The Grinch’s Guide to Christmas Adverts 2015
According to a ThinkMoney survey last year, of the top ten things that make us feel like Christmas has arrived, three are related to Christmas adverts.
This confirms what we already know but are too scared to admit to ourselves – that Christmas is an epic carnival of shameless profiteering and we can easily be tricked into buying stuff so long as it is notionally disguised as a seasonal tale of kindness.
But what’s interesting about this year’s crop of Christmas adverts is how retailers are moving away from emotionally manipulative snivel-inducing narratives and trying something more light-hearted. It doesn’t make them any less awful, but if shops are going to try to squeeze money out of you this Christmas, doing it with laughs instead of tears is at least a bit less ethically dubious.
At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ROI of John Lewis Christmas adverts is measured in volume of tears generated. But this year I fear the yuletide blub merchants, drunk with power after years of Christmas ad dominance, may have gone too far. I’m not getting a warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling from this so much as the existential dread of growing old, being abandoned by everyone I’ve ever loved and receiving one measly gift that only serves to symbolically accentuate my continued isolation from society. Merry Christmas!
The John Lewis Christmas ad is such an ingrained cultural institution that parodying them has become something of a YouTube cottage industry. Last year’s Monty the Penguin advert was memorably (and surprisingly easily) recut as a Babadook style horror film. This year, MyVoucherCodes flipped John Lewis the proverbial bird with a DIY rendition of Man on the Moon done in a day for £700. It’s such a perfect satire of bloated Christmas ad budgets that I suspect it’s actually an avant-garde piece of guerrilla filmmaking by Banksy.
Speaking of bloated Christmas ad budgets, this implausibly extravagant Katy Perry music video from H&M looks like it cost about £32 billion to make. There’s a costume change for Ms Perry roughly every three seconds and yet she never wears anything even remotely resembling an H&M outfit. In fact, out of a cast of two thousand dancers and models, only about four people ever turn up wearing something you could buy in an H&M. Side note: am I the only one that finds Katy Perry’s relentlessly jubilant facial expressions unsettling? She’s so intensely cheerful throughout the whole ad I’m worried she’s going to snap her face in two with her own smile.
I’m all for Christmas ads trying to tickle your funny bone instead of punching you in the heart, but this weapons-grade cringe from Tesco is so aggressively unfunny that everyone involved in making it should be hauled in front of the Hague.
Or: How The Bloody Cat Nearly Ruined Christmas And Then Somehow Got All The Credit For Saving It, The Jammy So-And-So. The Sainsbury’s ad last year rather tastelessly tried to disguise its message of “buy stuff from us” as a poignant centenary tribute. This year they’ve gone totally the other way, enlisting Judith Kerr’s beloved character Mog the Cat for some seasonally-themed slapstick antics. Which is a good thing; cartoony Tom & Jerry mayhem makes for an easier Christmas sell than solemn proclamations of OH THE HUMANITY. I could have done without the obligatory Mawkish Display of Human Kindness™ towards the end, but the whole thing is so charming that I’ll allow it.
After Duckface and Resting Bitch Face, we can now add Gift Face to the pantheon of totally theoretical facial expressions that annoy me.
This ads goes to such lengths to make fun of the idea that a Mulberry bag is as wondrous as the birth of Christ. But any attempt made to parody the shallow materialism of the fashion world is undermined when the bemused boyfriend says, “It’s just a bag,” and everyone laughs at him like he’s an idiot. Foolish man! There is no such thing as just a handbag! This is a Mulberry advert, you moron! Of course superficially beautiful physical objects are the most important things in the world!
As someone who thinks Jeff Goldblum just Goldbluming is inherently hilarious, I may be a little biased, but when your Christmas ad has Jeff Goldblum gatecrashing a family at Christmas and awkwardly teaching them how to act, you have not just won the Christmas ads war. You have won the 21st Century.