It’s the most wonderful time of the year
13 December, 2022
Recently we discussed our favourite Christmas ads of years gone by and my answer came to me without even thinking: John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’ from 2015.
The advert hit screens around the time when my elderly grandfather’s health was taking a turn for the worse, and so it really struck a personal chord with me. I liked to think of it as a metaphor for loved ones who have passed away, and the idea that they’re still looking over you in some way.
It got me thinking. What makes the perfect Christmas ad? I asked some KISS colleagues what they thought of this year’s John Lewis ad to get an idea. Our Deputy MD, Sue, said, “Concept good. Cause good. Construct not so”.
Our strategist, James, felt, “It needed to be another 30 seconds longer. ‘Man on the Moon’ a few years ago had a similar concept, but for old people, and it worked much better. This year’s could’ve gone out at any time of the year. At least with ‘Man on the Moon’ there was a strong 'gift giving' aspect. The girl already had the skateboard so what makes this a Christmas ad other than a little festive decoration?”
This ad has also had some very mixed reviews, with The Guardian branding it ‘the most unapologetically depressing’ so far, whereas the Evening Standard rated it ‘top points for festive spirit’. I took it to be possibly the least classically festive of them all, and interestingly it had barely any reference to the store itself, and rather a CSR angle sharing their commitment to Action for Children and Who Cares Scotland.
I think this year, retailers have had a very hard job with pitching the right level of festive cheer as we’ve had a tough few years as a nation, and particularly at the moment with the cost-of-living crisis. Tesco has touched upon this with its #StandForJoy concept, which references its cut prices on key Christmas items and a rather bold statement of, ‘We are the Christmas party’ – I think it does a great job, but is lacking in creativity and impact.
O2 have created a very sweet concept highlighting the UK cost of living crisis. Here, ‘SnowGran’ feels lonely as she walks the streets seeing lots of people connecting over smartphones, and she is gifted a sim card which warms her heart and thaws her back to her former self, as she’s now connected to her family. I really liked that it touched upon something relatable – older generations feeling left behind by technology and the shockingly high number of people that favour screen-time over human interaction.
This year we’ve also seen a heavy influence from iconic Christmas films, with two major supermarkets (Asda and Aldi) referencing and even featuring an edited version of Will Ferrell himself. Asda stated that they chose to reference Elf as it’s the UK’s number 1 Christmas film, and they were conscious that they needed to create something very cheery this year as it’s been a difficult few years for the British public.
Aldi re-created the storyline of Home Alone using their festive character ‘Kevin the carrot’, which is playful, humorous and even features a little joke for parents with a questionable placing of a carrot on the snowman’s body, which reminded me of a Pixar short feature.
So, if I was thinking of my perfect ad, and which one of the above was the one I think resonated the most, then for me I’m afraid none of them get my vote. Controversial, I know! All in all, I think we’ve seen some undoubtable festive cheer, considerably less tear-jerkers, but somehow, I’m not sure any of them had the wow-factor for me. Here’s hoping Christmas 2023 fares better.