It’s that time of the year! In mid-November, brands usually rush to release their best Christmas ads and capture a precious slice of attention from their target audiences. Due to the shortage crisis, this year was a bit different, but nonetheless we’ve seen a number of great ads with top-notch quality from the best agencies in the industry.
Yet there are some classics which we will hardly ever forget. From Coca-Cola to John Lewis and even some more remote brands from the international scene, there are countless beautiful Christmas ads to watch. Below we have collected the best 10.
Top 10 Christmas ads of all time
It’s rather easy to spot the best Christmas ads, even if your memory isn’t too great. Anything that resonated quite well with the public will have either billions of views on YouTube, or hundreds of comments saying ‘this must be the ABSOLUTE BEST Christmas ad EVER!!!’
Of course we’ll refrain from saying anything absolute, but it’s true there are some masterpieces from the past two decades, and some of them you will most certainly remember.
10. ‘Holidays Are Coming’ by Coca-Cola (2010)
As soon as you read the headline of this piece, you must have thought about this iconic ad by Coca-Cola. Sure it’s cheesy, but the lorries lighting up the way to Christmas have become an inevitable part of the holiday season. This ad may not have you reach for the tissues just yet, but it will still warm your heart with nostalgia – and the jingle is so catchy!
9. ‘Snowman’ by Irn-Bru (2006)
Christmas is sharing, especially if you’re holding hands with a flying snowman hundreds of feet in the air. This hilarious ad by Irn-Bru dates all the way back to 2006 and is the only ad old enough to have been released nearly two decades ago. Irn-Bru recently revamped the ad to include the new can design, but the short film is still the same, iconic animated journey of a boy unwilling to share his Irn-Bru with the flying snowman, who lets go of his hand in retaliation. In all honesty, well deserved.
8. ‘Time to Come Home’ by Edeka (2015)
Too many elders suffer from loneliness at Christmas time, sometimes left alone by their families, other times by the circumstances. This heartbreaking ad by German brand Edeka shows a father trying to bring his family together again for Christmas – no matter what it takes. I doubt anyone’s first thought would be to hug him after such a feat, but we can’t ignore how compelling this ad is, even 6 years later.
7. ‘Inner Child’ by McDonald’s (2020)
As the whole world tried to cope with its first Christmas in isolation, melancholy and quiet self-reflection took the centre stage as most 2020 Christmas ads showed the sentiment of an entire society suffering from loneliness. As a result, a lot of the 2020 Christmas ads will have you reach for your tissues, but only two made this list (which already is an achievement by itself). In this wonderful short film by McDonald’s, a teenager rediscovers his inner child at Christmas, by reconnecting with his beloved mother.
6. ‘The Bear and the Hare’ by John Lewis (2013)
Did you ever stop to think that some animals have never seen the wonders of winter? Bears go in hibernation in the coldest season, which means they will obviously miss all the best bits about Christmas in the woods. In 2013, a much selfless bunny would not sit still and simply accept that. Get ready – this one is so adorable it hits hard. It is also the most viewed Christmas ad ever, with over 44 billion views on Lily Allen’s dedicated music video!
5. ‘The Greatest Gift’ by Sainsbury’s (2016)
We are entering the Top 5, which means your throat will get pretty lumpy from here. In 2016, Sainsbury’s released a wonderfully animated short film telling the story of Dave, a devoted dad, who realises his time is the most precious thing he can give his family at Christmas. The ad is a masterpiece of short film animation – and storytelling, of course.
4. ‘Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus’ by M&S (2016)
I bet you never thought about what Mrs Claus will be doing at Christmas. In 2016, in one of the best Christmas ads ever made, M&S shows the selfless spirit of Santa’s wife as she helps a young kid demonstrate his love to his sister. From Mrs Claus’ relationship with her husband to the kid’s subplot, there are way too many spots in this ad that will get you a warm and fuzzy feeling.
3. ‘1914’ by Sainsbury’s (2014)
It was 1914, five months after the beginning of World War I, when some parts of the Western Front signed a temporary armistice which would later be known as the Christmas Truce of 1914. A tremendous amount of work and research has gone into the development of this heart-wrenching ad from Sainsbury’s, and it really shows. The ad is so beautiful we wrote a separate, in-depth article about it as part of our series Ads that made history. I invite you to check that out.
2. ‘The Letter’ by Coca-Cola (2020)
It is a very, extremely close second place for our top 2020 Christmas ad: The Letter by Coca-Cola. We humans tend to empathise with difficult journeys, epic obstacles and challenges – and the top 2 ads on this list show that quite well. The Coca-Cola 2020 ad is so beautiful I couldn’t not include it in the Top 3 of the best Christmas ads ever made – thanks to the presence of a hard-working, devoted father who finds a rather unique way to reconnect with his little child. If you haven’t cried so far in this list, I’m afraid this will be the ultimate tear-duct breaker.
1. ‘Snowmen’ by John Lewis (2012)
Surely nostalgia played a big part in this decision, but it’s impossible to forget the beauty of the Snowmen ad by John Lewis. Sure, there have been later ads with a bigger production value. Sure, there have been more spectacular attempts at telling the same story, or a variation of it (see Coca-Cola above). But the tale of the snowmen in love is a universal one and it speaks to our most inner selves in a number of ways, from sacrifice to sharing, from romantic love to caring for our beloved ones. If there have been ads telling this story before, no one managed to do so with the same simplicity, tact and delicacy of John Lewis in 2012.
Bonus: Literally most of the recent John Lewis and Sainsbury’s Christmas ads
You may be sitting there saying: “Where is Man on the Moon? Where is Mog? What about the Elton John ad from a few years ago?” And you would be absolutely right.
The thing is that both John Lewis and Sainsbury’s have cultivated a habit of releasing some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching ads around Christmas time, though at least one of them has moved on a slightly different path recently. If we had to include every single beautiful ad released by either, this list would be mostly dominated by these two retail giants. The truth is that a lot of the most recent Christmas ads by Sainsbury’s and John Lewis are among the most memorable and meaningful ever created. So instead of dedicating one section of this list to each, we’ve decided to collect them all below for you.
Brace yourself and prepare the tissues. Some of these hit quite hard in the feels.