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2019’s best Christmas adverts

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 12 Dec, 2019
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Christmas advertising is bigger than ever, but are brands delivering festive cheer this year? We've taken a look at the biggest Christmas adverts from 2019

It seems like Christmas advertising starts earlier every year, with brands determined to make an impact with high-budget ads that tell stories and promote a festive feeling as well as their products.

But is this push actually paying off or are brands failing to deliver the messaging that people want at Christmas time? We've taken a look at Christmas ads from some of the biggest UK brands to see whether they think they were worth the marketing budget.


 

Ikea - James Story

Making a Christmas-appropriate advert that avoids all the hits (Santa, snow, large present boxes, etc.) is a challenge and Ikea takes a decent stab at things here. It’s distinct, but I’m struggling to get past how extremely uncool the ‘rap sounds’ thrown out in the advert are.

On the other hand, we’ve got “The table’s older than the pyramids - At least it’s younger than the mirror is,” which is a fundamentally sound rhyme, but then it goes full Pitbull by rhyming “tired” with “tired”. There’s also too much dissing before we get to see some products and I’d have liked to see the toys wax lyrical about how much the house has improved.


Asda - Joanna Carter

After last year’s Asda Christmas advert, I wasn’t expecting very much, however, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Rather than a focus on products and low prices - which is a message we’ve heard from Asda repeatedly - the supermarket has taken a more sentimental route.

It seems as though they’ve taken a leaf out of John Lewis’ marketing handbook and have opted to put the focus on feeling rather than the idea of saving money. The advert perfectly embodies the magic that many - especially children - associate with children in a fun way that is different but still focuses on family.

The idea of making Christmas extra special is much more touching than messaging about affordable mince pies and I think it helps to put across the fact that Asda is more than just a food store. Perhaps most importantly, the advert is memorable, which is getting harder to achieve in the sea of high-budget Christmas ads.

This is definitely the right route to go down and I think that Asda has managed to hit the nail on the head this year.


John Lewis - Lewis Dormer

If you’re from outside the UK, you may be unaware of the levels of anticipation and hysteria surrounding the release of the John Lewis Christmas ad. The department store goes above and beyond to create compelling Christmas adverts and has acted as the catalyst for other brands investing large sums into campaigns at this time of year.

The annual John Lewis advert plays out to a soundtrack of often mellow but well-known songs covered by up-and-coming artists (with the exclusion of Elton John last year). It also usually has the effect of propelling that artist to the top of the UK music charts. In recent years, we’ve seen “The Journey”, “The Man on The Moon” and “Monty The Penguin” accompanied respectively by covers of famous tracks from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Oasis and John Lennon.

This year, we’re introduced to “Excitable Edgar”, the dragon whose uncontrollable festive excitement causes havoc for the residents of his medieval village.

Teaming up with Waitrose for the first time in a Christmas advert campaign, if you’ve been left at all disappointed by any recent John Lewis adverts then you’ll be hard-pressed to find many opponents to the sentiment here. Last year saw Elton John take the limelight (with some feeling it became “The Elton Show”) and the advert seeing a shift away from its usual format of lesser-known artists covering popular tracks.

This year’s ad, however, featured a captivating Bastille cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” alongside the London Contemporary Orchestra, which was a welcome return to form for the soundtrack itself.

The advert is heartwarming to the point of being a tearjerker for many. You only have to look at the comments below the YouTube video to see the reaction it’s received. “Excitable Edgar” epitomizes what John Lewis has always done so well in its Christmas campaigns, and Edgar will certainly have adhered himself - and John Lewis as a brand - to many, many consumers this year.


Walkers - Charlie Holmes

This is the epitome of Christmas - snow, people dressed as angels or the Nutcracker, eating, giving presents, white doves and Mariah Carey in a low cut red sequin dress singing ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. You smile as you empathize with the film crew who are singing along - come on, we all do it, don’t deny it!

Mariah grabs a packet of crisps at the same time as another actor, dressed as an elf, it’s cute, but would you fight Mariah for the last packet of Walkers Pigs in Blankets crisps? The elf did but failed to win it, getting deafened by Mariah's top C.

It’s a great ad and one for all Christmas lovers but for someone who grew up in a world where Gary Lineker is the face of Walkers I can honestly say I missed him. The budget was clearly spent on the ‘Hero’ singer. Sorry but all I wanted for Christmas was for the crisp fighting elf to be good old Gary Lineker in his usual crisp pincher role. Missed a trick there, Walkers.


Lidl - Jack Davis

Whilst not glitzy and big-budget, for me Lidl have really nailed this one. Christmas, whilst a magical time, often leaves parents feeling pressured to create ‘the perfect Christmas’ for their family. Lidl has taken this and flipped it to show a more realistic Christmas experience with a message of ‘A Christmas you can believe in’.

The ad picks up on more typical Christmas experiences, making mulled wine, video chats with distant relatives and loved ones on Christmas morning (hampered by slow internet) and a complete myriad of chairs around the Christmas table to seat everyone! A strong effort by Lidl promoting a Christmas more people can relate to. Bonus points for the two subtle cameos of their popular mulled wine.


Amazon - James Story

Amazon has gone for the singing boxes again, trying to carve out their own space among the Coca-Cola trucks and John Lewis heart-string grabs of the advertising world.

To be fair to them, we’ve got a much better balance of people in it this year and it’s concentrating on the feeling of connecting with people rather than explicitly Christmas, which is nice. A dash of heart warming when the Amazon driver comes home means all is well here, and we’ve all been that woman on the bus at some point in our lives.


Argos - Joanna Carter

This is by far my favourite advert this year. In fact, I think it might be my favourite Christmas advert from the last few years,

The whole ad focuses on the idea of Argos’ “Book of Dreams”, which is a concept most people in the UK will be familiar with. It has that nostalgic aspect of going through the Argos catalogue at Christmas and drawing around the toys you want, which I must have done every Christmas for at least a decade.

I like the fact that the ad isn’t from a child’s perspective too. Even though it was the daughter’s dream originally to have a drum kit for Christmas, playing the drums turns out to be a dream of her dad’s too. It shows that Christmas can make big kids of us all and that the excitement of the day is for everyone

This leads to an advert that is fun, still magical, gets your foot tapping and puts a smile on your face without also making you feel a little bit sad - something that most Christmas adverts seem to think is a must. I like how upbeat it is and how it showcases products available at Argos without being too overt about it.

Every time I watch this ad it makes me smile and I’ve told so many people about it, which is a sure sign of successful marketing.


Visa - Lewis Dormer

We talk a lot about the value of personalization and localization in marketing, which is why VISA’s integrated campaign focusing on high street shopping hits the mark for us.

Local shopping has been hit hard in recent years with huge online retailers dominating the market and, ultimately, changing the way people shop. This advert asks you to “Show your High Street some love”, and the accompanying hashtag of #WhereYouShopMatters resonates in an age where local retailers are battling to survive against behemoths such as Amazon.

While the singing leaves a lot to be desired it does add to the magic of this Christmas ad, reminiscent of piano-side singalongs at this time of year (often after one too many glasses of sherry).

Alongside the video ad, VISA is running localized display adverts encouraging local shopping.

Visa local display ad

This campaign takes that message of the importance of purchasing locally and scales it up across multiple channels, evoking a feeling of warmth and festivity that only this time of year can really produce.


Homebase - Charlie Holmes

A mystical overlay as mum puts the final bauble on the tree, she is smug, pleased with herself, she has created the perfect Christmas tree. It looks fabulously festive and the snow outside is only adding to the wonder of the scene. Let Christmas commence! The pattering of feet… in comes the daughter with… oh what’s this?! Oh dear, a homemade tree decoration, on the tree of perfection it goes… Yikes!

Christmas is all about the children, right? Not for all those parents out there that suffer from ‘Christmas tree OCD’! I totally get it - a matching colour scheme, beautiful decorations that make the tree look like it’s just walked out of the window display at Harrods. This advert encompasses the need for perfection at Christmas time but how as an adult you have to remember that it’s all about the kids.

The music is really key to this ad, it is a really simple concept for TVC but the way the music builds the drama, emotion and feeling is one of the best examples out there. It isn’t product focused at all but there is a final shot that pans out to show the cosy room to its full extent, subtly showcasing a range of Homebase products.


Boots - Jack Davis

Boots has come in strong in 2019 with a campaign titled 'Gift Like You Get Them', and is based around the difficulty of buying presents for different personalities. To tie in with their ad Boots has created boutiques of each personality type with products tieing into each, to make choosing a gift easier. Examples of this are ‘The Vegan Bootique’, ‘The Fitness Bootique’ and ‘The Tween Bootique’. This ad is refreshing, fun and will also be helpful for shopping!


Debenhams - James Story

The bold colours are nice, but I’ve never liked the ‘glamour’ Christmas ad over the sweetheart one. Having people rotating through the frame like they’re on the Generation Game prize conveyor belt is not a good look and the guy doesn’t even get a fun name? A dud from start to finish.


Very - Joanna Carter

This advert is okay, but when you compare it to some of the really big hitters this year, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Very has stuck with its animated style, which I believe it has used for a few years now, but I can’t help but feel that the message it is putting across might have been better delivered had the ad included real people.

The whole ad focuses on a street coming together to make an older man’s Christmas special. I like the idea of passing one present from house to house and the music is nice enough, but that’s really all I can say about the ad - it’s “nice”.

It isn’t hard-hitting, it doesn’t give you any idea about products available and it doesn’t make you feel as much as other ads from this year do. It’s kind of like the Netflix Christmas film of adverts - predictable and a bit cheesy but you don’t hate it.


M&S Clothing - Lewis Dormer 

Much to my personal dismay, Christmas jumpers have become something of a revolution - there’s barely a retailer on the high street that isn’t stocking hideously patterned woolen garments throughout the festive period. As with so many aspects of Christmas, they’re embraced for a select few weeks each year and then forgotten about until the same time next year: funny that, right?

UK retailer Marks & Spencers chose to run with the Christmas jumper as the centrepiece to its TV Christmas ad this year.

Putting my own Scroogy feelings to one side, the tagline of “Go Jumpers For Christmas” seems to fall short as it stretches for something catchy and memorable. I’m left wondering what phrase it’s actually supposed to be a play on words with: “Go Bonkers For Christmas” or possibly “Go Bananas For Christmas”? What’s more, House of Pain’s “Jump Around” also seems an odd choice for a Christmas advert backing track.

Considering M&S, one of the UK’s oldest and most-loved retailers, increased its investment in marketing by a quarter throughout the first half of 2019, all in all, we were expecting a somewhat more memorable Christmas ad.


Boden - Charlie Holmes

The ad is nice, it feels like something that has tried to be all about remembering the people who work and help others at Christmas - our very important NHS nurses - and making them feel special. It definitely does do all of that, it gives them a special day for them to have a Christmas meal that they won’t be getting this year as they will be working on their wards, it gives them stunning new clothes to wear and they tell us how special they feel in them.

It is a lovely idea but I can’t help but feel that it lacks a sense of reality. It feels false, fake almost, it has lost its true proposition in which it opens with ‘The REAL stars of Christmas’. In my opinion, the product placement feels a little too prominent, it takes away from the story that is being told. You can not fault how it has been filmed, the production value is very good, it feels expensive and luxury so reflects the brand well and does show off their party wear clothing range well. However, I can’t help but think the nurses should have had centre stage.


Aldi - Jack Davis

Is this the best Christmas ad of 2019? It’s certainly up there! Kevin the Carrot is back, this time up against the villainous Russell Sprout and his gang, the Leafy Blinders. After being tied up by the gang a tomato called Tiny Tom comes to his rescue and they rush off to the circus to start their big show. Cue flying trapeze (tra-peas) and acrobatics in a grand circus show, all choreographed to Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’.

This ad has it all, puns, nods to the Peaky Blinders and The Greatest Showman, Robbie Williams and a funny crude sprout-based joke to end on, what more could you want? Yes, it's not warm and fuzzy like some other Christmas ads, but boy does it pack a punch for pure entertainment value and fun!


TK Maxx - James Story

No discussion is needed past the fact that this advert includes a St. Bernard and thus is an absolute knockout but, for the sake of argument, let’s go a little deeper.

TK Maxx has got a tough task as it isn’t a go-to brand outside of clothes shopping, but I like that their message meets that challenge by pushing their customers to ‘gift different’. The character the brand has delivering this message is an odd mix of Evel Knievel, JCVD’s Coors Light character, and the Old Spice ‘I’m on a horse’ guy, but it oddly comes together quite well. In summary: St. Bernard so 10/10.


McDonald's - Joanna Carter

I find the idea of advertising fast food at Christmas a bit weird, especially when the food you’re focusing on is carrot sticks. I mean, does anyone ever go to Maccie’s for carrot sticks? Surely you’d just pop to a supermarket for some actual carrots?

On this basis, I don’t think the advert is as strong as it could have been. I mean, it’s cute enough and the mix of animation and live-action is pretty cool but the whole thing just leaves me feeling a bit “meh”.

I genuinely think that McDonald’s could have been more successful with their advertising had they gone down a slightly more realistic route. People don’t associate the brand with Christmas magic, but they do associate it with convenience.

I think that an ad that showed the reality of who is likely to be going to a McDonald’s late on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day - such as nurses, lorry drivers, etc. - would have worked better than this one that is only loosely associated with the festive season.


M&S Food - Lewis Dormer

From one rather forgettable M&S advert to… another forgettable M&S Christmas advert. 

This time around, it’s M&S Food, which continues the revival of the famous and much-loved “This is not just food…” campaign that first hit our screens back in 2004. Fast forward to 2019, however, and the effect of that first campaign is somewhat lost with the inclusion of TV personalities Emma Willis and Paddy McGuinness. It becomes much less about the food and more about the two famous presenters. 

That’s not to say that celebrity endorsements aren’t highly valuable when used effectively, but here we see a complete shift from the original “This is not just food…” adverts. Those TV ads mesmerized the viewer, focusing entirely on the textures, smells and tastes of the food being advertised. Sadly, Emma and Paddy don’t have quite the same effect.


Tesco - Charlie Holmes

Tesco has spent 2019 talking about their heritage and 100 years of ‘great value’. This ad is not only a Christmas ad but one that builds on their existing year-long campaign, literally taking you through the 100 years, it brings together all of their 2019 proposition and ends it on a real high.

It’s good to see a Christmas campaign link in with existing campaigns. This ad not only shows Christmas spirit, British culture and heritage through the years, but also proudly encompasses the Tesco brand. It shows home delivery, friendly employees and showcases their Christmas food and treats nicely. And what better way to do this than through a Back to the Future theme, something the majority of their target audience will resonate with and enjoy!


Sainsburys - Jack Davis

Here comes Sainsburys lengthy theatrical Christmas extravaganza, all two minutes 32 seconds of it. Marking its 150 year anniversary, the ad follows orphan Nicholas the chimney sweep in a Dickensian depicted London, who is wrongly accused of stealing a satsuma and banished out of the city into a snowy mountainous region (ah yes the snow-covered mountains within the M25).

Luckily for Nick, Mary Ann Sainsbury saw the whole thing and rescues the lad, gifts him a bag of satsumas, which he then generously goes around putting into the socks of his friends. Cut to the end and nick dusts off his red hat and rides off into a snowy sunset. Highlights to look out for include a horse cart with ‘0 Emissions’ on the side of it, a guy biting into an orange (skin and all), and also the fact that the Shard, London Eye and the Gherkin were apparently around in 1869. All in all, an okay story but fails to strike that ‘right in the feels’ moment.


Iceland - Joanna Carter

After Iceland’s powerful political message last Christmas, I have to admit that I’m fairly disappointed by their offering this year. It’s just generic, a bit dull and totally forgettable. I’ve had to watch it five times while writing this just to try and form an opinion that I can put into words beyond blah.

To me, it just seems like Iceland thought “We sell frozen food and Frozen 2 comes out near Christmas, maybe we can shoehorn them together!” The message is mediocre, there’s nothing that jumps out at you and link to the Frozen film - although it is bound to have cost a large amount - is a bit tenuous.

Iceland may be asking you to discover the magic of frozen this Christmas, but it definitely hasn’t included any Christmas magic in this ad. Maybe stick to adverts with more meaning in the future, at least that stood out.

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