Let’s face it – Christmas has become saturated with consumerism, and though we may try to deny it, many of us secretly love it. The Christmas advert has become a rite of passage for every big business out there, and each year we look forward to seeing what’s in store in this year’s batch of adverts. Over the years, we’ve fallen in love with various characters who have come to represent a part of what Christmas means to us, and although towards the end of the festive season we get pretty fed up with them, sometimes that warm fuzzy feeling from watching an ad for the first time never quite leaves us. Fresh from watching this year’s adverts, some of our writers have selected their favourite Christmas advert from over the last ten years, the ones that might have made us a bit emotional but have, overall, got us in the Christmas mood. Mince pie, anyone?
John Lewis 2011 – The Long Wait (Theo Smith)
Throughout this decade, John Lewis’s Christmas ads have expanded in budget, as well as length, in order to promote a message for the festive season. But sometimes this message has been undermined by visual effects or the choice of a famous celebrity, which is why their 2011 campaign titled ‘The Long Wait’ is the opposite of this: a 90-second story about a little boy impatiently counting down the days till Christmas. No dragons, penguins or Elton John’s piano in sight, just a young lad staring and waiting at the clock ticking by while his family look on amusingly and confused.
Although Slow Moving Millie’s downbeat mellow cover of ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ by The Smiths isn’t the most memorable, watching the boy wake up on the big day, ignore his pile of presents, and walks into his parents’ room to hand them their gift always tears me up and highlights an important part about Christmas that I’m finding more rewarding every year: it’s satisfying to give than to receive.
John Lewis 2012 – The Journey (Elizabeth Sorrell)
A cornerstone of the British festivity is anticipating the John Lewis Christmas adverts.
After the worldwide sigh of relief that the world did not end in 2012, we watched one of John Lewis’s most simple yet endearing adverts yet.
Who could forget about the snowman’s journey to get a present for a snow-woman to Gabrielle Aplin’s moving rendition of ‘The Power of Love’? Encountering rolling hills, flocks of sheep, treacherous highways and ultimately, a John Lewis, the snowman comes back with gloves and a hat for his lady love, followed by the slogan ‘Give a little more love this Christmas.’
There are definitely some quibbles to be had with the nature of Christmas adverts that pull on the heartstrings and associate their expensive products with loving your family more this Christmas. But who can deny the charming simplicity and stunning cinematography of the snowman’s odyssey to set the tone of Christmas?
Sainsbury’s 2014 – 1914 (Louise Chase)
2014 was dominated from a historical standpoint with the memorialisation of a hundred years since the start of the First World War. And this Christmas advert from Sainsbury’s was no exception. While most of the adverts for the Christmas period look at more fictional narratives, Sainsbury’s instead looks at one of the most heartwarming stories to come from the First World War: the infamous 1914 Christmas truce.
It starts small, just a couple of men on each side of the trenches singing Silent Night, before the chorus of men move to meet in No Man’s Land, sharing food and playing cards and football.
It celebrates unity in times of division, and with Christmas being the time of coming together and being thankful, it was a perfect pick.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 is still something that is strong in public memory, and Sainsbury’s showed something special with this historical-set advert.
Sainsbury’s 2015 – Mog’s Christmas Calamity (Jack Nash)
Mog’s Christmas Calamity brings the best possible combination of comedy and wholesomeness, two things that are pretty essential in a good Christmas advert.
Based on the children’s books by late Judith Kerr, the advert depicts the Thomas family, on the night of Christmas Eve and the following morning. Mog the cat is struggling to sleep in their basket, and wakes suddenly from a nightmare (comedically about killer robins) and accidentally starts the cooker. All matter of chaos ensues after that. The walnuts explode, the Christmas tree falls down and the presents are crushed. However, while trying to escape from the turkey-based fire in the kitchen, he calls the emergency services and manages to save the rest of the family, yet Christmas is seemingly ruined. The lovely twist at the end of this saddening Christmas tale is all the neighbours share their Christmases with the Thomas family, oh, and Mog gets treated like royalty for saving the family.
As wholesome as Christmas adverts can be – Sainsbury’s really hit the mark back in 2015, and raised the bar for themselves and other supermarkets.
John Lewis 2015 – Man on the Moon (Zarah Akhavan-Moossavi)
John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’ Christmas advert debuted on the 6th of November 2015, and what pervaded that release was a deep disappointment in John Lewis’ concept.
However, this advert was a refreshing break from the child-centric commercialised adverts that typically dominate TV for two months, representing a different and far more wholesome side to the holidays. One thing that is lost in the flurry of Christmas ads is the fact that not everyone has family or children to buy for, and many spend the lead up to and Christmas day itself alone. When you consider that, John Lewis’ depiction of an elderly man alone on the moon finding solace in a friend a world away is beautiful.
It was a reminder that instead of placing the importance on material items, friendship and togetherness are things to remember during the holidays, especially for those that would otherwise spend time alone.
Marks & Spencer 2017 – Paddington & The Christmas Visitor (Maddie Lock)
Marks and Spencer’s 2017 Christmas advert took a much happier route than most heart-wrenching Christmas ads (I’m talking any John Lewis ad ever), starring Paddington Bear.
This beloved animal was seen meeting ‘Santa’ (actually a presumed thief) and helping him return all the gifts he had stolen. Paddington even gave up his marmalade sandwich towards the end, in the true spirit of Christmas giving.
Rather than shed tears or leave the ad feeling somewhat heartbroken, Paddington’s simple-mindedness made for humour and contentment. It even raised funds for NSPCC, by encouraging the sale of M&S’s Paddington story-book in which profits were donated.
This advert is one to remember for its message that everyone is kind at heart, and moments of humour such as Paddington replacing the reindeer on ‘Santa’s’ slay. A must-watch when reminiscing Christmas ads of the decade if you don’t want to cry!
Dog’s Trust 2019 – A dog is for life, not just for Christmas (Vicky Greer)
Get ready to cry.
Seriously, Christmas is the time of year when marketing somehow gets us emotional. Most of the time it’s to sell a product or a brand, but there’s something about charity adverts that hits extra hard at this time of year. This year, Dogs trust wanted to tackle the issue of animal abandonment after Christmas.
We meet Corky, and adorable cork dog who steals a family’s heart with all his festive cuteness, but is quickly set aside with all of the other Christmas rubbish. All of a sudden, Corky is a real Terrier who finds a new life at Dogs Trust.
The nationwide charity’s famous slogan, ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ might seem obvious to most people, but the fact is that Dogs Trust get calls every six minutes from people wanting to give up a dog, and this issue is always at its most serious after Christmas. We can’t underestimate how distressing it is for dogs who get left behind like this, so this ad raises awareness about a serious issue by encouraging us to really think about the decision to welcome a pet into the family. Getting it right at the start makes all the difference.