It’s November once again. Even before you’ve taken down the Halloween decorations, the annual race is on between major retailers as they launch their Christmas ads for 2021. But what is the mood this year in the epic festive battle for our cash and attention?
Love them or loathe them, there’s always great anticipation around the Christmas television adverts from big brands like John Lewis, Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. Not only are they fun to watch, getting us in the mood for happy times spent with family over the holidays, they also give us a feel for the country’s collective spirit.
John Lewis continues to tug at the heartstrings this year with a story about friendship. Created once again by Adam&eveDDB, the ad launched a little earlier than planned this year, recognising a surge in online searches for festive gifts as shoppers are perhaps concerned about any supply problems in the lead up to the big day.
Aldi has released a charming Dickensian-style take on A Christmas Carol with a spot that follows the story of Christmas loathing Ebanana Scrooge, who is reminded of the joys of the festive season by Kevin the Carrot who returns to screens once again this year, despite rumours to the contrary. It’s part of a seasonal campaign that will see 1.8 million meals donated to families that need help across the UK over the festive period.
The&Partnership is behind Argos’ Christmas ad for 2021, and it’s another British retailer to recognise our appetite for going “big” this festive season given the disappointment of last year. The campaign shows the pure joy of Christmas and all the ways we can make a big splash, like setting fire to the Christmas Pudding with a blowtorch and illuminating every nook and cranny of our abodes.
Whilst 2020 and Covid-19 meant many creative studios and agencies couldn’t film in their usual settings, reaching instead for animation and stop motion, this year seems to present quite a mix of mediums. On themes, diversity is extremely prevalent, and there are nods to global events, too.
But overall, there’s a mood of optimism and joy as many of us prepare to spend a “normal” Christmas with family and friends when many of us couldn’t last year. Perhaps there’s a recognition that life has been a little too serious and sad of late – that we could all do with some magic to brighten what feels like darker days.
But the creativity has come with new challenges. “It’s never easy writing a Christmas ad because so many good ones have come before,” adds Nicola Dodd from Ogilvy, “plus it’s a hard climate at the moment with global shortages and rising prices of goods and food, but last year Christmas was literally cancelled, so it was a chance to come back with a bang.”
The overriding theme of optimism will sit well with the British public: “Well before there was Christmas advertising, we Brits had somehow decided this was a time of year when real-life rules don’t apply,” he says. “Taken objectively, the whole thing is incomprehensible. Chop down a tree and stick it in your sitting room? No problem. Tell your kids a stranger’s coming into the house at night to drop off presents and pinch a mince pie for his magic deer? You bet. Eat three days worth of food in one sitting wearing a paper crown? Bring it on. Deep down, we know Christmas is brilliantly nonsense, but we roll with it because sometimes – often in fact – it’s great fun. Just like Christmas advertising then.”
Even within our own office the spectrum of excitement ranges from Buddy the Elf levels of glee, to a slight twinge of the Grinch when it comes to arrival of festive advertising. Frosty reception or not, one thing we can all agree on, is it’s nice to have a buzz around TV advertising again, and to see this to snowball into print, OOH. Of course awards are never too far from our minds, we look forward to seeing which campaigns end up on our juries nice list across all 5 of our programmes. Plus, it’ll be interesting to see after the baubles are packed away, what campaigns we’ll still remember year on year that truly stand the test of time.