Christmas ads are a big talking point at Sticky HQ. When 2023’s offerings started to appear on TV- and phone-screens, we turned to our resident wordsmiths to give their unfiltered opinions.
Here they are, gathered in one convenient blog, with a special foreword from our favourite Christmas content critic, Bridie, thrown in as an extra early present.
I think they just pile on pressure that most people don’t need.
Bridie on… Christmas ads
I’m not a fan of the Christmas ad. I think they just pile on pressure that most people don’t need. Pressure to spend more than they can afford. Pressure that their Christmas isn’t the happy, joyful family Christmas depicted on screen. That everyone else is having a better time than you are. That the day must be perfect. Then, piling a sweet or more likely saccharine layer on top, just makes it worse…
Anthropomorphism is frequently used – just because so many of the ads are so far from reality. This year’s crop includes a sad Venus fly trap (John Lewis), singing oven gloves (Morrisons), a talking carrot (Aldi), Shaun the Sheep (Barbour) and a racoon rescuing a Christmas present and having to perform a mission impossible to get it to the recipient (Lidl).
Meanwhile, Tesco goes the other way turning people into Christmas trees, reindeer, snowmen, snowwomen and gingerbread people. It’s all a bit ick. But read on to see which ad really got my goat this year…
It really captures the feeling you get when you finally get to go on holiday.
Chynna on… TUI
Christmas ads that are a little bit different are my favourite kind. TUI have created an ad centred around what the elves do when they’ve ‘clocked out for Christmas’. It really captures the feeling you get when you finally get to go on holiday, especially when it’s somewhere hot and sunny. I think it’s also nice it shows a different side to Christmas; not everyone stays at home for a cosy winter celebration, some people like to go abroad over the holiday period. Also, the song choice is perfect.
Having a small child as the central character of the story also makes it more endearing.
Megan on… John Lewis
John Lewis’ 2023 Christmas ad delivers a sweet sentiment about making Christmas your own with its tagline “Let Your Traditions Grow.” The ad plays on the notion that there’s no such thing as a perfect, cookie-cutter Christmas, and that even in the most unlikely of places we can find some holiday cheer.
In the story, we meet a boy named Teddy who brings home an unconventional Christmas tree: Snapper the Venus flytrap. As Snapper grows, so does Teddy’s affection for the plant, much to the horror of his family members. Tired of Snapper’s shenanigans, the family decide to cast him out into the cold and replace him with a traditional fir. But come Christmas Day, Teddy chooses to open his gifts with Snapper, and the rest of the family soon join in.
The end scene shows the plant gobbling up the gifts and spitting out the unwrapped presents inside, much to the family’s delight. We’re left with the message that by embracing the unexpected at Christmas time, we can create new and much-loved holiday traditions.
But why the warm, fuzzy feelings? When looking closer at the ad’s direction, we can see a strong reference to “Little Shop of Horrors” – the classic musical comedy. This gives it a certain nostalgia, but with a sci-fi/fantasy appeal that younger audiences can still relate to.
Having a small child as the central character of the story also makes it more endearing. Watching Teddy grow his tree, we remember what it was like to live in childlike wonder and love everyone around us so generously. Whether it was a family member, friend, pet, or even a giant anthropomorphised Venus flytrap.
Thanks for the smiles, John Lewis. This ad’s certainly got me in the festive spirit.
It makes me smile.
Jackie on… Tesco
Tesco’s Become More Christmas offering does what no other Christmas ad has done this year – it makes me smile. It’s the simplicity that does it. That, along with tapping into a couple of very recognisable human truths: that Christmas is inescapable, and teenagers were nicer when they were little kids. And, of course, the other truth – that you’ll probably find yourself browsing weird Christmas food in Tesco at some point in the festive season.
Although I prefer the Christmas trees to the rather creepy snowwomen and downright disturbing snow-globe and Christmas pudding, I find the bit where the dad gifts the paper star to his son strangely moving. Maybe I’m just going soft in my old age. Or maybe it’s just the spirit of Christmas getting to me.
This advert might not inspire you to start carol singing while wrapping tinsel around the tree.
Sean on… JD Sports
There’s something about JD’s Christmas ad that feels more inspired than most. In it, their famous drawstring bag pops up as a makeshift waterproof hood, the first thing you throw over a wall before jumping it and the perfect place for Kano (or Sully to Top Boy fans) to stash his leftovers.
The tower-blocks-over-turkeys and wheelies-rather-than-winter-wonderland approach adds authenticity to an ad that isn’t afraid to take the focus away from the festive. The soundtrack may be almost 30 years old (the brilliant ‘Sweet Harmony’ by Liquid’) and I may be even older (and not the brand’s target audience), but everything here just works, even cameo stars cantering through council housing on horseback.
This advert might not inspire you to start carol singing while wrapping tinsel around the tree, but it might remind you to visit JD Sports when gift hunting for the teenagers in your life – and isn’t that the point?
Is Bublé really the right fit for the ad?
And finally, Bridie on… ASDA
This year my special ire is saved for an ad without a cheery anthropomorphic character – Michael Bublé and Asda. I completely see why retailers have put the spotlight back on product. After all, they care more about selling than winning awards, unlike the agencies that produce them.
But is Bublé really the right fit for the ad? He’s a singer, who cares if he’s put in charge of quality control? His life bears no reality to the Christmases of most ordinary people. And in terms of work life, the naming and shaming at the start of the ad about mackerel is not funny nor in the Christmas spirit and definitely not to be encouraged as workplace behaviour.
Moving through the advert, you can barely read the flavour of the chosen cheese if you don’t have a football pitch sized TV. He pronounces on his preferred choice of pigs in blankets before he’s even tasted them and again you can’t see the flavour because the small print about them only being available in selected stores gets in the way. And who wants truffle and parmesan pigs anyway, even if they are available locally to you.
And then the ad finishes with a sceptic member of staff rubbishing the idea that a colleague has seen Michael Bublé, only to end with workers singing outside a store – not much quality control being done there. None of it hangs together in any meaningful way. And none of it makes me want to go to Asda to do my Christmas shopping. A big fail.
If you’re looking for help with your campaign comms why not get in touch with the Sticky team.