As the snowflakes fell on the fresh blanket of snow outside the office windows, it seemed like a good time to make a start on our annual round up of the Christmas Ads. Last week, we had a team meeting when, as we often do for inspiration, we asked everyone for their opinion on the latest offering of festive marketing. Would there be a clear front runner; another Oscar-worthy epic that wins this year’s Battle of the Brands?
It would appear not. In fact, many of the team struggled to recall even seeing a Christmas Ad so far this year! Could this be a result of the increase in on-demand entertainment platforms, reducing our exposure to the traditional ad break? Is it simply that we have been left a little under-whelmed? Or could the reason lie elsewhere altogether?
This year, Tesco’s declared themselves ‘The Christmas Party’ with a ‘vote for us’ party-political broadcast, presumably trying to offer some light relief from the political turmoil the country has been facing recently. Whilst M&S cooked up two adverts. Their food ad features national treasures, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders doubling up as a Fairy and down-trodden dog toy, capturing the essence of a homely Christmas. Their Clothing & Home advert focuses on the company’s charity giving. M&S has partnered with Neighbourly to give £1 million to 1000 local community groups, some of whom feature in the advert which is set to artist-of-the-moment, Harry Styles’ track ‘Treat people with kindness’.
On this year’s ‘Gifts that Give’ campaign, M&S Clothing & Home Marketing Director, Anna Braithwaite said:
"Through our campaign and product ranges we want to help make that possible; providing much needed funds to the incredible groups that light up our local communities”
Charlie’s vote went to Asda’s 'Have your Elf a Merry Christmas'
“For me, it’s nice to have something light-hearted that will make you laugh amongst some of this year’s tear-jerking ads!”
CGI-wizardry brings Will Ferrell’s iconic Buddy the Elf to life as a hapless helper in store. According to a YouGov survey in 2020, Elf was the UK’s favourite Christmas Movie. Asda had to be on to a winner, right? It was also arguably a high-risk move to tamper with something so loved. However, the team are agreed on this one - you can’t help but smile watching this one!
John Lewis, the King of the Christmas Ad, captured a few of our team’s hearts this year. The brand appeared to fall short of capturing the Nation’s mood over the last couple of years, and things certainly look very different with their latest production. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that you wouldn’t recognise it as a John Lewis Christmas advert until the logo appears at the end. ‘The Beginner’ is a heart-warming and paired-back short story showing a couple as they prepare to welcome a foster child to their home at Christmas. The advert shines a spotlight on how John Lewis is supporting the futures of children in care, in partnership with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland.
John Lewis said “in a challenging year, we felt it was important to demonstrate that it’s what we do that matters most”, adding it was proud to use its Christmas ad to “generate conversation and action around an often overlooked issue”.
Several brands continued their own Christmas Story with Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot left ‘Home Alone’, Cadbury’s sticking with their ‘Secret Santa’ campaign, first launched in 2019 and, according to Laura A, “Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas” without the ‘Holidays are Coming’ Coca Cola truck driving across our screens.
For me, what has really stood out this year is the rise of the ‘Alternative Christmas Ads’. I know that these have been around for a few years and I feel, to a certain extent, that they have inspired many of the bigger brands’ creatives in 2022. But this year seems to be their year, with a swell of support behind them. Without being associated with any brand, their message can be delivered more powerfully and more genuinely than any big budget ad. Sam Teale’s ‘The magic of Christmas is made, not bought’ has garnered millions of views with #TheGoKart trending across social platforms, highlighting the cost-of-living crisis that so many families are currently facing.
And, billed as the £50 short film giving John Lewis a run for its money, 36-year-old Phil Beastall presents ‘A Little Help’, shining a spotlight on loneliness at Christmas and how small gestures can go a long way to help those suffering in silence.
As a committed Christian, Sue seems to become more frustrated every year, as the original meaning of Christmas seems to fade away amongst the rush to bag the best Black Friday deals at the end of November. This year, she chose the Waitrose advert as her personal favourite, called ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’. This advert looks at the care taken to prepare for the feast on Christmas Day and the importance of families and friends being together.
Lisa was another one who struggled to recall seeing any memorable Christmas Ads this year, with the usual suspects seemingly missing the mark. Lisa adds:
“So, I went looking for the CO-OP ad, because I picked them last year and I really liked it. There isn't one, they have reassigned their Christmas Ad budget to channel funds into a major new partnership with Your Local Pantry, a Nationwide community food initiative to support those facing food insecurity year-round, made worse this Christmas by the cost-of-living crisis. As part of the programme, CO-OP will run live streams from "Your Local Pantry" hosted by chefs, including Rapper Big Zuu & Miguel Barclay, who will give tips on how to make groceries go further”.
The Co-operative released a statement announcing the new partnership with the membership-based food scheme and community hub ‘as part of its long-term commitment to ensure communities have better access to sustainable food solutions this Christmas and beyond’ and plans to triple the Your Local Pantry network within three years from 75 to 225 Pantries across the UK.
So, does this move by The Co-operative signal the end of the Christmas Ad? Corporates and small businesses are responsible for donating substantial amounts to charities and good causes across the country. Their contributions are often relied upon. Furthermore, corporate PR machines give invaluable airtime to their chosen organisations to help raise awareness of the cause to the wider public. However, how businesses communicate their charitable efforts has always been a fine line to tread.
I think there is still a place for the traditional Christmas Ad. Light-hearted fun and festive cheer to celebrate the magical time of year when families and friends come together will always be and should always be welcomed. However, corporates may well take note of the popularity of this year’s alternative ads and The Co-operative’s announcement of their new partnership as a more genuine way to communicate and deliver on charitable giving.