With last year’s Christmas arriving shortly after the centenary of the start of the First World War, the Christmas adverts ended up being a little more reflective than perhaps we’re used to. Sainsbury’s contribution, featuring two soldiers on opposite sides of the war exchanging gifts, being a particularly poignant highlight.
This year sees the world of small-screen marketing return to something like normality – there are big budgets being splashed on almost filmic two-minute narratives. Let’s take a look at some of the more colourful contributions to television advertising this year.
As we’ve already mentioned, last year’s submission by this giant of the retail world was a little on the sombre side. This year we’ve got something that tends a little more toward slapstick comedy – but it’s heart-warming in a different way. It features a cat called ‘mog’, who manages to burn down a house in his sleep by tugging on some dangling Christmas lights with his tail. These Christmas lights go on to knock over some Christmas cards, which in turn knock a cricket ball onto the oven below, which in turn switches all of the dials to maximum, thereby incinerating the turkey, and eventually the entire house.
Further Rube Goldberg-inspired madness is to follow, with a machine gun-spatter of exploding chestnuts reducing the kitchen’s crockery to smithereens, a grandfather clock knocking over a Christmas tree and a faulty plug causing all of its lights to explode. Somewhere amongst all of this madness, the cat manages to accidentally dial 999 – and thereby summon help.
Sainsbury’s have teamed up with beloved author and illustrator Judith Kerr to create this one. She even makes a cameo appearance, congratulating the cat on saving the house (while presumably being unaware of the fact that the cat caused all of this mess in the first place)
Last year, Sainsbury’s’ campaign was accompanied by a charity drive in support of the Royal British Legion. This year, they’ve shown similar charitable inclinations, and have released a children’s book to accompany their advertising campaign. All of the proceeds from the book will go to support Save the Children.
John Lewis is a retailers which has taking seasonal saccharine sentimentality to entirely new heights. The formula should by now be a familiar one: take a reasonably popular song, and have some waif-voiced young soprano cover it. Put some understated piano in the background, and hey presto! You’ve turned grown adults into quivering, sobbing wrecks.
Of course, now that we’ve witnessed the plight of bears, hares, penguins, small children and animated snowmen, we should have become somewhat cynical about this whole business. And yet, the folks over at Britain’s most beloved purveyor of expensive shiny things have once again managed to produce something fit to elicit real, genuine tears.
In the latest John Lewis Advert, a little girl is seen spying through a telescope at an old man who lives on the moon. The girl eventually sends him a telescope as a gift, by attaching one to a set of balloons.
Now, eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted several problems with John Lewis’ offering this year. For one thing, a man could not survive on the moon without the aid of a space suit. For another, a hand-held telescope is far too puny a device to allow one to see people standing on the moon, even if they could do so. Not to mention the hugely troubling idea that an old man might look into a young girl’s window through a telescope.
“It’s a metaphor!” bellow the faithful, in response to all of these observations and more. Well, perhaps so. Whatever your take on this piece of advertising, it’s clear that the John Lewis Christmas Advert phenomenon shows little sign of slowing.
That said, if anyone’s capable of arresting John Lewis’s seeming unstoppable momentum, it’s Aldi. The German supermarket giant have brilliantly parodied the ‘Man on the Moon’ advert, pointing out that they sell a similar telescope for a vastly reduced price.
Aldi’s advert has the man on the moon comparing the two telescopes, and then being greeted with Jean Jones, who established herself as a television favourite in 2011, when she appeared on our screens touting Aldi’s tea.
Naturally, television advertising which features the product being marketed is far more direct that Christmas adverts have recently become. But does it produce the same sort of emotional response as its more high-minded competitors? Well, if hysterical laughter counts as an emotional response, then the answer is certainly yes.