13 Nov, 2020
5 minutes
2020: The big Christmas advert debate
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Jordan Stachini
Founder
The big christmas advert debate

Christmas 2020 was never going to be a normal Christmas. I think most people would agree that back in March when Covid was really starting to take hold in the UK, there was a general feeling of, ‘This will all be over by Christmas’. Yet, here we are, 6 weeks from the big day and there is a real possibility of us having Christmas without houses full of friends and family. It probably isn’t the Christmas we want – but it is the one we have all got.

So, after a year where there have been huge losses for people – both personally and professionally. What were we all expecting from the annual barrage of Christmas adverts? Did we want to be reminded of a how crap it’s been? Or reminded of the glimmers of hope and kindness that peppered the last 12 months? Ultimately, did the big brands whose Christmas ads have become as synonymous with Christmas as turkey, and as divisive as sprouts, get it right?

See what we think about some of this year’s xmas ads

John Lewis: The old faithful

Now – full disclosure, we are not crazy about every John Lewis Christmas ad. Some are mega and really hit the mark, the build-up to a conclusion is for us, one of the hallmarks of a John Lewis ad. The little boy who you think is waiting impatiently for his presents on Christmas day, who actually just couldn’t wait to give his mum and dad a gift. Or, the snowman who treks across (what looks like the world) to bring his snowwoman a pair of gloves. (We aren’t sure if snowwoman is the correct term either, but just go with it).

The point is, there needs to be a very obvious point and message to make it a real John Lewis advert, and while we might go to hell for saying this – this year, we think they missed the mark. It was always going to be difficult for retailers to pull it out the bag this year for two reasons if nothing else.

One, retail as an industry has been one of the hardest hit during 2020, and while there have been some big e-comm winners (naming no names Jeff Bezos), there have been some big high street losers too, so budgets have been hit. Secondly, talk about a rock and hard place – do they shine a light on the past 12 moths and acknowledge the suffering people have been through without being able to give a happy ending? Or, do they avoid it, focus on the spirit of Christmas and hope that is enough? From what we can see, John Lewis went for option 2, and in doing so, we have ended up with something vanilla, with a nice message, but not emotive enough to pull at the heart strings.

Maybe next year John Lewis will have an ad that does look back on the previous 12 months, that starts with people pulling off face masks, embracing in the street, reunited with loved ones, and ends with a fading out shot through a steamed up window where we see a family together and happy. Maybe.

Watch the advert here.

Coca-Cola: The dark horse

Coca-Cola are in many ways, the creator of the Christmas ad. Their iconic ‘Holidays are coming’ advert is the sign for many people that Christmas is upon us. We know people who won’t even entertain Christmas until they have seen it – and once they have, they are all mince pies, mulled wine and bad jumpers until January.

Whilst Coca-Cola have their old faithful waiting in the wings every year, they do produce a special advert every year as well – and 2020 has been no exception. This year’s ad is akin to a blockbuster trailer, although that could be down to it being directed by Oscar winning director, Taika Waititi.

Following the story of a dad who is tasked with posting a letter to Santa on behalf of his kid, the obvious soon unfolds, with him missing various methods of getting the letter to the north pole, leaving him no option but to go full on castaway and take it there himself. Only to find on his arrival that Santa has ‘closed for Christmas’. Upon realising he is too late; he opens his kid’s letter and reveals *SPOILER ALERT* all his kid wants is his dad to be home for Christmas. (We aren’t crying – you are!)

But hang on, this is a Coke advert, right? Well how do you think he gets home for Christmas? Roll into shot THE lorry we all know and love – lit up with a full tank of diesel and ready to make the kid’s wish come true. An unlikely tearjerker from Coca-Cola this year – and our personal fave.

Watch the advert here.

Aldi: The rascal

For the last few years now, Aldi have been making waves in the Christmas advert world, and we love them for it. With their tongue and cheek take on the actual John Lewis advert, to their loveable (and very marketable) Christmas character – Kevin the carrot – Aldi have established themselves yet again, as being able to compete with the big boys when it comes to advert anticipation.

But we have to be honest – we are getting a bit bored of Kevin. He is cute, and so are his family of mini carrots, but it’s a bit old now. Plus, Aldi for the last couple of years have done phased Christmas ads, following the story of a character. Which is fine, but come on guys, you have a whole year to think about this. We love your close to the edge of what is allowed product branding – let’s see some more of that personality at Christmas.

The best part for us of this year’s ad, was realising that Jim Broadbent plays Santa, and there is a very sweet and subtle nod to the last 12 months with a banner above Santa’s door praising the NHS. Overall – nice, but nothing to write home (or to Santa) about.

Watch the reveal ad here.