I absolutely love Christmas advertising – it helps to get me in the festive mood. But I’m finding that a lot of this year’s offerings disappointing, misguided and some are just damn lazy! My Christmas spirit is so low that I’ve resorted to buying Advocaat and imbibing Snowballs every night just to raise a bit of Christmas cheer in my soul. So what’s been the issue this year?
Before I get on to the usual suspects, the retailers, I’d just like to mention the plethora of perfume and aftershave ads on during this period which is of course one of our favourite times of year to gift fragrances. So we should be wallowing in the glory of creative, inspirational, aspirational, sexy perfume ads right? That would be a big fat ‘no’! These ads are far too formulaic and ultimately dull dull dull. The ad must obviously include either a) a celebrity or b) an attractive model or two, or c) both of the above. The settings and personalities displayed are oblique, shallow and unattainable for a mere mortal like you and I. And can I just point out the serious base hitting going on after just #a first glance, #passing through corridor on train, #at train station, #at nightclub, etc. Are we trying to say that these scents are so pheromonal that it’s human instinct to just start snacking on each other after one whiff? That’s not what I want from a perfume.
So my biggest bug bears this year – reality TV stars (and I use that term very loosely indeed). Now I wouldn’t expect anything else from Iceland so Stacey Solomon driving home for Christmas with a big prawn ring platter is harmless and way better than Kerry Katona.
But I feel very let down by Marks & Spencer. They can usually be relied on to deliver us oodles of festive fizz with past offerings from Take That and Peter Kay putting us in the mood for a chocolate fondant and turkey with all the trimmings. However, tying their mast to X-Factor for me is disappointing and unfortunate in a year when the show has arguably had its least successful run of late. Some controversy too about the TVC edits; if you were watching last Sunday’s final which was as appealing as watching paint dry to me, apparently you might have noticed that the M&S ad was edited to give Little Mix a lengthy final appearance at the end of the ad, just ahead of the announcement they’d won. Didn’t go down well with the kids. The only good thing to come out of X-Factor was the Yeo Valley once again.
Now for two misguided attempts in my view but I do applaud the attempt at being creatively different here. These are austere times and families everywhere are struggling to just okay for the everyday things in life – food, fuel, transport, bills. So persuading mum to lavish expensive gifts to all and sundry on credit I think shows very little understanding of what Christmas is about and all too much understanding of the greed of consumerism coming out of the summer riots. Shame on you Littlewoods – don’t you know it’s the thought that counts!
And Very’s campaign show Fern and Holly competing against Father Christmas. Whilst they are both Christmas TV treasures, girls you can’t compete with Santa! And for those with small children who still believe in Christmas, it’s a little too cynical to capture that Christmas magic we are after.
A couple more supermarkets now. A trend we have noted in retail is the greater number of people willing to buy both premium and low-cost items. To capture the luxury slice of the market, without shoppers having to go elsewhere, Asda have introduced the Leith’s range. The food looks lovely, but without the Christmas pud and a token sprig of Holly, it could be an ad for any time of year.
Waitrose have re-united us with the winning formula of Heston and Delia. Again not overly creative, but judging from the re-sales of Heston’s latest orange-centred pudding on eBay, it is already proving a lucrative campaign for them. So enough of the bah humbugs already – has anyone impressed me with their creative offerings this year? Well yes …a few have.
Sky needs a mention here. Their ad did tick all the boxes for getting me in the Christmas spirit. It’s full of nostalgia, showcasing favourite movies and after all what would Christmas be without the TV and a good movie. And Sky Christmas Movies is a favourite on Twitter, when you suddenly see Love Actually and other Christmas movie mentions trending at 4pm in the afternoon (so we are told, as obviously we are hard at work).
Ipsos ASI UK voted the Harvey Nichols #walkofshame ad, as their Ad of the Week recently. It provoked as much discussion and polarisation in the office as it has done online. But gains plaudits for trying a different take on things, with a big idea based on a genuine insight.
And my favourite will be no surprise to most and is yet another of ASI UK’s Ad of the Week. It has provoked a storm of debate, not least about what is in the box… so the star at the top of my Christmas tree is definitely John Lewis.
This ad reminds us that Christmas isn’t just a season, and it isn’t just about gorging ourselves silly and running up huge credit card bills.
Christmas is a feeling
and this ad has that Christmassy feeling in spades (regardless of what is actually in the box).
So Merry Christmas one and all. And as the Big Red Man himself says “Ho, Ho, Ho”
Deborah McCrudden is Managing Director of Ipsos ASI and wrote this piece for Campaign magazine.