JINGLE YOUR WAY INTO THE SEASON
OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS AD REVIEW FROM AROUND THE GLOBE
I love them and other people loathe them, but the annual Christmas Ad review is one of the most requested pieces we are hassled about each year. The office fills to the sound of whoever is the favourite artist/music decade of the year being rocked out in a newly interpreted fashion. While we sip on cups of tea and tears are shed, for the following days the sounds of Christmas are hummed (even in isolation) and those from abroad get incredibly homesick.
What are the key themes this year?
We must remember (and I was reminded by my colleague from Ole Blighty) that Christmas was cancelled last year in the Northern Hemisphere due to the pandemic. We enjoyed greater freedoms in the Southern Hemisphere so this year we see the big productions based around the magic of Christmas. Being transported to traditions, connecting and being together again (finally). One of the RetailX team noted that there is a Mary Poppin’s feel to many of the ads, bring to life a magical quality to the unfolding of the tale.
This year is we see less of the links to charitable organisations and characters that can be purchased in store to take home. I dare say it was due to the wider global impacts on production and the unknown of if Christmas might be cancelled again as the pandemic continues to rage throughout the world.
Are the big spend ads still relevant
The UK is traditionally the home of the big productions with the shift from Halloween to Christmas happening overnight, as supermarkets move tinsel and trees. The official start of Christmas. Over the past last decade, many other brands have been quick to spend outrageously big budget creative, such as M&S, Boots, Burberry, Apple and Argos in addition to all the supermarket brands. Some of the largest creative productions historically have been rumoured to have hit £7m just to make (Jeez Louise).
The winning formula in my books is a blend of heart-warming, tear-jerking storytelling, coupled with a relevant blockbuster soundtrack that transports us to another time with the cherry on top, some kind of philanthropic, ‘give-back’ (I recall trying to get someone in the UK to get me a plush Penguin that had been sold out).
THE TOP FIVE of 2021
NUMBER FIVE | TESCO - NOTHING IS STOPPING US
Tear-jerker (smile creator) 8.0/10
Overall rating 8.3/10
Tesco’s Christmas TV campaign featuring Father Christmas bearing a Covid vaccine passport has prompted more than 3,000 complaints, making it by far the most complained about ad of the year in the UK. Seriously.
I love this ad which is very pandemic appropriate. All the crazy, nanny-state anti-vaxers should take their grinch elsewhere in my opinion. This is a well thought, fabulous and entirely relevant ad. Especially for a country who had Christmas cancelled last year.
The ad, titled This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us, shows the supermarket’s customers determined to enjoy a proper Christmas with family and friends after last year’s Covid-related restrictions.
The music is awesome set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, has sparked fierce debate on social media after the ad launched in the UK.
Television presenter and nutritionist Gillian McKeith, who has repeatedly urged her Twitter followers to refuse Covid vaccines and suggested that healthy eating can provide natural immunity to the virus, was among them, tweeting: “#tesco has a new Christmas advert that celebrates #discrimination & #segregation via a fully jabbed Santa who shows his medical status!”
Another added: “Did I really just see a Christmas TV ad on ITV for Tesco to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop me Now’ hit with families having fun / flying abroad etc & then a guy smiling flashing up his smart phone with a COVID passport on it?? Omg I am NEVER shopping at Tesco again #boycottTesco not ok.’”
Another tweeted: “Unacceptable and despicable. HUGE mistake on your part.”
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was reviewing the complaints to see if they warranted an investigation for a potential breach of the rules.
“The large majority of complaints assert that the ad is coercive, and encourages medical discrimination based on vaccine status.”
A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We respect everyone’s views and we know that Christmas is a hugely important time for many of our customers and, after last year’s events, that is truer now than ever.
“We set out to create a campaign which took a light-hearted view on how the nation is feeling and it has been well-received by colleagues and customers.
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the advert reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel.”
Well done Tesco for having a sense of humour and sense of community.
NUMBER FOUR | AMAZON - KINDNESS, THE GREATEST GIFT
Tear-jerker (smile creator) 9.0/10
Overall rating 9.0/10
Amazon backs up with another stunner, Titled Kindness, The Greatest Gift and set to Adele's moving new song Hold On. The heart-warming tale tells the story of a young woman who is feeling anxious about life after lockdown. From university lectures to partying with friends, we see the young girl struggle with normality.
Feeling alone, her neighbour reaches out and forms a new friendship. As they sit on a park bench, the young girl watches as her neighbour feeds the birds. They share a smile, but her neighbour spots something is wrong.
The twist at the end makes the eyes well and is sure to put a smile on your face, it demonstrates how kindness truly is the greatest gift of all – even if it's something small.
NUMBER THREE | BOOTS - BAGS OF JOY
Tear-jerker (smile creator) 9/10
Overall rating 9.2/10
I was a bit harsh on this ad to start with. I thought it was OTT with the multi-cultural families and incredible beautiful star complete with beautiful friends, nanna, the dog – they had thrown the whole bag at it and it was too perfect. The production itself would have been astronomical. But then I missed the nuances and back story.
The Boots Christmas advert, stars BAFTA-nominated actress Jenna Coleman (no wonder she is perfect). As Joy (played by Doctor Who star Jenna) gets ready for a night out, she reaches into a bag which has been gifted by her Nan with the note, 'This is what Christmas feels like', and she soon realises its never-ending magical properties as it begins to produce masses of gifts.
Joy's bag continues to produce gifts for her loved ones, such as a camera to capture a special moment during a night out with friends, extra baubles (and bubbles) to help decorate the family Christmas tree, a cosy hat and scarf set during a snowy ride and even false eyelashes to glam up a snowman. Is there no end to this magical and uplifting festive film celebrating togetherness and nostalgia.
NUMBER TWO | LEGO - REBUILD THE WORLD! Anything is possible with LEGO®
Tear-jerker (smile creator) 9.0/10
Overall rating 9.5/10
Danish toymaker Lego has released a whimsical new ad that encourages kids to rebuild and remix its products in whatever way their imagination calls for.
From Star Wars stormtroopers retreating from a swarm of bees, a dragon trained to put out fires rather than start them, and cacti wearing padded jackets to better facilitate a friendly hug, the action is set to a version of The Foundations’ pop classic, Build Me Up Buttercup, with new lyrics encouraging kids to embrace their creative sides.
There are a range of Lego Systems sets galore in the ad. The campaign, part of Lego’s existing ’Rebuild the world’ positioning, will fill you with rainbows and sunshine.
NUMBER ONE | COCA-COLA - CHIMNEY REAL MAGIC
Tear-jerker (smile creator) 10/10
Overall rating 10/10
With a Mary Poppin’s classic serving as the backdrop, this years delight serves as a reminder that the real magic of Christmas does not come from presents and gifts, it comes from special shared moments together.
A young boy frets about his new apartment's lack of a chimney. How will Santa Claus deliver presents for Christmas? A large-scale DIY project ensues, much to the surprise of the boy's mother, with neighbours helping construct a funnel from delivery boxes and other materials.
The visual storytelling, with expert editing and a perfect pace is heart swelling. The music is also noteworthy—a rousing orchestral version of "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins, as performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra.
Ultimately there is a charming twist at the end where the tears form and flow as it shows the importance of friendship, connection, love, caring for each other. Quite the message for a pandemic ridden world.
OTHERS WORTH A MENTION
FOR REASONS GOOD AND BAD
ALDI | KEVIN THE CARROT
I’ve never liked Kevin the Carrot but Aldi have done themselves proud with this clever tale. In a Christmas Carrot (pun deliberate) we are introduced to Ebanana Scrooge (a take on Dickens's Ebeneezer Scrooge) who learns about the magic of Christmas with a little help from a ghost that takes the form of a carrot – Kevin the Carrot from years gone by.
This advert has been a huge success and fans have loved pointing out all of the hidden puns and details - Marcus Rashford (the footballer) made a cameo in the advert as the adorable radish character 'Marcus Radishford.' Cuthbert the caterpillar makes a guest appearance in a tongue-in-cheek joke by the brand.
Another iconic phrase 'peace and goodwill' was adapted by the supermarket as pea characters shown donating food and the line read, "Christmas is a time for peas...and goodwill."
At the end of the advert, Aldi revealed that they are donating 1.8 million meals to families in need this Christmas, in partnership with the charity Neighbourly.
JOHN LEWIS - UNEXPECTED GUEST
John Lewis traditionally serves up some of the best Christmas ads ever. Perhaps in line with its performance, judging by this year’s offering, you might think the business has run out of ideas.
Sweet children? Check. Bittersweet ending? Check. Cover version of a song you once liked? Check, in this case a version of Together in Electric Dreams. Such a total lack of John Lewis products that, if you showed the advert to someone who didn’t know what John Lewis was, they would be forced to assume it was some sort of spaceship repair company? Check. But…..WTF?
I’ll let you decide for yourself. You may think….. it’s a reminder to help strangers wherever you find them, or a message about the importance of sharing tradition.
ARGOS | BAUBLES TO LAST YEAR
You may recall the 2019 winner “Book of Dreams” which was incredible!! This isn’t at that level but the advert shows families celebrating bigger and better after the disappointment of last year.
Everything is more extravagant in the ad, including lighting the Christmas turkey to opening gifts. With a barrage of festive cheer, it highlights how Christmas 2021 is set to be more poignant than ever before — and encourages shoppers to have their best festive season yet.
MCDONALDS | IMAGINE IGGY
Meet ‘Imaginary Iggy,’ the latest instalment of the ‘Reindeer Ready’ campaign. Excellent soundtrack this is the tale of a young girl, Matilda, and her lifelong relationship with her imaginary friend Iggy. The pair bond over their love of Christmas and all the rituals that occur around the season. As we see Matilda grow into a confident young woman, unfortunately, Iggy gets slightly forgotten about. Toy Story anyone? The concept comes full circle when a scene in a McDonald‘s restaurant reminds her of her old friend once more.
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO UK | AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP
In my WTF category, this Christmas celebrate the power of a smile. True joy from an unlikely friendship. Every smile has a story. I don’t get it.
SAINSBURY – A CHRISTMAS TO SAVOUR
Set to the soundtrack of Etta James' 'At Last!', it immerses viewers in a single moment, creating a rich and sentimental snapshot of a classic Christmas with family, set at a dinner table adorned with food. (Someone else’s words, not mine).
By travelling through and experiencing every detail of the scene, viewers see elements of a familiar Christmas, but from a new perspective, as the camera pans around the room to show family members frozen in time.
Awesome music and while not as fabulous as lasts years add – pretty darn good.
MARKS AND SPENCERS | MAKE THE SEASON ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY
In another mandatory multi-cultural family event, I do just wonder if the Marketing Department got talked into this ad. So disappointing on so many levels and I don’t think it endears anyone to go and shop at M&S. Uninspired.
CADBURY | THE LONELY BOUNTY
This is a must watch as it is particularly clever.
Introducing The Lonely Bounty, a heart-warming seasonal story featuring two outsiders, a Bounty bar and a Brussels Sprout – watch as this Christmas love story unfolds. This year we’re giving all Bounty’s the chance to find their one true love with the Bounty Return Scheme rolling out from January 2022.
IKEA CANADA | ASSEMBLE TOGETHER
This is a bloody awesome advert, and we love it. Today, holiday celebrations look different in every home. 'Assemble Together,' the IKEA Canada holiday television spot, depicts a Canadian family of Indian heritage assembling together for the festive season, with IKEA’s home furnishing solutions coming together with them to facilitate the festivities. In a world of reimagined holiday celebrations, we see varied cultural touchpoints and traditions come to life in this spot including decorating with tea-lights, cooking delicious food with recipes passed down from generation to generation, along with strings of marigold and a decorated Christmas tree. It’s all stitched together with the driving beat of the famous Bollywood track, Chaiyya Chaiyya.
MORRISONS | FARMER CHRISTMAS
This is a great ad and special tribute to farmers and helpers across the country who make Christmas happen, in particular, the other hero of Christmas - Farmer Christmas.
The TV advert tells the tale of "Farmer Christmas" who works all year round in order to make sure that we all have our delicious Christmas feasts to tuck into on the big day, because - let's face it - Christmas dinner is one of the things we look forward to every year.
As British farming’s single biggest customer, Morrisons has chosen to hero farmers in its advert as a way of thanking them for all the work they do to help make Christmas so special.
And a reminder of RetailX’s (well Juanita’s) all-time favourite Christmas ad that ticks ever single box. I include this one every year because it is timeless (well in our connected age), relevant and heart-warming. Everything a Christmas ad should be. I still get goosebumps and cry out loud whenever I watch it
APPLE – Happy Holidays 2013