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  • 06.12.16
  • by Marnie Kent

The battle of the Christmas ads

Christmas is a time of tradition, and one of those traditions (for us anyway!) is awaiting the highly-anticipated release of Christmas ads. It’s now three weeks until the big day and most ads have now been released, some a little earlier than others, but the battle for the best Christmas advert is well and truly on! The usual major retailers have started tugging at our heartstrings and telling us about their meaning of Christmas, but this year, there are a few underdogs in the mix.

For most people, us included, the highly-anticipated John Lewis ad was a little bit of a let-down, with others quickly taking over it to the top spot! This year John Lewis opted for gentle-humour rather than the usual tear-jerker, with Buster the Boxer bouncing on the trampoline intended for the child of the family, but it just didn’t connect emotionally with viewers. Is it just us, or did it seem like they were just cramming more animals than necessary into the shots? – all of which are available to buy in store, not surprisingly! Now that the hype for the advert has died down a little, the retailer has released, in our opinion, very poor product ads, placing a badger or a fox beside an electrical product doesn’t make us want or need it. The advert itself did make us smile, and the sentiment of ‘gifts everyone will love’ works well for the store, but for us it doesn’t top its predecessors, and left us, and our Managing Partner and Creative Director, John feeling very underwhelmed.

This year’s M&S ad has gone down well in our office with its heart-warming story and girl power theme… The advert features a boy called Jake who writes to Mrs Claus to beg her to help him reconcile with his sister after allowing the dog to maul one of her shoes. Mrs Claus rises to the occasion to personally deliver to the gift for his sister. The ad is heart-warming and the message ‘Christmas with Love’ is nice and simple yet effective – extra points for girl power and getting the opportunities for merchandising just right!

Sainsbury’s have taken it to another level with a 3-minute animated film, voiced by James Corden, the theme being the greatest gift of Christmas is to spend time with your family. (Quite ironic when there’s currently an online petition for retail stores, including Sainsbury’s, to be closed on Boxing Day for that very reason). But the festive ad is a favourite of many, having just topped the YouTube British leader board for the second year running. Our Managing Partner, Ian, loves that the ad kept building, getting bigger and better. He saw similarities with himself and Dave the devoted dad, star of the commercial and his struggle to get the correct work life balance. Ian said he will take Dave’s advice and spend more time with his family this Christmas! – will you do the same?

The Aldi ad and the tale of Kevin the Carrot who doesn’t let anything get in his way of meeting Santa has been a big hit with some of team, the only downside being that it doesn’t come with a ‘Christmassy’ message like the others. But maybe you don’t always need that? Last year they went with a parody and had an increase of 13.3 per cent in sales in the 12 weeks leading to 3 January. This year they wanted to celebrate their award-winning products and show off their festive range, and they did just that! They went down a different route this year, but it still worked for them and that’s all that counts.

Another alternative Christmas ad, that’s really impressed us, is Pret A Manger. The ad tells the story of Pret’s apprenticeship scheme that provides training and jobs for the homeless and the impact that can have. The ad isn’t a big expensive show with a big budget, it’s just a simple story of how the scheme works, documenting the lives of participants, which in this case has been more powerful than most. We’ve worked with local homeless charity Under the Bridge a lot throughout this year and have seen how far a little effort can go. Our Managing Partner, Barry now sits on the board of Tyne Housing Association, the board behind the charity, so the ad reflects something close to all our hearts – bravo Pret!

Another unexpected contender is H&M. The three-minute mini movie, directed by Wes Anderson, features Adrien Brody as the train conductor as we are taken aboard the ‘H&M Winter Express’. We see him announcing that due to the bad weather the train will be delayed meaning the passengers will spend Christmas day on the train. The camera moves to show the passengers in their individual carriage windows, a mix of ages and personalities, including an unaccompanied young boy riding the train alone. The staff and passengers all come together to replicate Christmas on board the train, with decorations, a tree and hot chocolate, much to the joy of the young boy. It ends with the simple message ‘Come Together’ – simple but very effective.

For us they just got everything right, the sentiment and the music (The Little Drummer Boy and John Lennon’s Happy Xmas) really hits you, without even trying, there’s no forced emotion or tears like we’ve found with other ads and the product placement is there but not too in your face!

It seems none of us can agree on our favourite, but who can blame us when there’s so much choice. With some of us falling in love with an ad that tugs on the heart strings, some of us loving girl power and the rest preferring a musical with comedy value – there really is something for everybody.

The Coca Cola truck is back on our screens and for most of us, that’s the ad we’ve all been waiting for, it marks the start of the Christmas countdown! We’d love to hear what you all think of this year’s ads, are you as divided as our office or is there an outright winner for you? Head on over to our Facebook and Twitter to let us know …