The gradual arrival of Christmas adverts on British television channels heralds the start of the festive period better than anything else. We can pretend it’s not a competition but let’s face it, the Christmas advert season is hotly anticipated and highly competitive. The retailer with the best offering usually gets reams of media attention and boosted sales as a result. Read on to find out who we think played our heartstrings well and who barely struck a chord.
10. Argos’ #ReadyForTakeOff
This advert follows an elf who, after discovering a forgotten toy, races to get it on a departing turbo-boosted delivery sleigh. Argos is one of the only retailers to use a North Pole setting this year. Presumably the others don’t want to give Mr Claus all the credit. Despite the futuristic-yet-traditional tone, on the whole, the ad is quite unimaginative and is really just a preamble towards the announcement of their new ‘Delivery from as little as four hours’ offer.
9. Apple’s ‘Sway’
The tech giant’s slogan this year is ‘Move Someone this Christmas’. Ironically the accompanying advert is far less moving than last year’s ‘Open Your Heart to Everyone’ which showed Frankenstein’s monster being accepted into his community, making grown men weep in the process. The disappointing 2017 ad shows a woman putting in her wireless headphones, dancing along the streets of New York and bumping into a man who joins her dance. The choreography and setting are beautiful, but the advert lacks any real emotion and seems more like a thinly-veiled attempt to advertise Apple’s less than popular wireless headphones.
8. Asda’s #BestChristmasEver
Asda’s new ad ‘Best Christmas Ever’, sees a young girl and her grandad explore a Willy Wonka-esque ‘imaginarium’ where Asda ‘make’ their festive recipes. Imaginative scenes included tiny chefs working on bungalow-scale canapes and a woman zapping truffles with a large ray gun full of gin. This ad was the first out, but despite its charm, it fails to be truly memorable.
7. John Lewis’s #MozTheMonster
This high street grand dame is often thought of as having coined the heartwarming and lucrative concept of the Christmas ad. As a result, they are held to a higher standard than their competitors. The plot of this year’s ‘Moz the Monster’ campaign, is about a little boy who discovers a noisy monster (Moz) under his bed. They eventually become friends and play after dark. But these midnight shenanigans cause the boy to fall asleep during the day, and Moz, noticing his little friend’s exhaustion, gets him a night light for Christmas which allows the boy to choose when playtime happens.
Tears are jerked when Moz waves goodbye to his new chum and the light is switched on, but when the light clicks off, we hear a familiar grunt and the advert ends warmly. Critics have called the advert ‘frightening’ and argued that it reminds children of ‘the monster under the bed’ but in reality, Moz is not a scary character, and John Lewis have done well to break that nightmare stereotype as well as make an enjoyable festive advert. Despite the negativity, John Lewis stores sold out of the featured planetarium night-lights the morning after the advert first aired.
6. Lidl’s ‘Every Lidl Thing For Christmas’ and #BeautifullyNormal
Lidl has set itself apart from the crowd this year by releasing selection boxes of shorter Christmas adverts and one longer global ad. The short clips each profile a Christmas character and pair them up with the perfect product. The ‘Visiting Vegetarian’ gets a vegetable pastry dish, the ‘Double Dipper’ gets a large selection of finger food and the ‘Rebel Roaster’ gets a well-priced joint of beef. The adverts are funny and make clever, relatable comments about Christmas. Their longer advert celebrates the #BeautifullyNormal with a touching montage of actual Christmas occurrences including spills, snacks, over-photographed babies and poorly chosen gifts.
5. Tesco’s ‘Turkey, Every Which Way’ #EveryonesWelcome
Tesco also went down the montage route, capturing the ‘real’ Christmas using short scenes of frayed tempers, meddling relatives and kitchen mishaps to punctuate the overarching warm welcome theme. Memorable characters included the brave turkey-barbequer, the ‘Can I have some ketchup?’ kid and the dad who responds ‘Go on then’ to the offer of a turkey sandwich. The supermarket chain spread their message of inclusivity with a beautiful female cover of the Shakin’ Stevens song ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ playing in the background. Overall this cross-section of a British Christmas is honest and heartwarming to watch.
4. Aldi #KevinandKatie
Viewers will be thrilled to know that Kevin the Carrot has returned once more to British television. He starts off still in pursuit of Santa, hopping on a ‘midnight express train’, where his head is turned by a pretty lady carrot atop a stack of reasonably priced mince pies. The vocal talents of actor Jim Broadbent are also back, and he narrates with rhymes Kevin’s navigation of a treacherous dinner table to reach his love. The script is crammed with puns, witty references and festive magic. The carrots’ happy ending is sure to elicit a wry smile from even the Scroogiest of watchers and will leave everyone hoping for another sequel next year.
3. Marks and Spencer’s ‘Paddington & The Christmas Visitor’ #LoveTheBear
This is probably the most plot-heavy advert out this year and potentially the most expensive. Paddington Bear can’t have come cheap, especially the week before his new movie comes out (we hear he is a bit of a diva). The advert is set on Christmas Eve and sees a rotund man in red accidentally waking Paddington Bear. Only, this man is not delivering presents – he is stealing them. This anti-Santa, who is played by familiar British actor Mark Benton, gets swept along on Paddington’s confused mission to re-deliver all the pinched pressies by morning.
The ad is crammed with all the coincidences and capers audiences have come to expect from the marmalade-loving bear but ends sweetly with the burglar seemingly absolved of his crimes. It is a touching ending that promotes a traditional festive message of forgiveness, but this advert ranks highly for its production values more than its emotional accuracy. M&S’s motto ‘Spend it Well’ is pleasantly ambiguous – of course they mean our time at Christmas, but naturally, they also mean our money.
2. Sky Cinema
Sky Cinema was always going to be well armed in their bid to pull on our heart-strings, seeing as their arsenal is overflowing with all the best Christmas movies. Of course, some of the movies most synonymous with Christmas don’t even get a mention. Sky chooses The Sound of Music and follows the relationship of a young mother and daughter as they make a tradition of watching the movie every year. A favourite moment was the mother doing her best Maria-on-the-hills impression to the audience of her mortified daughter and her boyfriend. But the ad achieves its true poignancy later when the roles shift, and we see the arrival of a granddaughter who is equally mesmerised by the movie.
Sky Cinema do their job beautifully. The watcher feels their heart swell in the final scene before the appearance of the well-timed slogan: ‘Nothing brings people together like a movie at Christmas’ breeds the relatable fantasy of snuggling up with a classic, of course, via Sky Movies.
1. Heathrow Airport’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Flight’ #HeathrowBears
Of course, I had to save the best for last. Last year’s Heathrow offering was the tender ‘Coming Home for Christmas’ which featured a pair of grandparents navigating Heathrow arrivals as two charming teddy bears. The marketing bosses must have said to the ad team ‘do the same again, but this time, make them weep’. So this year the advert went back in time to reveal that the two bears met on a flight and Grandma-bear was a British Airways flight attendant. The story tracks their relationship and growing family in what is a beautifully nuanced look at Heathrow, British Airways and British fashion through the ages. The advert ends with the arrival at Heathrow of the Grandpa-bear, but there’s no-one there to meet him.
Perhaps times have changed, maybe the family are all too busy to meet him. The bear’s shoulders slump with sad disappointment. But then the crowd part to reveal his very human family, very happy to see each other at Christmas. I’m not crying, you are!