All I want for Christmas is a Christmas ad.
We’ve never made one.
I can only imagine the pressure to deliver is both galvanising and agonising.
Fraught with complication. Ego. Opinions. All year long.
No one wants to spoil Christmas.
In general, I love Christmas ads. They signify Christmas is coming, they are a hotbed of cynicism, not to mention a great opportunity for brands and celebrities to look bad. Most importantly, for brands, there is the golden opportunity to be the talking point of the season.
I remember listening to a brilliant podcast by Dave Dye called ‘Stuff From the Loft’, he had Ben Priest on and he was talking about how the difference between a profitable year and loss for John Lewis rests on the success of their Christmas campaign and how it stimulates sales. Now that's pressure.
But how many Christmas ads can there possibly be? When and where will this Christmas madness end? Everyone is trying to grab a piece of the Christmas pudding but is that really an effective strategy for all? Ok, for the retailers that rely on the period to make or break their year, it’s understandable. But for the rest, stay out of Christmas. It’s not necessarily going to be your yearly cash cow.
However, it wouldn’t surprise me if a brand tried to officially own the holiday. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before a brand becomes ‘the official sponsor of Christmas’ and no one else can use the word ‘Christmas’ or ‘Jesus’ or have to feature a man with a white beard.
Anyway, as an advertising man I probably shouldn’t say this, but there should be some control before the commerciality of the season threatens to overwhelm us all. There should be a panel. Maybe Clearcast should lend their clout - not just to protect us from political statement but also to conserve relevance.
If I could whittle this year’s Christmas ads into the three most relevant, they’d be:
1) John Lewis & Partners – ‘The Boy and The Piano’
One of the best this year is certainly John Lewis’ Elton John / Benjamin Button story. It didn’t make me cry but it was beautifully made, clever and a great use of a celeb. Whilst it’s a typical piece of Christmas storytelling to equate the gifts parents buy us at a young age to the people we become as adults, this ad tells a true story. Every child wants to be the next pop star, the next president, the next astronaut (think of this year’s Very ad also) but in this case Elton’s happened for real. I’ve got to admit I would’ve preferred if Elton John had undergone various forms of plastic surgery to make him look younger - that would’ve been real commitment to the craft, but still it's a real banger.
2) Waitrose & Partners – ‘Fast Forward’
John Lewis & Partners didn’t pay me for this endorsement, I promise!
I feel like Waitrose’s offering is most definitely a close second. It’s funny, simple and really heroes the products they sell. It’s not only great at galvanising the general public to buy their product but by cross pollinating the partnership with the fabulous 'fast forward' gag, it becomes an incredible piece of ad-ception that works on so many levels for both brands.
Not only that, by poking fun at themselves, they win the hearts and laughs of consumers – particularly those who ardently took to social media to exclaim that their favourite JL Xmas ad was ‘Monty the Penguin’.
3) Iceland – ‘#NoPalmOilChristmas’
Iceland’s ad has understandably faced fierce discussion over whether it really qualifies as a Christmas ad, seeing as it’s a rebadged Greenpeace film. But like it or not, there’s no denying that it has successfully generated a media storm with its banned advert and drawn all eyes to the brand during one of the most crowded periods of the year. What’s more, the emotive message has largely been embraced by consumers as a breath of fresh air (Clearcast had to shut its Facebook after the public’s outcry to banning the ad). Amidst a season laden with excess, the purity of the message seems to have resonated with audiences. It’s a big win for a brand you wouldn’t usually associate with dominating festive advertising, so in terms of relevance, Iceland steals the crown for third place.
Dan Jacobs is creative founder of Recipe