The Great CR 2016 Christmas Ad Review

Eliza Williams reviews and rates the leading Christmas ads so far this year. Because, well, someone has to do it

John Lewis Christmas ad 2016

Christmas is a time of tradition. There is turkey, there are stockings and there are a ton of Christmas ads in November. And as it is tradition, these ads all come in the form of films. Yes, while for the rest of the year, brands like to dabble in new tech and crazy, usually-hardly-seen-by-anyone promotions, when it comes to Christmas, they all suddenly remember the power of film as a way to reach their customers.

This does make them easy to round up, however, so below, in an act of mild insanity, I am attempting to showcase all the Christmas ads I can find, and will review and rate them. Let’s just hope I don’t trash your favourite.

John Lewis: adam&eveDDB

I am bookending this post with the big ones, and they don’t come bigger than John Lewis, which has already racked up over 15 million views on YouTube. This year the brand eschewed its usual cryfest (as so many other brands have crowded into that space) and opted for gentle humour instead. For me, it didn’t completely pull it off – sentimental as the previous efforts were, they packed an emotional punch lacking here. 7/10

TK Maxx: Wieden + Kennedy, London

Wiedens has delivered a mad family Christmas singalong for TK Maxx. I thought it was pretty funny. 7/10

Barbour: Lupus Films

Barbour has persuaded the makers of The Snowman to create an ad for them this year. Sadly, though, beyond the lovely animation, the ad is very dull. Needs more Aled Jones. 5/10

Aldi: McCann UK

Jim Broadbent voices this heartwarming tale of a vegetable with ambition. He wants to meet Santa and none of Aldi’s festive treats are going to get in his way. In a rumoured 18-certificate sequel, Santa’s sleigh returns home and Kevin is devoured by Prancer. 6/10

Tesco: BBH

The Tesco family are back in this year’s Christmas ad. I rather wish they weren’t. 3/10

Tiffany’s: Ogilvy & Mather

All a bit meh, despite the great music. And the casting is irritatingly undiverse: it’s supposed to be New York City for goodness’ sake. 2/10


M&S has created a Hollywood blockbuster this year. It’s slick, and undeniably cheesy, but pulls it off. Extra points for a female lead who isn’t a 20-something model. 7/10

Waitrose: adam&eveDDB

Unlike previous years, Waitrose gives us an epic, Planet Earth-style narrative, tracing the journey of a plucky young robin. It’s gorgeously shot, grown-up and rather lovely. 8/10

Boots: Mother

Boots is celebrating emergency workers who are on call on Christmas Day. An admirable approach, but unfortunately it comes off very patronising in its delivery. 2/10

Sky Cinema: WCRS

This Sky ad has a neat central Advent Calendar idea, and the film clips are integrated really well. Curiously unexciting though. 5/10

Temptations: adam&eveDDB

It seems weird to say it, but an ad for pet food is among the best Christmas spots this year. Pussy riot. 8/10

Argos: CHI & Partners

According to Argos, Christmas is about skating yetis. Well at least it’s distinctive. 3/10

Intu: NOW

The craft of this ad (by Blinkink) for Intu is lovely, even if the creative is a bit dull. 6/10

Milka: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet of Amélie fame, this quirky spot for Milka is very sentimental but rather charming. 6/10

Harvey Nichols: adam&eveDDB

This spot for Harvey Nichols doesn’t mention Christmas but the timing of its release means it falls into the category, though sadly it isn’t a patch on the brand’s previous efforts at this time of year. 5/10

Burberry: in-house

Burberry has gone for high glamour in this tale of the life of its founder, Thomas Burberry. It looks great but is curiously unemotional. 7/10

House of Fraser: 18 Feet and Rising

House of Fraser continues in its attempts to seem young and hip in its ads. Unfortunately this approach just leaves me cold. 4/10

Harrods: Mainframe

Cute and nicely crafted, if ultimately unexciting. And long. 5/10

Mulberry: Albert Moya

Kids play the roles of adults in a posh, unhappy family in this strange offering from Mulberry. There’s a second part to come later in the month, which will maybe bring it together but right now this makes me miss their funnier ads from previous years. 5/10

Currys PC World: AMV BBDO

I miss Jeff Goldblum. 5/10

Asda: Saatchi & Saatchi

Asda is releasing 26 ads this year, based on moments that make up Christmas. Perhaps this scattergun approach will ultimately reach more customers though is not as exciting as a blockbuster spot. 5/10

Myer: Clemenger BBDO

Aussie department store Myer brings back its characters from last year’s ads for a sequel, and creates an appealing spot in the process. 7/10

Littlewoods: St Luke’s

Littlewoods channels Shaun of the Dead in its consumerist ad. Why? 3/10

Three Ireland: Boys & Girls

This ad is a continuation of a story that has run over the last couple of years for Three Ireland. If you don’t know those ads though this doesn’t quite work as a standalone spot. And it’s very long. 5/10

Macy’s: BBH New York

This Macy’s ad is terrifying. I’m not sure that’s what the brand intended. 2/10

Alzheimer’s Research UK: Freuds/Aardman Animations

Little girl encourages Santa’s elves to retrain as research scientists in order to find a cure for the Alzheimer’s that is afflicting their boss in this beautifully-animated tale that deals with a serious theme with appropriate seasonal charm. Extra half-point for underlining the importance of science in this ‘we don’t believe in experts’, post-factual world we seem to have arrived in. 7.5/10

Sainsbury’s: AMV BBDO

The Sainsbury’s ad is beautifully crafted, and its ear worm of a song is very, very catchy. Lovely work, if rather too long. 8-and-a-half/10

If you’ve made it this far, by now you should be slumped in your chair, high on cheap sherry, with tinsel strewn around your neck. If not, go back to the beginning and watch them all again.

More from CR

How to turn your art into a business: six tips from Lazy Oaf founder Gemma Shiel

London-based fashion brand Lazy Oaf makes colourful clothes and accessories adorned with playful graphic prints. It was founded by Gemma Shiel in 2001, after she graduated with a degree in textile design from Nottingham Trent University. Fifteen years on, it has a permanent store off Carnaby Street, has created capsule collections with Disney, Garfield and Looney Tunes as well as […]

Pentagram rebrands London’s Old Vic theatre

London theatre The Old Vic has launched a new visual identity designed by Pentagram to mark the arrival of new artistic director Matthew Warchus. The identity draws inspiration from London’s ghost signs and the theatre’s archive of advertising posters…

Fashion in Film: how clothes drive character

As editor of the website Clothes on Film, Christopher Laverty brings a sharp eye to the history of costume design in cinema and television. In his new book for publishers Laurence King, Laverty examines the work that fashion designers have created for film since the 1930s up to the present day. We spoke to him about this fascinating area of film production, which is vital to both narrative and character development alike

Senior Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency

Head of Digital Content

Red Sofa London