All in all, it’s been a tricky year.
In January, the Doomsday Clock (which represents how close the world is to a major catastrophe or all-out nuclear war) was set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to the hour it has ever been, since the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the clock back in 1947.
90 seconds (in relative terms) until the Earth becomes uninhabitable for humanity.
The Middle East is in crisis. Again.
The war in Ukraine rages on.
Former President Donald Trump continues to be the front runner for the Republican White House nomination in 2024.
Nearly 60,000 people killed in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February. Another 2,900 killed in Morocco in September.
Over 11,000 dead and at least the same number missing after two dams collapsed in Libya.
Energy prices, inflation and interest rates continue to make life difficult for most of us.
The number of companies going bust this year is currently on track to be the highest since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009.
There’s not a lot of good news about.
But when Christmas comes around, we tend to compartmentalise all of that. Advertising invites us to forget about the realities of this world and focus on the nice stuff like food, family, friends and festivities.
It’s never easy for advertisers to get the mood right, particularly when decisions have to be made often six months ahead of launch.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what seasonal advertising fayre is being served up this year!
Putting to one side the social media blooper that heralded the start of this campaign, I like it.
It’s been slammed by many, and for many reasons.
Sophie Ellis Bextor sets fire to some Christmas cards.
Hannah Waddingham shreds stuff.
But it has glamour, festiveness and general good will to all, mixed with a sense of realism.
It’s not sickly sweet, not too shmaltzy.
For some people the expectation surrounding Christmas is a weight, not a joy.
It’s OK to say it.
But it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s fun.
Despite the criticism, they’ve done a decent job.
Oh yeah… and people are talking about it.
Hello? Yes, Hannah Waddingham here.
Another Christmas ad? Of course.
Shhh. Don’t tell M&S.
Good job, Waddingham’s agent.
OK, Dawn French the fairy again.
This time partnering with Rob McElhenny and Ryan Reynolds in an ad that spends most of its airtime telling a story that appears to be justifying why they need two North American, Wrexham-owning actors in the production.
And it’s a story that has nothing to do with the product. Or the brand. Or anything.
It goes like this:
Christmas fairy sees a pair of Christmas ‘reindeer’ mittens in the snow. So, she magics them inside. Then they tell a tale about how they were on a trip across the pond and a little girl dropped them.
Never mind, says the fairy – look at all this food and that.
No further mention of the little girl.
I don’t suppose they care really. Probably more interested in getting to watch their boys play Swindon on Boxing Day.
Last year M&S Food did pretty well in the ad awareness charts.
I dare say so will this, but it isn’t very good.
Last year it was all about the Elf.
This year it’s Mr, Christmas himself.
No, not Santa – it’s Mr Bublé.
I’m not sure the content of the ad really matters. If you like Bubes, you’ll love this.
I wasn’t a big fan of last year’s pseudo-medieval extravaganza. It just felt like they’d got it all wrong.
This year, I’d say they’ve got it right.
It’s got some of the key elements you’d expect. Santa, a little girl, a script that allows for plenty of product shots and of course… Rick Astley.
Made me smile.
And I suspect it was delivered on a significantly lower budget than some of its rivals.
Speaking of lower budget.
No sign of any celebrity endorsement here. It’s like the Muppets meets Homesense.
Singing oven gloves everywhere.
It’s a bit of fun, does a job.
But there are no human faces to be seen. No voiceover. Nothing to warm the cockles.
Maybe the ‘Nothing’s gonna stop us’ soundtrack is meant to say something about ‘we’re going to have a nice Christmas despite everything’.
And that’s probably safer than trying to address any specific issues in a turbulent world.
It’s fine, it’s pretty down to earth, it doesn’t offend me, and it will play its part in the general ambience of the festive season.
But it doesn’t do much to persuade me to shop at Morrisons this Christmas.
I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit lost.
So there’s a raccoon that’s as cute as feck.
But I can’t quite work out (a) how he knows the mother bought her son a toy monkey and dropped it on the way home; (b) why he has to travel so damn far to get it back home and; (c) why is the racoon on the other side of town in the first place?
Can anyone explain it to me?
After watching it five times, I’m none the wiser.
Still brought a tear to my eye though.
So Kevin the Carrot is back, this year in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired spectacular.
Instead of Willy Wonker, it’s Willy Conker who presents his cheesy key to Kevin.
In response Kevin exclaims, “that’s huge Willy”.
Is it just me?
Or did the writer win a bet?
Beautifully simple, this.
Grannies on sleds.
And the gorgeous ‘In My Life’ on piano as the soundtrack.
What’s not to like?
I thought last year’s ad ‘Nail Christmas for Less’ was a triumph. A bit on the bizarre side, completely different to everything else out there. So couldn’t wait to see what was on offer this year.
OK, so for me they were unlikely to smash it – tough act to follow etc.
But I like it.
It’s definitely quirky. And the core brand idea remains – ‘Spoil all your loved ones for less’.
It doesn’t try to do too much. It’s nice and simple.
There may be some pushback for anthropomorphising alpacas (try saying that after a couple of Baileys).
But in my humble opinion, another excellent effort.
Featuring Graham Norton, this ad goes down on the list of ‘yeah, it’s fine but not remarkable’.
There’s no real storyline here, just people enjoying a Christmas party.
As you’d expect there’s plenty of festive fayre (the good stuff), which is the real star of the show and the focal point for the proposition.
Feta Popcorn sounds nice.
And those Crumble Top Mince Pies?
Might have to go and get me some.
We couldn’t publish the blog until we’d seen this one.
Such is the draw of the John Lewis Christmas ad, which is always eagerly awaited, even if sometimes disappointing (much like Christmas itself).
This year, Saatchi & Saatchi have unquestionably delivered something different.
Christmas meets The Little Shop of Horrors, meets Jack and the Beanstalk, meets The Day of the Triffids.
At first, most people will wonder what the hell is going on.
There’s no doubt, for me this year’s John Lewis ad stands out against the rest.
And regardless of how you feel about carnivorous plants, this effort definitely grows on you.
Worth the wait.
Sorry Disney fans, this is an unadulterated international pukefest.
“Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling through.”
Bring me a bucket.
To compliment the traditional ‘the holidays are coming’ this year Coca-Cola are telling us ‘The world needs more Santas’,
Of course, they’re bound to say that, given that the universally accepted depiction of the big fella is based on Haddon Sundblom’s re-imagination of Santa Claus, which featured in Coke’s Christmas ad back in 1931, and has done so pretty much ever since.
More Santas = more subliminal advertising.
But that said, I like this.
And the look on the mother’s face as she welcomes her son at the end – that’s just lovely.
You can’t really categorise this with the others simply because of what it’s ‘selling’.
This is an emotional roller coaster, full of hope, until the kicker.
It’s real life.
It’s the kind of set up you’d expect from a John Lewis ad. But instead of a heart-warming final scene, we only find despair.
And when you’re getting carried away with the retail-inspired glitz and glamour of Christmas this year, try to remember that for some people, Christmas is pretty awful.
I hope it works for them.
And I hope anyone reading this will feels compelled to help. Just a little donation?
A final word
Homelessness. War. Floods. Earthquakes. Recession. Idiot politicians and power-hungry despots.
It’s always the way.
Christmas doesn’t solve any problems.
But it offers an excuse (should we need it) to wish each other well.
I’m certainly not slagging off advertisers who are doing (for the most part) a great job of contributing to the festive mood.
Just for a short period of time (and not just thanks to Michael Bublé) the world can seem lighter, people more positive and neighbourly.
And that means we’re more likely to do something good.
Donate to charity.
Wish a stranger a Happy Christmas.
Broker a peace deal in Gaza?
Merry Christmas everybody.