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The Battle Of The Christmas Adverts

22 Nov 2016

It’s that time of the year again! The most wonderful time… when we get to kick back and watch marketing budgets go haywire as the big stores pump out their Christmas adverts. You may not be feeling particularly Christmassy just yet, but we promise you, once you’ve finished trawling through these wonderfully animated tear-jerkers, you’ll be keen to clamber into your dusty attics and get the decor out.

John Lewis – Buster the Boxer

First off, we have to deal with the major contenders. On a yearly basis, John Lewis break the bank and land a soft-voiced crooner to turn a nostalgic crowd-pleaser into a heartfelt, mellow song to layer behind their animation. In the past few years, we’ve had Lily Allen taking on Keane, Tom Odell evocating John Lennon, and Ellie Goulding channeling Elton John. Whilst all those are particularly memorable, this year we have electronica band Vaults covering Randy Crawford’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. It seems clear to us the song isn’t the star of the show here because that prize goes to Buster, the adorable bulldog that steals the show. A swathe of wildlife take to a trampoline, superbly animated as foxes and badgers put their differences aside to learn about gravity. Buster looks on, with serious FOMO in his eyes. Of course, he gets his wish, much to the chagrin of the little girl’s parents but unfortunately, the whole thing is let down by a small detail at the start. The wrong father is setting up the trampoline at the start, when surely it should be Father Christmas, it’s actually the little girl’s dad. Whilst a small detail, this could potentially spoil the mystery that Santa isn’t actually real, and nobody wants that!

Mince Pies/5: 2.5

Sainsbury’s – The Greatest Gift

Next up we have Sainsbury’s, who give their all to try and take the crown from John Lewis every subsequent year since this trend started. This time around they’ve hired national treasure and recent US ex-pat James Corden. James uses what he’s learned from the various musical maestro’s he’s had in his passenger seat to perform a fun song about the joy of Christmas, but again, the lyric’s don’t really make much sense, it’s the animation that takes the cake here. AMV BBDO send a love letter to Aardman, what with the dorky toy-maker, selflessly trying to make Christmas great for his family. Think George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and you’re about there. His problem is that the toy workshop is chaotic in the run-up to the big day, and he can’t be in two places at once. Up to that point, we were pretty sold on this one. The sing-along tune drew us in, and the animation is truly stellar. Unfortunately though, it does drag on quite a bit, and loses that feeling of a compelling conclusion that we all want from our Christmas adverts. Great to look at, but might not keep your attention all the way through…

Mince Pies/5: 3

Marks & Spencers – With Love from Mrs. Claus 

Marks & Spencers are also in the mix this year, with an effective advert showcasing the forgotten backbone of the Christmas operation. ‘Christmas With Love From Mrs. Claus’ focuses on two separate relationships to really get those tear ducts going. Saint Nick’s wife is the focal point, who receives a letter from Jake, a mischievous little lad who is writing letters to Santa. Cute already, it’s only made better by the introduction of sibling rivalry. Purely because no Christmas advert would be worth it without the inclusion of an adorable animal, he has a dog who absolutely lives for eating shoes. The poor pup mashes up his big sister’s favourite trainers, which she is naturally tremendously upset about. Jake contacts Mrs. Claus through snail-mail, and she delivers a fresh new pair of sneaks by helicopter, flying past a gorgeous view of the Arctic. It’s a compelling way to condense a moral story, and although families may fight, it’s Christmas that brings them all together. A real wholesome message. Just for kicks, the story also takes us back to the Claus household where they’re cozying up after a long day of saving Christmas, and eagle-eyed viewers may notice her reading ‘Fifty Shades Of Red’. Classic.

Mince Pies/5: 4.5

H&M – Come Together

H&M have set their sights on Hollywood for their Christmas advert. If you haven’t heard of director Wes Anderson prior to this wonderfully unique Christmas advert, he’s worth a look for some of his fascinating star-studded movies, including the Oscar-winning animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s famous novel. Come Together is a reflection of his incredible sense of style, giving us pockets of life in interesting locations. This Christmas story is set on a train, and stars Adrian Brody as a downtrodden conductor, having to inform passengers of an unfortunate Christmas delay. He attempts to bring the way-layed passengers together through Christmas brunch, complete with decorations that, in true Anderson style, are thrown onto the train by the stationmaster as they speed past. He manages it, conjuring a tree and snowflake bunting with limited supplies, which brings together people from all walks of life in the spirit of Christmas. Anderson has a knack for capturing small human moments in his films, and this advert does more in four minutes than any holiday film could hope to deliver in 2 hours. Whether it’s the conductor replacing his cap with a Santa hat or the youngest traveler chomping into the whipped cream atop his hot cocoa, this advert will capture your imagination and heart with the small details that make Christmas a magical affair.

Mince Pies/5: 5

Apple – Frankie’s Holiday

Apple have thrown their wreath into the ring this year with an unexpected mashup of Halloween and Christmas. ‘Frankie’s Holiday’ throws together old-school and modern technology to tell a Christmas story packed with emotion. Lonely old Frankie uses his top of the range iPhone 7 to record a music box in his house away from society and then picks up a package containing some rather large Christmas lights. He later ventures into town with his new tech, plugging the lights into his bolts and playing the music from his phone, tentatively singing a jovial Christmas tune. The emotional dimension is that no-one wants to join in with his carols until a sweet young girl urges the crowd to look past his spooky form and join in for a rousing rendition of Perry Como’s ‘Home for the Holidays’. The kicker comes in his humbled, teary-eyed expression when the crowd join in and give him a warm welcome. ‘Open your heart to everyone’ appears across the screen as we pull out of the shot. A hopeful message and a sincere way to combine two festive holidays.

Mince Pies/5: 4

 

Very – Get More Out of Giving

Another company that you may not expect to bring out a quality Christmas advert! Very go above and beyond this year with ‘Get More Out of Giving’, a beautifully animated Christmas tale that will make you instantly think of Pixar. This story is about our selfless protagonist, a hard-working woman with the most festive desk in the office. She spends her commute home from work giving gifts to unsuspecting members of the public, completely out of her own good will. The premise is tremendously relatable, and is only improved by the charming animated characters. Orbiting her is an adorable flying heart, which grows exponentially with every gift she gives, providing a lovely moral to the story. The situations she finds and the people she meets also tug on each possible Christmas heart string. There’s the lonely old woman in a Restaurant, commuters waiting in silence at the bus stop, and even a poorly child in a hospital bed who bears a stark resemblance to Elsa from Frozen. The score composed by Michael Sajic is another highlight, a wistful symphony that compliments the visuals and story. The emotional crux comes at the end of the advert when our protagonist wakes up on Christmas morning to find her daughter at the end of her bed, present in hand. A cute, wholesome way to tell people that giving gifts as well as just receiving them has its own inherent rewards.

Mince Pies/5: 4.5

Waitrose – Home for Christmas

In an unexpected turn of events, sister store Waitrose is taking on John Lewis with an advert of their own. This one concerns everybody’s favourite Christmas bird, the Robin Redbreast. After slinking his way out of a teapot, our feathered friend goes on an adventure across an icy Scandinavian landscape to make it home in time for Christmas in the UK. The cinematography here is marvelous and may remind you of an episode of Planet Earth rather than a Christmas advert. Every flutter and struggle throughout the bird’s journey is beautifully animated by adam&eveDDB, the same team behind Buster the Boxer and H&M’s effort, Come Together. The bird ends up nearly getting lost at sea if it wasn’t for a heroic fisherman who catches him with his foot, storing him in a tackle box and nursing him back to life so he can continue his adventure. The fruits of his arduous labour end up being a mince pie and another Robin, who appears to share the sweet treat with him, much to the delight of the family inside. This one really gets the sentiment of Christmas right and beats out trampoline antics any day of the week.

Mince Pies/5: 5

Burberry – The Tale of Thomas Burberry 

Funnily enough, Burberry actually had a go at it this Christmas, with perhaps the most bank-breaking entry so far. Straight off the back of the Oscar-winning Ex Machina, and of course, the new Star Wars, they’ve only gone and hired Domnhall Gleeson to play Thomas Burberry, creator of the world-famous clothing brand. He’s entirely convincing, and the period piece catalogs his adventurous life, from creating hydrophobic material to blossoming love, war, and supplying jackets for an Antarctic venture. It’s really not attempting to hit the same narrative beats as the other family-driven adverts in this piece, but it feels like a blockbuster movie trailer, and if they screened this in the cinema’s sans branding, We’d be running to the box office. Whilst it lacks festive spirit beyond a smattering of snow, it’s a nice story and a change to the formula. Netflix, if you’re listening, pick this up!

Mince Pies/5: 3.5

Nick Jablonka – The Snowglobe

You may have heard already, but this year we’ve had a surprise contender in the world of Christmas adverts. Nick Jablonka, an 18-year-old A-level media student from Gillingham threw his hat in the ring with his coursework, which we hope in the end landed him an A*. It tells the story of a Snowman trapped in a snowglobe, looking for a partner as he’s trapped in his glass case. Of course, he finds it, and with a sweet acoustic song layered in the background it really does tug the old heartstrings. Whilst it does lack the polish of a huge company with a massive budget and doesn’t really land with a compelling story. However Nick was naturally drowning in job offers after putting his work out there, and W Communications have snapped him up. This is understandable, considering the fact the video has racked up nearly one and a half million views on YouTube. Congratulations to him for being the underdog in this group and still managing to knock it out of the park, as the advert really does capture the festive spirit.

Mince Pies/5: 4

Aldi – Kevin The Carrot

Last, but certainly not least, we have an entry from Aldi this year which we think hits all the right notes. It doesn’t drag on too long like Sainsbury’s or Burberry, it gets straight to the point, with an anthropomorphic carrot at the helm of the action. Kevin’s entire design seems pretty tongue-in-cheek, and it immediately comes off as a parody of the typical Christmas advert. It’s the only one with a fairytale narration by Jim Broadbent, and chronicles his travel to meet Santa across the Christmas dinner table, laden with Aldi’s festive offerings. He gets a bit chilly on the ice cubes chilling the champagne and nearly gets crisped up by the brandy burning on the Christmas pud. It’s cute, funny, and in the end, wholesome, as he ends up on Santa’s plate. Perhaps a bit grim, in the sense that we may never see poor Kevin again, as he is inevitably chomped by one of Santa’s reindeer to fuel their overnight trip. It even licences the music from Home Alone. A class act from an outsider, and in our opinion, the best out of the bunch.

Mince Pies/5: 5

Of course, this is just our opinion, but we’d love to hear yours. Feel free to send us your thoughts on Twitter!