Every year, almost without exception, it’s the same old shite.
<insert cliché here>
For the most part, advertisers seek to capture the seasonal spirit that we all hope for. A time of love, togetherness, peace and goodwill. In our hearts, it’s what many of us long for… and the images in our heads are mercilessly perpetuated by the advertising industry.
But anyone who’s seen season 2 of The Bear, (if you haven’t seen it, where the %&$! have you been?) will remember ‘Fishes’; the incredible and utterly enthralling double-length Christmas special.
This episode provided a glimpse into the Berzatto family’s Christmas celebrations that’s a universe away from the shimmering, snowy fantasies we’ve come to expect – not only from advertising, but from the media at large.
The Bear isn’t an outlier. It may be a work of fiction, but its rawness echoes the lived experience of many real-world households during the festive period.
How many of you out there (honestly) experience the perfect Christmas every year, just the way you’d imagined it would be?
The reality is that anxieties run high, family feuds fester, and the stress levels caused by the desire to achieve the perfect atmosphere often lead to the complete opposite of what we wish for.
So, you have to ask, why does the industry consistently present an almost unattainable, idealised Christmas, especially when juxtaposed against the likes of The Bear’s far more authentic portrayal?
The traditional festive marketing playbook reads like this:
- Paint a picture of a utopian Yuletide moment
- Fuel expectations
- Ignite excitement
- Sell hope
The problem is that, in a bid to reach the crescendo of the ‘perfect Christmas’ narrative, we slip into fantasy, fairies and Christmas ‘magic’.
It’s nothing like reality.
We end up selling a dream so dreamy, that its attainment in real life becomes, for many, an exercise in setting themselves up for disappointment.
Back in 2020, there was a brief a moment of collective introspection, brought about by the lingering presence of Covid. Advertisers, reflecting the general sentiment, perhaps slightly dimmed the dazzle, preferring to remain in tune with the general sentiment.
But fast forward to 2023, what should we anticipate?
A more grounded, authentic representation of the festive season? I’m sceptical.
Marketing, as always, is about selling dreams, aspirations, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
Coca-Cola’s iconic Christmas campaigns have, over the decades, become almost synonymous with the festive spirit. It’s a masterclass in building brand equity by association, and there’s no denying its effectiveness.
But brands also need to be authentic.
Let’s acknowledge that kitchens can become battlefields, emotions boil over and, as ‘The Bear’ reminds us, forks are thrown across the dinner table. This is not to vilify the joyous moments; they exist in abundance. But so do the raw, unfiltered, crappy, and painful incidents.
Yes, there’s an art to walking the tightrope between the reality of our lived experiences and the hope of something better. But if brands can dare to be different, then they might resonate deeply with audiences.
Christmas, for all its glitter and glamour, is beautiful in its imperfections. Let’s sell that story.