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Christmas adverts 2022 - sleigh or nay?

A medieval instrumental version of Teenage Dirtbag, a late carrot and the world’s worst trial shift… join us as we rate this year’s Christmas adverts

Nowadays, waiting in anticipation for the big brand’s Christmas adverts has become as much of a tradition as Michael Bublé’s defrosted return to the charts. And with this year’s World Cup kicking off during the festive season, a lot of brands made the decision to release their adverts even earlier than usual in an attempt to share Christmas joy after what has been an incredibly difficult time for many families.

After two years of lockdowns and feelings of uncertainty surrounding Christmas, this year consumers across the UK are looking forward to spending it together.

With the cost-of-living crisis forcing people to stretch their money, it’s predicted that this holiday season will push people to purchase gifts that are of higher quality and more sustainable. Kantar even revealed new data that shoppers plan on spending £25 less on gifts per person as they tighten their purse strings, with an alarming 47% saying they’re worried about Christmas.

‘There’s been a clear shift in public sentiment around Christmas ads and brands will need to balance celebration and excess in their content in 2022,’ says Kantar’s head of creative excellence, Lynne Deason. ‘That doesn’t mean, however, that they should fall into the trap of gloomy, downbeat ‘sadvertising’.’

But does this come across in the adverts released by the big brands this year?

From Katy Perry to Allison Hammond, join us as we walk through what are, in our opinion, the best Christmas adverts of 2022.

John Lewis – The Beginner

The John Lewis Christmas advert is arguably the most anticipated ad of the year, and this year it didn’t disappoint.

Demonstrating the power of kindness at a time when the UK needs it most, the ad shows a middle-aged man learning to skate. Set to a twist on Blink-182‘s song ‘All The Small Things’, what initially looks like a potential midlife crisis turns out to be a heartfelt attempt to bond with his new foster child, Ellie, who arrives to the family home during the festive period with a skateboard in hand.

In a statement, John Lewis said: 'In a challenging year, we felt it was important to demonstrate that it’s what we do that matters most. We are proud to use our Christmas advert as a way to generate conversation and action around an often-overlooked issue. There's an estimated 100,000 children and young people who will spend this Christmas in care this year, and many young people who have experienced care as children can often feel isolated and forgotten, particularly at Christmas.’

Dr Mark Haselgrove, Behavioural Science Director at Together, explains how this advert emphasises the retailer’s commitment to social responsibility, supporting authorities and charities in aiding young people from the care system in a year when the retailer themselves have seen significant loses.

Our verdict

We never thought we’d see the day when we cried over a stripped back, classic version of ‘All The Small Things’ by Blink 182, but here we are… John Lewis have used their platform to highlight what they feel is an overlooked situation and spark a conversation. It’s moving, it’s authentic and it’s probably our favourite ad this year. 5/5

Aldi – Feast of Football

This year sees the awaited return of Kevin the Carrot but with a world cup twist. We witness Kevin and his hilariously names vegetable friends, such as ‘Macarooney’, ‘Beth Swede’, ‘Ronaldi’ and our personal favourite ‘Mmbap’, having a kickabout.

Amidst all the fun, Kevin misses the flight he was supposed to be on with the rest of his family, cue a huge reference to Home Alone. KEVIIIIIIN!

The supermarket has said that it will release further adverts in the lead up to Christmas where viewers can finally find out what happened to Kevin and his carrot family.

Our verdict

With a strong focus on the Fifa World Cup, this year’s Kevin the Carrot ad doesn’t necessarily catch you in the peels. However, the witty puns and nods to film and TV references throughout makes for an ad that hits the back of the net.

Dr Mark Haselgrove explains how the upcoming series of adverts will incite excitement in viewers: ‘It creates opportunities for water cooler discussions, and these discussions won't just be about what people have seen, it will be about what is coming up.’ 4/5

Lidl – A Stuffed Star is Born

Lidl’s Christmas advert follows a bear who gets a Lidl too big for its boots when they accidentally stumble upon stardom. Viewers are left wondering whether the bear can find its way home after starting to forget its roots and make it back to the family who love Lidl Bear in time for Christmas day.

Claire Farrant, Marketing Director at Lidl GB, explains the rationale behind Lidl Bear’s blank expression: ‘What stands Lidl Bear apart from other Christmas characters is its hilarious, deadpan expression. By displaying no emotion, it manages to create humour and deliver our message about what’s actually important this Christmas.’

Our verdict

Very uplifting and amusing, just what families need when you bear in mind this years’ circumstances. Just like John Lewis, Lidl has also highlighted their commitment to social responsibility, stating that they won't be selling the stuffed star but instead are asking customers to donate a toy to a child in need ­– a lovely sentiment just when we need it most.

Jen Dixon, Together’s Marketing Project Manager, adds: ‘This is a great, fun and uplifting ad. I really liked the styling, the music – it all comes together in a fun and engaging way where I wanted to watch the whole ad to see what happened to the bear and the little girl. If I’m being critical I think the toy bank message could have been stronger at the end. But overall a great festive ad.’ 5/5

Boots - #JoyForAll

It’s a sin star Lydia West plays Holly in this year’s Christmas advert for Boots. Holly finds a magical pair of glasses on the bus that, when worn, reveal people’s true Christmas desires. With a soundtrack provided by Hall & Oates, the uplifting anthem of ‘You Make My Dreams’ really sets the tone for this ad.

Holly delivers true joy to her friends and family by providing them with thoughtful gifts that they love. The advert then concludes with the real owner of the glasses being revealed ­– who other than Santa Clause of course.

Chief Marketing Officer at Boots UK, Pete Markey, commented: 'Our customers are telling us they want this Christmas to be a joyful time with loved ones, particularly after another turbulent year. The story of Holly and her magical spectacles shows that finding the right gift for the right person can spark that feeling of joy both for the giver and the recipient.'

Our verdict

Boots never fail to deliver when it comes to their holiday adverts and this year in no different. The award-winning actress paired with the uplifting soundtrack results in a feel-good ad that’s full of glitter, glam and glee.

Jen, however, was a little disappointed by the heavy focus on products in this year’s ad, explaining: ‘I really loved the idea and sentiment of this ad, however I felt the message was caught up in a tick list of stuff to buy towards the end. I know the point is to sell more stuff, but it felt a bit mercenary to me – particularly when compared with John Lewis and Lidl who have a more ideological theme. I think the gifts could have been more subtle.’ 4/5

TK Maxx – Christmas Nailed

This advert is all about nailing Christmas with low prices. It sees the protagonist being crowned the hero of the village as she’s bought her designer presents for a fraction of the cost. As she runs through the town, she’s celebrated with a chorus of high fives from her fellow residents to the soundtrack of Cerrone’s 1977 disco classic, Supernature.

'With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, we know this is a tough year and, for many people, Christmas is such an important time to come together with loved ones,' explains Group Director at TK Maxx, Deborah Dolce. 'Sharing presents is an integral part of the festivities – we all love to treat our friends and family. So, we just wanted to let people know you can still do a brilliant job by shopping at TK Maxx.’

Our verdict

TK Maxx seem to be one of very few brands who are directly addressing the elephant in the room. The cost-of-living crisis means most families will have less cash to spare and the brand seem to honed in on this in their well-known quirky style. With no overdone Christmas covers, this ad will make you take notice with its direct and bold approach. Dr Mark Haselgrove notes a use of embodied cognition in this advert. ‘They've used a really common action, the high five, throughout the advert. Performing actions enhances memory, and in this case memory for TK Maxx.’ 4/5

Tesco – The Christmas Party

Set to the song ‘The Final Countdown’, the ad opens with the statement ‘Britain, there’s a joy shortage’. The narrator then informs us that Tesco has created the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties with enough food and drink to feed the whole family, even on a budget. The ad also asks some of the bigger, more controversial questions, such as when is bin day and what is the best Christmas film?

Alessandra Bellini, Chief Customer Officer at Tesco, commented: ‘It’s very important that our seasonal campaigns reflect how our customers genuinely feel and what we know they are looking for. We understand that it is a tough time at the moment with everyone’s finances under pressure, but we also know that people are looking forward to Christmas – in fact our research shows that there is even more excitement around it than usual.’

Our verdict

Fun, direct and full of food – a practical advert that focuses on the joy of being with family but maybe a tad unoriginal? With no real story or any emotional attachment to the characters, this year’s Tesco advert fails to stand out from the crowd.

‘They wasted a great opportunity to create a ‘Christmas party’ that was politically edgy and could have been something so much better.’ Explains Dr Mark Haselgrove. 2/5

Sainsbury’s – Once Upon a Pud

National treasures Allison Hammond and Stephen Fry team up in this year’s advert for a fairy tale themed skit. A medieval countess, played by Hammond, is presented with a variety of plates by chefs hoping their recipe will make it to the big festive banquet.

She takes a disliking to the Christmas pudding brought to her and the chef tirelessly works day and night to create a pudding that will impress, which he eventually does, with the countess exclaiming: ‘That’s a bit of me.’ The most notable part of the advert though is the instrumental take on Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag as the soundtrack.

Laura Boothby, Head of Campaigns at Sainsbury's, explains: 'Food plays a central role in any celebration, and we wanted to bring to life the imagination and innovation that goes into creating our Taste the Difference Christmas range. We also wanted the ad to provide some fun and light-hearted Christmas cheer and who better to do that than Alison Hammond.’

Our verdict

The soundtrack is probably the most striking part of the advert, along with Stephen Fry’s narrative and Allison Hammond’s comical Birmingham accent. However, it does seem slightly reminiscent of John Lewis’ 2019 Christmas advert, Edgar the Dragon. All in all, a funny festive advert with some tongue-in-cheek moments. 3/5

Lego – Build a Playful Holiday

Lego’s ‘biggest and most playful’ holiday advert features Katy Perry belting out her most famous song ‘Firework’. It shows a group of children delivering presents on a giant version of their own Lego design, which is driven by Katy Perry. Rapunzel and Iron Man also make an appearance in the advert.

Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Julia Goldin, says: ‘Our new campaign is a celebration of the creative power and optimism that children possess. They see endless possibilities for play and show us the difference play can make to the world as they rebuild it for the better. We want to inspire people of all ages to prioritize play over perfection and unleash a childlike joy this holiday season.’

Our verdict

Although this sounds like an advert written by the children themselves, it weirdly works. With stacks of energy and bundles of fun, this ad will guarantee to make you smile (and hum Firework for the rest of the day).

However, we feel like the Christmas vibes may be lacking slighty. Jen explains: ‘I would have liked a bit of snow and festivity thrown in…it’s actually quite a summery looking ad once the Lego comes to life.’ 2/5

JD – King of the Game

Anthony Joshua, Chunkz, KSI, Virgil Van Dyke, Bugzy Malone, Amelia Dimoldenberg, Krept and Konan, Arrdee, Amaria BB and Ms Banks… excuse us while we catch our breath after that list.

JD’s new Christmas campaign, ‘King of the Game’, opens with a family on a shopping trip, the protagonist is then distracted by Chunkz and taken to the JD arcade where a host of stars are battling to become champions of the arcade games.

Nadia Kokni, Global Group Marketing Director, JD, said: ‘This year’s cast list demonstrates that JD takes pride in spotlighting and supporting talent that are pushing boundaries and hustling to be at the top of their game. The campaign brings to life the power of competition in a fun and festive way that everyone can relate to, reinforcing JD’s position as undisputed at Christmas’.

Our verdict

Full of fresh talent, action-packed visuals and a grime soundtrack, this ad is the Christmas treat we didn’t know we needed this year. 4/5

Asda – Have youR Elf a Merry Christmas

Tapping into nostalgia was a predicted trend this year as it offers comfort during times of crises. And it seems Asda have sleighed it this year. The supermarket has cleverly used classic footage from the Christmas film, Elf, to portray the main Character, Buddy, at an Asda trial shift. Which turns out to be probably the most chaotic trial shift in history.

Sam Dickson, Acting Chief Customer Officer at Asda, said: ‘Like Buddy, we absolutely love Christmas – so we’re thrilled to welcome him to our team. We know this has been a tough year for so many people, which is why we want to create some little moments of joy for families this year with our Christmas campaign.’

Our verdict

An extremely well-executed edit that must have taken a lot of time, effort and expertise to produce. Portrayed in a fun, mischievous and energetic way, the advert truly captures the spirit of Christmas. Dr Mark Haselgrove explains: ‘This is an amazing example of how familiarity is context specific. Seeing Buddy in a totally new setting means that what is very familiar all of a sudden stands out. It’s an excellent way of making nostalgia actually quite attention grabbing.’

Though we can’t help but think just how much the royalties for the film would have cost the brand. 4/5

Our verdict overall

This year we expected there to be a big shift in Christmas ads. In fashion there seems to be a renaissance and a true sense of finally being back to ‘normal’. The stores are a vision of sequins and sparkle for a return to the party seasons we’ve missed in recent years. This fits with the kind of roaring 20’s celebrations that were predicted during the pandemic. But this doesn’t seem to be translating to the adverts.

Last year the themes were all about getting together again. Sainsbury’s used Etta James’ classic ‘At last’ to perfectly depict how we were feeling. But with the cost of living crisis looming over UK consumers, we thought this would be a year of cost-conscious ads with a stronger focus on what consumers could do to make it feel special.

This is the case with John Lewis, Lidl and TK Maxx but not so much with Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda. Most brands are treading carefully in the midst of the economic woe, but we can see a common theme of bringing joy and nostalgia.

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