Ho, ho, fucking-ho. It’s Christmas time, isn’t it? You can tell because every other advert on television is trying to make us cry in an attempt to convince us to buy things.
It was back in 2007 that John Lewis launched their first ‘Christmas advert’. Fast-forward to 2016 and high-end retailer after high-end retailer are falling over themselves to outdo each other in their rampant, saccharine consumerism.
Suitably filled with festive joy, let’s take a look at the ads that will be encouraging us to part with our money this year.
M&S – Christmas with Love, from Mrs Claus
You can’t rely on a woman to do much right, but you can rely on her to buy shoes. This isn’t just any brand of feminism, this is M&S feminism.
It’s fair to say that the internet has lost its shit over the latest M&S Christmas advert, with many observers claiming that the retailer has comfortably beaten John Lewis’ effort this year (we’ll come to that shortly).
The ad follows the exploits of Mrs Claus who, immediately after wishing her husband well on his trip around the world delivering presents, embarks on her own journey – answering the call of a young boy who wants to make amends for ruining his sister’s trainers.
She’s stylish, attractive and sophisticated, and one can only imagine this is what passes for empowerment at M&S Towers.
In fairness, she does do a great job, as the young girl seems to be very happy with her shoes, but then it sort of pales into comparison against providing the entire world with gifts – but then I suppose she can’t be expected to achieve as much as her husband, can she.
John Lewis – Buster the Boxer
It might have been John Lewis that pioneered the concept of epic festive tales supplemented by slowed down pop covers, but the department store have gone with a bit of a different tack for 2016.
It’s fair to say this year has sucked pretty hard, so it’s nice to see that John Lewis has decided to try and elicit an emotion other than cloying sadness with their latest Christmas advert.
Buster the Boxer is a tried-and-tested combination of cute animals and humour, but it works, and actually feels Christmassy, compared with previous efforts that have arguably been a bit cynical.
It’s a shame, therefore, that so many people are disappointed with it. Having said that, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised? After all, Brexit and Trump were very much self-inflicted disasters. Perhaps Western society isn’t largely made up of frothing-at-the-mouth, hate-filled racists, but frothing-at-the-mouth, self-hating masochists.
We’ll only have ourselves to blame if next year’s John Lewis advert features a young boy left orphaned when his entire family is wiped out in a Christmas tree fire, right after his precocious, talking teddy bear is diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Waitrose – Home for Christmas
The secret to an affective Christmas ad, at least from where we’re standing, seems to be the combination of some sort of journey (whether it’s literal or emotional), a melancholic soundtrack and, more often than not, CGI animals.
Waitrose’s festive offering certainly utilises all three of those ingredients – a courageous robin travelling across land and sea, encouraged on his way by rousing orchestral music. How very pleasant.
So why does the whole thing fall a bit flat?
The problem is a lack of context. Is the little girl able to discern individual robins by sight and knows her old friend hasn’t been back all winter? Do the little birds know each other and are engaging in a Christmas reunion? Maybe he just really likes mince pies.
It’s also neither sad or funny, and while there is certainly an element of jeopardy, the robin really has no one to blame but himself if he gets eaten, drowned or stepped on all in the name of pastry. I know it’s from Waitrose, but for fuck’s sake. The pretentious arse.
Sainsbury’s – The Greatest Gift
Sainsbury’s found themselves in a spot of trouble two years ago when they cashed in on the horror of war to sell products. Since then they’ve gone no where near the John Lewis-style of Christmas advert, and have followed up last year’s ‘Mog’s Christmas Calamity’ with ‘The Greatest Gift’, which follows the stop-motion exploits of Dave as he… I dunno, tries to get home for Christmas or something. To be honest it got boring half way through. It’s three and half minutes long for God’s sake, and after mainlining festive cheer into my eyeballs all day I got distracted.
The message is kind of nice I guess, but then that’s spoiled by James Corden’s awful voice permeating the whole thing.
There’s plenty more where all of that came from – even budget supermarket Lidl is getting in on the act this year – but if we have to sit through any more vacuous, gooey sentiment we might shut down Think Outside the Box for good and spend all Christmas throwing puppy parties for dying children. And we can’t have that.