It’s that magical time of year again – the season of joy, goodwill, and big brands battling it out to be crowned this year’s best Christmas TV advert. And whether you’re eagerly awaiting each one or have become bored with the whole thing, it’s hard to ignore the debate. So this year we’ve joined it.
Over the next two weeks, our Partner, JT, and our Creative Director, Anil, will use their branding experience to cast a critical eye over TV adverts from some of this year’s biggest brands. Each TV advert will be scored out of 10 and reviewed based on their innovation, creativity and execution.
A new review will be added every day, so keep checking back..
TK Maxx – Gift Different
This is a humorous and playful ad which taps into the insight that everyone dreads receiving, or giving, dull presents at Christmas – something I totally relate to.
The central character is daredevil gifter, TK, who is on a mission to change our shopping habits. The ad is voiced by Bill Nighy (a subtle link to the film ‘Love Actually’, a Christmas favourite) and is narrated by British actor and singer, Kerry Shale. The ad is tongue in cheek and a bit ridiculous, and that’s the point, as it encourages people to be more daring this Christmas. It’s a low-budget production, but this adds to the comedic value and certainly positions TK Maxx as a brand which doesn’t take life too seriously. It is a refreshing change from a lot of the other highly polished Christmas ads.
Just in case any of my family are reading this, please don’t buy me anything ridiculous. If I can’t eat it or drink it, I am not that interested. Or you can take on Chris Evan’s tip and put an empty box under the Christmas tree to gift me some free space this Christmas.
A devilish 8/10
Walkers – All Mariah Carey wants this Christmas
This campaign builds on Walkers successful formula of ‘crisps so irresistible’, you have to keep them to yourself. They have successfully used Gary Lineker for over 20 years as a cheeky chappie and housewife’s favourite to promote the brand, but this year switched to Mariah Carey with a reported fee of an eye-watering £9m! How they can justify this I don’t know. I am sure Lineker’s agent will be renegotiating as we speak. As part of the deal, Mariah will have her face on 50 bags. I don’t think Mariah could turn this down even though she is worth £224m. It will also propel her song, ‘All I Want For Christmas’, back into the Christmas playlist and will help support sales of her holiday album ‘Merry Christmas’, first released 25 years ago. This is a great deal for Mariah, but I just can’t see how Walkers can get a return on their investment.
The ad itself is good, upbeat and great to watch, but predictable. Mariah reckons she loves Walkers, but does she? The little nibble she takes in the ad has resulted in a social media backlash with one punter telling her to just shove it in her mouth.
An irresistible 7/10
Tesco – #DeliveringChristmas
This ad celebrates Tesco’s centenary year with a delivery driver taking a magical detour back through time with a van loaded full of festive food. There are many nostalgic and humorous moments, with a montage of interesting scenes when the delivery driver is transported back to post-war Britain, delivering festive treats to Winston Churchill at Downing Street and then ending up on the iconic 1980’s game show, Bullseye.
The ad clearly gets the point across that Tesco have been delivering great quality food and drink for over 100 years. The music, Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes, gives the ad an upbeat and joyful feeling. The ad is very watchable and would work well with 30 second cut downs. This ad will appeal to all the family, there’s a relatable scenario for everyone and it has both warmth and humour.
A nostalgic 8/10
This is another feel-good advert and builds on Amazon’s successful singing boxes campaign. It celebrates coming together at Christmas, delivering smiles and creating wonderful moments. There are a couple of poignant moments, when the old couple are dancing and he gives his wife a kiss on the cheek, or when the Amazon delivery driver arrives home to be greeted by her family. The ad celebrates that moment when you receive the parcel and smile, which is a moment Amazon can own. It starts off a bit clunky with the little girl playing her toy piano (who looks completely miserable), but builds with a montage of real life moments.
Solomon Burke’s classic track, ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’, is joyfully catchy, as I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Overall a good effort.
A tax free 7/10
Sainsbury’s – Nicholas the Sweep
This is another big budget ad, directed by the award-winning director, Ninian Doff. The ad was filmed over 5 days in Bucharest, Romania and is set to a specially commissioned soundtrack from Chris White of the rock band, The Zombies. It is an engaging and heartfelt concept which taps into the nostalgia of the film Oliver and appeals to all the family, with the underlying message of doing something special for someone this Christmas. It also builds on Sainsbury’s heritage as the oldest grocer and tells the ‘true story’ of a chimney sweep who steals a clementine and becomes Father Christmas. The cinematography is great and there is real attention to detail – note the zero-carbon horse and cart. The big retailers are closing in on John Lewis’ top slot of the UK’s best Christmas ad.
A heartfelt 8/10
Lidl – A Christmas you can believe in
This is a down-to-earth, low budget production – which is exactly the point. It is not aspirational or magical and doesn’t have amazing cinematography, but celebrates the fact that everyone can enjoy the festive period at an affordable price, and families & friends really matter. This ad won’t win any creative awards, but does align with Lidl’s proposition – great quality with a Lidl price. A good commercial move.
An average 6/10
Iceland – The Magic of Frozen
Iceland’s partnership with Disney Frozen is obvious and the campaign is supported by exclusive merchandise in-store. It is the only retailer who could own this relationship, but whether it does more to promote the film or Iceland’s range, I am not sure. It is entertaining, upbeat and humorous, which will appeal to families… but doesn’t tug on the heart strings like the John Lewis ad. Although engaging, it is a very safe and predictable move after last year’s ad, which was banned due to its political overtones.
A chilly 6.5/10
Asda – Let’s Make Christmas Extra Special
This is a heart-warming and charming ad, but lacks the emotional resonance that John Lewis’ ad has, probably because of the music rather than content. It uses a big orchestral soundtrack which is not particularly memorable, unlike the powerful ballad used in Excitable Edgar. The ad is beautifully filmed, although the animated characters appear a little clunky.
There are two key messages: 1. You can spread a little generosity and it will go a long way. 2. Asda has great products and good prices, so everyone can have an extra special Christmas. I missed this latter point.
Overall a good ad, but not amazing.
A magical 7.5/10
IKEA – Silence The Critics
This is a bold move for IKEA’s first ever Christmas ad. It has its own catchy grime track, written and performed by MC D Double E. By nature, this track is gritty and edgy, and the polar opposite to John Lewis’ charming, heart-warming ad. I do find it slightly intimidating, but then I listen to Michael Bublé at Christmas. It’s a daring move but works well at cutting through a lot of advertising noise around Christmas. It also taps into a real insight and brand truth that IKEA can help us smarten up our homes for when friends and families visit. I think this may split the nation into what is the best ad, IKEA or John Lewis, and the debate seems to be hotting up on Twitter.
A grimy 8.5/10
Boots – #GiftLikeYouGetThem
This ad taps into the stress of buying presents at Christmas, and celebrates the fact that everyone is different and unique. It is fairly quick-paced, so you have to pay attention to understand the different audience scenarios (particularly the teenager which I don’t understand, but that’s the point – isn’t it?). It has a touch of humour, particularly the turkey loving Vegan, and has a feel-good factor. The ad is supported by individual ‘Bootiques’ (Vegan, Sleep, Love, Fitness, Tween), with gift edits curated around people. I think this is a positive move away from ads around their 3 for 2 offer from previous years, as consumers are now looking for less, but better quality presents. It will be interesting to see what impact this will have on sales over the Christmas period.
A feel good – 7.5/10
John Lewis & Waitrose – Excitable Edgar
Another great ad from John Lewis, created by the award winning Adam&EveDDB. It is beautifully filmed with a powerful sound track – a cover of REO Speedwagon’s song ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ by Bastille’s Dan Smith. It captures the heart-warming relationship between an excitable dragon, Edgar, and a young girl called Eva. The ad is about the magic of friendship and making a loved one feel special. This is another big budget, well crafted ad, filmed with a cast of over 100 in Hungary.
It is charming, heart-warming and funny, but less of a tear jerker than ‘The Man On The Moon’. It must be a challenge for the creative team at Adam&Eve to continually raise the bar.
It is a smart move to link both John Lewis and Waitrose, which share the same DNA. Overall a great ad.
Heart-warming – 9/10
M&S – Go Jumpers for Christmas!
The M&S, ‘Go Jumpers for Christmas!’ ad is a break from the norm, with an upbeat and feel-good vibe. M&S is focusing on their jumper sales, which is a smart move as they sell over £6m worth at Christmas. The soundtrack from the House of Pain’s 1992 hit, ‘Jump Around’, has a positive energy and will help shake off M&S’ often frumpy image. The choreography is good, but whether the ‘jumper shoulder roll’ catches on like ‘Gangnam Style’, I am not sure. It’s a shame the ad doesn’t feature Holly Willoughby or any other celebs, but overall a great ad.
M&S – This Is Not Just Food… This Is M&S Christmas Food
This is a good move by M&S and builds on their very successful ‘This Is Not Just Food’ campaign. It includes some of the food porn (close up, “eat me” shots) we are used to, and has a level of charm that will appeal to the M&S audience. The use of the children’s choir to sing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’, links the Christmas campaign to the previous ‘This Is Not Just Food’ campaign and gives the ad a broader family appeal. Emma Willis feels natural, whereas Paddy McGuiness feels a little forced. Out of all the ‘foodie’ Christmas ads, this one really creates appetite appeal. It’s a shame the acting lets it down.
Mouth watering – 6.5/10
Argos – The Book of Dreams
Argos has upped the ante this year and could be vying for best TV ad, possibly knocking John Lewis from their historic No 1 slot.
The ad, the first to feature the catalogue in 10 years, builds on 2 key insights. The first taps into the nostalgia of the time when we used to circle in the catalogue what we wanted for Christmas, the second builds on consumers’ dreams. Whether kids circle what they find in a catalogue in today’s digital age, we will need to see. But the fact that Argos is promoting the catalogue, which is their USP, makes complete sense.
The ad produced by The&Partnership is simply brilliant. The casting is perfect, the dad and daughter have great chemistry and really capture the moment, and the production values are outstanding.
This is a standout ad and will certainly get consumers talking. Watch out John Lewis!
Simply brilliant – 9.5/10
The Christmas ad formula is as follows:
– A big budget production… check
– A twist on a popular song that we all know and love… check
– Show a warm and endearing relationship… check
– Put emotion (not the product/s) front and centre… check
– End in a big crescendo… check
– A clever well considered sign off… check
Well done Argos you’ve nailed it much like every other big brand has.
Nothing new in the approach #paintbynumbers – 6/10