Have we become desensitised to Christmas?

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So by now you’ll all have seen John Lewis’s #ManOnTheMoon ad.

It’s probably also true that you’ve had your say on it – whether on social media, in lunchtime chats with office colleagues, or in heated discussions with family members. There have been Star Wars parodies, Martian parodies, Clangers parodies, and even memes made from it.

But why are we so quick to criticise this festive Christmas message? Are we are becoming desensitised to those heartstring-tugging epic ads?

We all know the formula by now. Early November the ads will start. From this time onward you will need a tissue. You will find yourself haunted by the twinkling, acoustic music. You will be touched by the sweet, innocent message. You will feel guilty that you didn’t think more about the presents you’ve bought. You will feel hope that this Christmas will be wonderful. And every year we are treated to a slightly different version of what we saw the previous year.

*John Lewis - 2011

*John Lewis - 2012

*John Lewis - 2013

*John Lewis - 2014

*John Lewis - 2015

It seems that John Lewis are very good at tugging our heartstrings – toying with our emotions. When we watch one of their adverts we relate to that feeling of Christmas. We remember the sentiment – seeing someone’s face when you give them their present, doing something nice for the ones you love and making someone’s Christmas special.

But, with the saturation of emotion in ads, is the effect starting to wear off? In the same way that we have become desensitised to horror, are we losing our sense of empathy around Christmas?

Perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.

This year, Marks and Spencer have moved away from the traditional lengthy Christmas ad, instead they have released two shorter spots that build on their existing “the art of…” and “adventures in…” campaigns.

Now these ads aren’t a complete departure from what we’d expect to see, but if we dissect them just a little I think we can decipher how they are a little different.

What’s nice is that the brand seems to have made a clear decision to appeal to both emotions and senses. As well as getting viewers tingly about the emotional experiences Christmas will bring, they are exposing them to the sensual sensations too – the flavours, colours, smells and tastes. That’s the full package. That gets me excited!


The drawback of John Lewis’s #ManOnTheMoon is that it doesn’t make me feel the need to shop at John Lewis. The M&S ads however make me want the products. I want the gold-oozing pudding, the pigs-in-blankets, the party-wear, and even the socks… I want to go to M&S for Christmas.

And surely that’s all that matters?


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