As we leave November behind at fully embrace the Christmas season, Josh Pearce, Creative Director at Dark Horses, talks us through the festive ads that stood out among the glut of so-so offerings this year.
Like looking in the fridge on December 28th, there were slim pickings this year regarding truly great Christmas ads. But despite many being as disappointing as picking out a coconut eclair from a box of Quality Street, there are a couple of absolute bangers to get you feeling all warm and festive.
The supermarkets gave everyone choosing between heating and eating a brief look at what they could have won - with tables packed with gout-inducing picky bits and stunningly carved avian remains. Sainsbury’s’ gaudy Christmas spot showed a regal Alison Hammond turning her nose up at a flaming Christmas pudding at her royal council, which ironically, could have hit two birds with one stone in regard to both heating and eating.
Without a doubt, the best in the battle of the supermarkets was Asda’s Buddy the Christmas Elf spot. The team at Havas used a little Christmas magic to bring Buddy himself to an Asda store, with enough charm and technical wizardry to bring a big old smile to this cynical face of mine.
O2 had a bash at doing a John Lewis, with a sad looking “snowgran” wandering the streets to a sad piano version of an Ed Sheeran song. The old woman thaws out when a random little girl gives her a prepaid sim card so she could FaceTime her family. A family who gleefully ditched her at Christmas to roam abroad but couldn’t afford to top up her phone before leaving. I hope their Christmas Day tuna niçoise gives them a dicky tummy.
TK Maxx’s new ad is bold. They showed us that COVID-19 is long forgotten with their very own festive super-spreader event. A woman donning a jazzy TK Maxx outfit wandered the streets of her local town high-fiving absolutely everyone, after nailing her gift-giving duties. Despite a distinct lack of hand-sanny, it’s fun, bright and joyful.
Lego did that thing that Lego always does, and showed the imaginations of children coming to life, but this time it featured Katy Perry performing everyone’s favourite Guy Fawkes tribute, Firework. I preferred the Grammarly pre-roll that played before the ad, and that says a lot.
Ocean Spray unleashed the weird and wonderful, with a drab-looking Christmas dinner coming alive after three wiggling cans of Cranberry jelly are introduced to the table. The diners all follow suit and begin to wiggle, performing a dance akin to Peep Show’s Mark Corrigan at Rainbow Rhythms. What’s not to like?
Boots’ Christmas spot sees a woman on a bus picking up a pair of glasses that an old-Santa-looking-fella left on his seat. When she puts them on, the world around her turns into a winter wonderland, helping her pick the perfect prezzies for her loved ones. This acid-trip of a Christmas ad does all the right stuff, but I would have liked to have seen an additional vignette at the end where we see the woman battling conjunctivitis on Boxing Day after contracting it from the random old man’s specs.
My favourite Christmas ad this year is the John Lewis spot. Having spent a lot of Christmases with foster kids when my mum was a carer, this really hit home and brought attention to something incredibly important. The film itself sees a man, who appears to be having a midlife crisis, doing his silly little best to learn how to skateboard.
The big reveal is that he’s only learning how to skate so he and his new foster child will have something to do together. Another goosebump moment in a long line of goosebump moments from John Lewis.
When I saw the teaser for the ad featured a skateboard, I was ready to slate the creatives for not using Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne or Heaven is a Halfpipe by OPM, but they did one better with a low and slow version of All the Small Things by Blink-182. The 13-year-old me was screaming and crying. Crying and screaming.
So, there you have it, that's Christmas. We all know how excruciatingly difficult it is to write and produce a telly ad at the best of times, but Christmas adds a special sprinkling of soul crushing pressure, so Merry Christmas to everyone who did it and survived to tell the tale x.