it’s still clear enough what he’s saying. I’ve listened to it a few times and he’s definitely saying “Thank you”! Oh, and apparently a few people are upset that Paddington is calling the guy Santa rather than Father Christmas, as if that really matters. It’s amazing what people will complain about sometimes!
This is a very basic Cinderella-esque love story with a predictably happy ending – but there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. The modernising of the story with the use of social media is a nice touch, and the visuals and the music are beautiful. And their outfits look good, which are presumably clothing that will be on sale in the stores. All in all, it feels very festive and uplifting and positive, as a Christmas advert arguably should be. So it’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it’s just sweet and nice, and sticks in my mind more easily than the John Lewis ad has.
This is fun. I’ve never really noticed Aldi’s Christmas adverts before, but I’ve now learned that Kevin The Carrot also appeared last year, including clips about the casting process here and here, and a cheeky reference to John Lewis. He was evidently popular enough to return this year, and it works very well because it’s a new story, not a rehash of last year’s advert. So the new advert looks great, Kevin’s journey is short but enjoyable, and the poetic narration is very good. The one-liner Kevin has at the end also made me chuckle, and it’s cute that he finds his true love at the end. So with this ad and last year’s, I can see why so many people are saying they like him, and it’s good to see an ad that’s original and amusing. I wonder if he’ll return next year as well.
This isn’t about a romance or a friendship for a change. Instead, it’s about one of the Argos ‘elves’ spotting a toy that’s nearly missing its delivery on the Argos ‘sleigh’ that’s about to take off, and thus rushing through the snow to get it on there. It’s got special effects, it shows loads of the toys that Argos will be selling, and it’s got the Sabre Dance as a soundtrack. What’s not to like? It’s a good combination that makes for a short but fun advert.
This is a simple concept that everyone can relate to, as you get to see Christmas dinner being prepared in a variety of households, demonstrating that everyone can celebrate the festivities. Along the way it references some of the struggles and family arguments that can occur to begin with, before everyone comes together to enjoy the very tasty looking food. Watching it does make you quite hungry!
Everyone will nod with recognition at some point during the advert I reckon, as you’ll see something that has happened in your own household at Christmas. And the backing song, a ballad-like cover of the Shakin’ Stevens hit, is nice as well, though I still prefer his version of course. So it’s a very simple ad – no fancy effects or CGI or stunts or anything like that. Just a nice reminder that Christmas is for everyone, and it’s a very timely message these days with everything that’s going on in the world.
Morrisons haven’t just done one advert, they’ve posted two! Each focuses on a different family, one with a boy writing his Christmas list for Santa, and one about a brother encouraging his somewhat shy sister to take part in various festive things, which is very sweet. They’re short and simple, and mainly show the kinds of food that Morrisons have to offer. So, again, there’s nothing amazing here, but they’re nice little clips.
The instant this advert started, my hopes were high given the music being used – Only You by Yazoo. It’s a great song with a unique and instantly recognisable intro, so it’s a cool choice for the advert. It basically shows two sisters growing up together, who have stuck by each other and shared so much during their life. And, as a result of being so close and knowing each other so well, they’re able to pick the perfect Christmas gifts for one another – as per the tagline “Show Them You Know Them”. It’s a sweet sentiment that’s nicely conveyed.
This caught me by surprise. I don’t know Very.co.uk very well, I’ve never shopped with them before. So, to me at least, they don’t seem to be quite as big and prominent a brand as John Lewis, M&S, Debenhams, etc. So I wasn’t expecting much. But then they sneak out this beautiful computer-animated mini-movie in amongst the swathe of other adverts this year.
It starts off innocently enough, following a young girl as she goes around giving presents to her friends, teachers, the lollipop lady, etc, crossing them off her list as she goes. Pretty standard stuff that one assumes won’t amount to much. But when she then sneaks out during the night, she ends up being confronted by a wolf and going on an unexpected adventure, with Santa helping to provide a happy ending. It’s really nicely done, swiftly paced with twists and turns and lovely graphics. So I’m glad I stumbled across this, it’s definitely one of the better ads this year.
This is a lovely advert showing a girl and her grandfather sneaking into the ASDA factory to get a sneaky look at all the Christmas goodies. It’s a very elaborate and enjoyable production, showing all sorts of complicated contraptions and methods that are used to make the food, a bit like going into Willy Wonka’s factory. And they’ve picked a classic song to accompany it too – Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac. It’s all good fun.
What type of Christmas food and drink person are you? Are you a Cavalier Carver, a Mince Pie Maverick or a Double Dipper? Or something else? Lidl have released a variety of adverts so you can choose which one describes you best. I’m mince pie mad, personally, I can never get enough of those, so Mince Pie Maverick suits me nicely. There’s not much else to say about these 20-second ads really, as they’re very short, simple promotions for specific items of Lidl’s Christmas food range.
This advert is a collection of home movies and photos showing a pair of sisters enjoying Christmas together over the years. There’s a very joyful feel to it all, and the accompanying music is a catchy little song I’d never heard before (Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas by The Staple Singers), So while it’s nothing special compared to some produced by other retailers, it’s got a lovely, happy, festive tone to it, so it’s nice.
When Santa loses his reindeer, after they get far too distracted enjoying the toys in the store, he has Geoffrey the giraffe take over the reindeer duties instead. Simple as that really. And you’ve got the classic Toys ‘R’ Us theme tune as well. So it’s a short but nicely animated little advert altogether, there’s nothing more to say about it really.
Currys PC World have put out 3 adverts, each designed to show how their employees test things out first so they’re well-informed about what they’re selling to their customers. So each advert shows a different type product. The Merry Techmas one is my favourite because of the acting by the children – the way their looks of excitement turn to horrified disappointment at the start is brilliant, it made me chuckle. They’re great little actors. The other two clips are alright as well though – nothing special, but they get the point of the advert across very well.
This is a 5-part love story starring Martin Freeman, who falls in love with a girl he meets at a train station. It’s a will-they-won’t-they story, though obviously you know they’ll get together in the end. It’s Christmas after all. But I like the fact that it’s not instant, as we see Martin’s deliberations and doubts along the way, which many of us go through when we encounter someone we have feelings for. He plays it very well, and it’s quite a coup for Vodafone to get such a great actor involved in their promotion. So i’s a nice, sweet little series that’s different to the other ads I’ve seen this year. Part 3 where he’s with his family is perhaps my favourite, as it’s often quite amusing. And the final part is very sweet and has a nice callback line to the first ad, which brings everything full circle. So it’s worth watching them all in sequence, it all goes together nicely.
I have mixed feelings about this. It’s a nice ad with a good mixture of people in it. Even Kermit The Frog, you can’t help but smile when you see him. And the concept of a sing-along is pretty fun.
But the song lets it down. Sure, the lyrics have lots of festive references that we can all relate to. But the song itself isn’t really very good, and it’s difficult to sing along with, which defeats its purpose. There isn’t really a melody to it – you may as well rap most of it. And there’s no really catchy, memorable chorus that sticks in your head either. Plus, many of the lyrics go by so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up with them. Indeed, if you’re visually impaired, you’ll struggle, even if you have some vision. For instance, if you have issues with text-to-background contrast and/or tracking speed like me, then the lyrics at the bottom of the screen are pretty much unreadable in some parts. Still, if you want to try and sing it, they have posted a karaoke version.
So it’s a nice enough concept. I’m just not sure it’s been carried out effectively. For me, the song just doesn’t stick. It’s ok to listen to as a one-off, but it’s not memorable and doesn’t generate a desire to listen to it again. Sainsbury’s are capable of a lot better than this I think.
This is a very sweet advert, about a little girl keeping hold of her carrot stick so she can give it to the reindeer. Everybody else seems to think it’s crazy but cute, that she’s carrying it around with her all the time. And visually the advert is nice and Christmassy. So it’s just. So it’s a simple and adorable little promotion really, and it’s nice that McDonald’s have put the focus on one of the healthier items in their range too.
I really like this ad. It’s fun, it’s Christmassy, it’s colourful, it’s very well edited, the song (a Christmas version of Pilot’s song Magic) is great, and it’s voiced by Bill Nighy. There really is nothing not to like here, it keeps your attention all the way. It’s all about how TK Maxx are delivering snow to some lucky people’s houses this year. Yes, seriously! If you find one of their special snow globes or win in their online game, you could literally have a white Christmas at your house. That would be pretty cool, right? So I think they’ve done a lovely job here.
So those are my opinions, I hope you enjoyed reading them. It’s not a stand-out year for Christmas adverts particularly, but there are some very nice ones in there. Your views as to which is best will of course be different to me, and that’s absolutely fine. You’re more than welcome to tell me what your favourites are in the comments. But to finish, here are my personal rankings for the ads I’ve mentioned.
- Marks & Spencer – Paddington & The Christmas Visitor
- Aldi – Kevin The Carrot
- Very – Get More Out Of Giving
- Asda – Best Christmas Ever
- TK Maxx – A White Christmas
- Debenhams – You Shall Find Your Fairytale Christmas
- Argos – Ready For Take Off
- Vodafone – Christmas Love Story
- McDonald’s – Carrot Stick
- John Lewis – Moz The Monster
- House Of Fraser – Bring Merry Back
- Boots – Show Them You Know Them
- Tesco – Turkey, Every Which Way
- Sainsbury’s – Every Bit Of Christmas
- Morrisons – Christmas List & Free From
- Toys ‘R’ Us – Geoffrey the Part Time Reindeer
- Currys PC World – Merry Techmas, The Party & Ahmed’s Run
- Lidl – Every Lidl Thing For Christmas