Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without… well, without Element 26’s round up of the year’s festive adverts
This year’s Christmas adverts bring us a variety of bears, animated carrots, a monster and a host of feature film references. There’s also plenty of slush, as you would expect at this time of year. Here’s our take on 2017’s Christmas adverts.
We can’t help feeling underwhelmed by John Lewis’s advert this year. Directed by Michel Gondry (who won an Oscar for the screenplay of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), it features Moz the monster hiding under the bed of seven-year-old Joe.
To a soundtrack of Elbow’s version of the Beatles’ Golden Slumbers, Moz keeps Joe awake at night having fun and playing games. With Joe’s sleepless nights taking their toll, Moz gives Joe a night light for Christmas allowing his young friend to catch up on his zeds. The advert is sweet enough but lacks the emotional kick of previous years or the humour of last year’s Buster the Boxer. Not a John Lewis classic.
M & S
Paddington Bear stars in this year feature film style ad, which was released to coincide with Paddington 2 hitting cinema screens at the end November. In it, everyone’s favourite Peruvian (voiced, as in the film, by Ben Wilshaw) rescues his neighbours’ Christmas by helping a person he thinks is Santa hand out presents.
It turns out the bearded man in red is a burglar. No matter, deliveries completed and marmalade sandwich in hand, courtesy of Paddington, the burglar sees the error of his ways. “Thank you little bear,” he says. At least that what we think he says. Some less charitable folk on social media have suggested it sounds suspiciously like the burglar’s parting words are, “F*ck you little bear.” If only it were true. Still, a beautifully made ad by M & S, cleverly cashing in on Paddington’s popularity. (He’s not our favourite bear this year though, as you’ll find out later.)
Asda and Aldi
At the lower end of the supermarket food chain both Asda and Aldi have taken inspiration from classic movies. Asda’s ad features a child and her grandfather visiting Asda’s Christmas factory, called the Imaginarium. It takes no great leap to see that Asda has borrowed heavily from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as a means of showing off its Christmas food range.
Aldi meanwhile has returned to Kevin the Carrot, star of last year’s ad. This time round it’s love at first sight as he’s joined on his quest to find Santa by Katie the Carrot. There are nods to Murder on the Orient Express and Titanic on the two Ks’ journey, narrated by Jim Broadbent.
It may be me, but I find carrots a lot less lovable than bears. Plus, all these film references seem dated (even if Kenneth Branagh’s lame remake Murder on the Orient Express was out recently).
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Co-op
If the idea behind Christmas adverts is to create a festive feel-good factor, it looks like Tesco has scored a spectacular own goal. The supermarket giant’s theme this year is ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ and has made five adverts that, in its words, “celebrate the different ways millions of UK shoppers enjoy Christmas, and how great food sits at the heart of it all”.
Their advert Turkey, Every Which Way feels like ‘Gogglebox does Christmas’ as we enter a kaleidoscope of British homes. As you may expect, this includes a Muslim family celebrating Christmas. And this is where trouble has arisen. Some people stormed onto social media to say they were boycotting Tesco for being disrespectful to the Christian faith. A few Muslims complained too, saying Tesco doesn’t serve Halal turkeys so the advert is misleading. Others though praised Tesco’s approach to multicultural Britain by including Muslims, Sikhs, and gay dads in their advert.
Special shout-out to our friend Billy Wright who made it into this ad. Way to go @billygilwright!
Sainsbury’s theme is remarkably similar to Tesco’s in the sense there is no story and it cuts between different faces of Britain under the slogan ‘Every Bit of Christmas’. Again, it’s all a bit Gogglebox. This advert is partly shot in black and white (presumably to accentuate Sainsbury’s orange) and is easily the most annoying one we viewed.
Waitrose has taken things a step further and gone entirely black and white. Its advert sees villagers snowed in at a remote local pub and having to pull together to make Christmas lunch under the slogan ‘Christmas together’. They’re having so much fun they don’t want to be rescued. This is beautifully shot and has a quality feel, in line with Waitrose’s brand.
Co-op continues the ‘look at how diverse Britain is’ by featuring seven communities in northern England as they sing Blur’s Tender. We see rehearsals from a rugby team, a pensioners’ choir, some urban beat boxers and more before they all come together at a big party and eat lots of Co-op food. This is a tad more authentic than Sainsbury’s contrived effort but both made me feel slightly sick in my throat – perhaps that was the true Christmas feeling they were trying to capture.
House of Fraser and Boots
Now here’s a strange thing. What are the chances of not one but two Christmas ads showing a pair of sisters as they were as children and as they are now? Yet, that’s what’s happened (no doubt leaving a couple of creative directors feeling a distinct absence of festive cheer).
In the House of Fraser ad, ‘Bring Merry Back’, we cut between two sisters laughing, squabbling, putting up decorations and generally doing Christmassy stuff as they were in the 1980s and as they are now to a soundtrack of the Staple Singers’ Who took the merry out of Christmas. This is a fun, energetic and endearing advert that shows the special bond between siblings.
Then there’s the Boots ad, “Show them you know them”. In this advert, we cut between two sisters … you get the drill. The soundtrack to this is Alison Moyet’s Only You and compared to the House of Fraser ad is more poignant and nostalgic, and less fun. Look out for brothers next year (presumably beating the crap out of each other).
Finally, more bears, and possibly our favourite ad of the bunch. Heathrow’s Mr and Mrs Bear won a lot of hearts last year and they’re back this year with another tearjerker. Like the Boots and House of Fraser ads, this is a flashback advert. The two-minute ad shows the start of their romance in 1967 when Mrs Bear chases after Mr Bear to hand him the hat he left on an aeroplane. (Spoiler alert: I would never have had Mrs Bear down as an air stewardess but she’s full of surprises).
We then follow them across 50 years as their children grow up until we see them again at Heathrow with their children and grandchildren in 2017. This year’s song, Petula Clark’s I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love gives it the perfect period setting. A sweet story, beautifully told. What more can you ask?