Although it might not feel like it the iconic coke-jingle of “holidays are coming” really does ring true. For some, seeing that pillar-box red truck roll across the screen signifies the start of all things merry and bright. But, with us all glued to our sofas for the foreseeable, all eyes are on how the big brands are going to deliver their Christmas ads and of course we are all curious to see how they’ve managed to adapt their creative to fit around the other c-word. Although it’s been said many times, many ways – these really are unprecedented times.
In Q4 the John Lewis Christmas ad is often seen as the one to beat – much like opening the first door of your advent calendar – its release has come to be known as an event in itself. This year’s offering? Catchy and highly emotive song? Tick… Sweet and touching moments that will leave you misty eyed and with a slight lump in your throat? Double tick. So far it sounds like it could be a John Lewis ad from any year. Like many ads we will touch upon, they’ve opted to use a clay-motionesque style of animation. It’s definitely a clever solution for not being able to have a cast of many due to social distancing. The motif of the heart and the sharing of love beats strongly throughout the creative and one of our favourite moments has to be the exchange between the little girl with the broken glasses and the NHS nurse on the bus.
Another strong contender this year, and also using animation is McDonald’s. The soundtrack this time is Forever Young as the viewer follows Tom and his mother, glimpse into their plethora of memories and how if we could we’d all hit pause and keep our little ones, forever young, so they’d never pack up and move out once they reach the age when they’ve outgrown the appeal of a Happy Meal.
In contrast using humour was always going to be a risk in these times, but Tesco manages it brilliantly. With its offering, people sharing lockdown themed confessions, but being reassured they are off the hook as there’s no naughty list this year. We would also give it extra mince-pie points for using Britney’s Oops I Did It Again…
We couldn’t write a round up of Christmas ads without mentioning the Sainsbury’s ad, that has garnered a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. There’s been some truly ignorant, unkind and down right racist comments that have been said in response to this ad, we were so angered by the ignorant comments that it formed a central topic in last week’s Festival Fridays panel debate: How Can We Harness the Power of Advertising to End Racism and Bias? We’d strongly suggest that anyone that had an issue with that ad take 45 minutes out of their day to educate themselves by watching the debate back, as you’ll certainly learn something valuable. That said, at its’ core it’s a fantastic ad, that shows a loving family singing a song about gravy. Our main reaction to it was to double check that Bisto is on our Christmas food shop order.
As advertisers we all have a responsibility, yes selling the product is all well and good, but Amazon’s ad with the strapline “The Shows Must Go On” is a real ode to ballet and the Arts, an industry like so many that has really had to fight to retain its sparkle this year. Many of the supermarkets have struck up partnerships with Food Banks, which also hits the right note for us, as if we’ve learnt anything this year thinking of others and a sense of community has never been more important.
Between what feels like back-to-back updates from Boris Johnson – in the UK and other leaders around the world – there’s Christmas messaging over-flowing at every turn. We’ve only really scratched the tip of the sleigh with what is currently out there. In a saturated marketplace, it’s the brands who dared to think outside of the zoom call box who have really excelled.
We reward brand and agencies who take risks and its why here at Festival of Media we have created a new category to champion the Best Response to Covid-19 and if these ads have taught us anything it is as an industry we haven’t just been making boring dreary tangled Christmas lights style ads, but rather plenty of brands have been spreading cheer and thrived. Let’s just say they’ve firmly engraved their names on the guy in the big red suit’s nice list this year.