Love them or loathe them, Christmas adverts are often the sign that the festive season is truly just round the corner. But in a world that increasingly expects brands to take the lead on social issues, today’s ads need to do more than lift spirits and drive sales. To build belief in a brand and drive lasting connections they need to move audiences with incredible creative while speaking authentically to a business’ real actions and values.
This year, retailers were handed an almost impossible task: to somehow respond to the emerging public mood through Christmas campaigns planned way back in the summer. At the beginning of the process the big question will have been how to celebrate the first Christmas we’ve all been able to come together properly in three years but, as summer was waning, the questions got trickier. Should we acknowledge the hardship people are facing? Should we shoot for pure escapism? Should we be doing anything to help, and how could we do it without being tokenistic?
It's been a hard balance to strike and, as more Christmas ads landed, the court of public opinion hasn’t held back. As filmmakers, we thought we’d stick our oar in.
Before we get to those who got it right, there were some that hit a slightly distasteful note for us. These ads either completely ignored the real pain facing vast numbers this year or were too tokenistic in their approach – handing out money to a foundation and making themselves out as heroes.
For us, there are two big winners and a one honourable mention in 2022.
In our view Asda has won Christmas this year. Its repurposing of THE BEST CHRISTMAS FILM EVER* was a masterstroke. A beautifully scripted, edited and executed piece places everyone’s** favourite Christmas elf into a store in a way that feels genuinely heart-warming and conjures the warmth of feeling that comes with Christmas (and without the cringy commercialism that would be such a turn off this year).
And a close second goes to…. John Lewis. Now, that’s not to say we’re massive fans of the super slow rendition of All the Small Things, but the retailer’s move away from animated animals and onto a topic that draws a tear for more hard-hitting, human reasons has been a massive success. In our view this success is as much down to the strategy – and the genuine commitment to make a difference – as it is the beautifully executed idea.
And finally: an honourable mention. If you’re going to major on community impact at Christmas, it’s much better to show, not tell. This is something M&S have done nicely by celebrating the real community groups that have benefited from its fundraising. M&S has created something that feels uplifting and feelgood while remaining entirely credible.
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* This could be the subject of a whole different blog.
**Well, our MD at least.