Right, let’s get it out the way – at the time of writing I haven’t seen the Coke trucks advert. Yet! Doesn’t really feel like Christmas until they show up, but John Lewis have released their annual offering, which is the commonly-accepted marker for “Christmas season has begun”. And what a dismal Christmas it will be for many, plunged into fuel poverty with the promise of blackouts and an NHS running on fumes. Let’s see how the adverts address that. Head-on? Obliquely? Or will they just try to be a jolly as possible and hope it rubs off on a depressed and hopeless nation? Let’s all, together, find out.
Alison Hammond is in this for no discernable reason. No one else is a celebrity, they don’t do celebrity adverts, it just comes off a bit weird. And the anachronisms are not quite wacky enough to feel deliberate so they just look like someone who doesn’t know their ruffs from their powdered wigs. WHY IS THE MUSIC TEENAGE DIRTBAG? Is this like a meta joke about Christmas Adverts? Is that where we are now? Christmas advert season is eating itself. I know I liked it when Lidl did it a few years ago, but that was a whole parody set-piece, not just smirking background music.
Anyway, the cake looks grim. And surely we’re a bit bored of Biscoff, as a flavour? You can’t go five minutes without someone offering you something Biscoff-flavoured. Biscoff spread, Biscoff cheesecake, Biscoff scented boot polish… sick of it, tbh, and I like the flavour.
The thing with this advert, right, is that it needs a prolonged fist fight wherein the protagonist refuses to wear the magic glasses for ten minutes straight while her friend tells her to put them on. That’s right, it’s They Live! but keep it light. You put on the glasses and everything is fun and christmassy. She’s here to chew bubblegum and give presents… and she’s all out of bubblegum. Etc.
It’s not bad, and it’s one of those ideas you wonder why no-one’s done it before. The gift of seeing the perfect gift? Nah, that’s smart.
Well, this is more Dawn of the Dead, but keep it light. I mean, it doesn’t have a message a million miles away from Dawn of the Dead (the terror of the mob, the mindless vacuity of consumer capitalism, the bleak joylessness of suburban life). It doesn’t actually do much work for Argos as a business, imo. I guess it’s implied? You can buy tons of shit from Argos in time for the arrival of the hordes, but that’s true of anywhere now. Amazon. Poundland. Lovehoney. Sell the unique aspect of it (you can usually get your items within a few minutes, at the small cost of hanging awkwardly aroundin the back of a Sainsbury’s).
Do, sorry to digress, but do Argos still have shops? I haven’t seen one in ages, they all seem to be little bays in Sainso’s nowadays. Seems a bit of an easy life for the modern Argos shopper – they can go and get some groceries while they wait for “Number 472 to your collection point please”. There’s something to be said for the open space in your day that sitting on a plastic chair with ripped padding while staring at other people getting their lawnmowers and Elizabeth Duke kerb chains gives you.
Daddy’s home, bellows John Lewis, kicking the door in, shaking snow off his shoulders and dropping a heaving sack of presents on the mat. What’s been happening while I was out? Ohhh, ho ho, everyone using slowed down versions of songs are they? Bit heartwarming is it? Some good old tearjerkers in there? I bet there are some acting the clown, yes yes Lidl one, calm yourself, ha ha, cool your boots. Let me get in, let me get to my big chair. I suppose you’re wondering what I’ve got for you this year?
I was thinking, and at this John Lewis lights a pipe no one had seen in his hand even a moment before. I was thinking something with a slowed-down version of a Blink-182 song. Yes, weren’t expecting that were you? Oh, Teenage Dirtbag you say? Hmph. Well, that did come in the pop-punk wake of Blink-182’s breakthrough Enema of the State, didn’t it? Maybe something heartwarming… Yes, I suppose magic glasses that allow you to buy the perfect gift is…. FINE, but look here, this advert I have in mind – he sits back, rolling brandy around the large glass you’d swear he didn’t have before – this advert is emotional and tearjerking AND, and, here’s my new twist. It’s got a charity appeal tied in with it, something for the community. Hmm? What do you think about that, eh?
McDonald’s have been knocking it out of the park in terms of tearjerker adverts at Christmas. And this one, tied in with BBC Children in Need, is no exception. Only You doesn’t even feel wrong at this speed, they’re playing a straight bat with the song. I mean, an emotional cover was Christmas number one, even. That’s pedigree. And the advert itself is lovely, again – cute without being cutesy, clever and direct, with a lot of heart. The image of the list – the longing of childhood – being snatched out of his hand works on such a strong level of metaphor that when the BBC CIN logo comes up at the end it just sort of clicks a jigsaw into place. Dream big, but this world is cold and will snatch those dreams away. Cling on to those who love you, and that you love.
Yeah, it’s McDonald’s, I know that.
Oh god I fucking I just hate Will Ferrell and I hate Elf and this looks shit it looks shitter than shit, it looks like it was knocked up in an afternoon no one has bothered colour grading the clips to match, the sound balance is all wrong I FUCKING HATE WILL FERRELL with his annoying “shout enough and it’s funny” and big Chevy face, and I hate ASDA, Wal*Mart bollocks shit supermarket piss off your sausages are shit.
Right, ok. Where were we. Yes! This is sweet. A little less straight comedy than I’m used to from Lidl’s Christmas ads, but it’s got a lot of verve. It does what it does with full commitment. It’s not an original advert (someone/some item accidentally becomes a megastar and pines for its ordinary life is right up there with the classic story archetypes like man against society, man against nature or Scouse Dracula), but it’s nicely done. The bear is neutral enough to be universally familiar as a scruffy lil teddy, but distinctive enough to be sold in the middle aisle alongside battery operated telescopes and child-size wetsuits. It’s a solid effort, 7/10 stuff. I’d like better, but I’d like everything to be better and I’m not getting that, am I?
Lidl’s big 4-letter Northern European rival once again bringing out Kevin the Carrot. Now, long-time readers of this self-indulgent twaddle will know it, but I hate Kevin the Carrot. Just loathe him. It was maybe smile-worthy one time back in like 2018, but they’ve saddled themselves with him like he’s their Christmas mascot. An even worse Percy Pig (of whom more later), they will not stop trying to Make Kevin Happen.
So this year they’ve gone for a Home Alone spoof. One for the kids, as was the lead-in advert spoofing a Nike advert from a 1998 World Cup sponsorship campaign. Home Alone got a reboot a couple of years ago, didn’t it? Maybe they should have released this then. Anyway, this is anaemic trash, not committed enough to the bit to be funny, not parodic enough to be smart, it falls between stools and… oh wait yes ok it’s got a dick joke in it which is pretty surprising for a Christmas advert. Points for that I suppose. God. I GUESS. Giving bonus points for bottom of the barrel gags now, what a world.
Marks and Spencer
It’s a bit of a marathon, writing about Christmas adverts these days. I still have Morrisons and Tesco to go, and this was the first one that “dropped”, as they say. A brand’s Christmas ad is very much like a shock Beyonce album, I find, so that is appropriate parlance. So this reunited French and Saunders and, winningly, gives Percy Pig the boot after just one year fronting their Christmas campaign. Give the pink fucker up, I say. He’s as ubiquitous in M&S novelty foods as biscoff is in regular supermarkets. Oh, look, a Percy Pig coleslaw. Delicious.
I am amused that their feedback must have been “We like Dawn French as a fairy, can we have more of that stuff, less of Spider-Man as a pig pls and thnx”. While I’m pleased by this development, I don’t know that these ads have much personality beyond that of the star turn voices. What’s their point, their purpose? You may as well just do a voiceover. They feel quite stuck in the past. Oh look, a new toy mascot for you to buy in-store! Hmm, not feeling it.
Hey, this one feels like it’s in a genre we haven’t got much of this year – snowy-warmly-lit-cosy-Christmas-vibes-here’s-Santa advert. So you’ve got Farmer Christmas and he’s riding a tractor covered in fairy lights through a magical Morrisons workshop/barn and it’s all a bit wry and sideways like a panel show on Dave. But in common with a panel show on Dave I’ll sit through it without much complaint beyond “Well, it’s all a bit smug and warmed-over”, but I’m fine with that. It’s ok! These things don’t have to be challenging or clever, they’re just trying to sell me ham.
Saved this for last because whoooof, what is this? What IS this? It’s certainly one of the few adverts directly, almost bluntly, addressing the cost of living crisis. Everything is shit, says the jollied-up Simon Farnaby voiceover. Time to whack on some cheesy rock (note that it is The Final Countdown by Europe, and the first shot is of the White Cliffs of Dover – there’s a subtle message in here if you look for it), have a fucking party and you can do that by buying Tesco food cause it’s cheap.
I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. My first instinct was to hate it, because it leaned so hard into (even if the clues say the opposite) gammon-faced Brexit Party flag shagging iconography. Then it was to love it because its heart is in the right place. Then to hate it cause it’s Tesco. Now I suppose I’m in the middle. I’m bringing too much of my own distaste for British politics to this particular table, and I think that’s unfair. Let it be, I say. It’s not the fault of the advert that it recalls the worst people in the world making the most horrific and inhuman decisions possible. It’s just trying to have a laugh. Come on, man. It’s Christmas.