Ads of the Week: Christmas Ad Special

Cynics, beware: it’s our bumper Christmas ad round up!

Cynics, beware: it’s our bumper Christmas ad round up!

With most of the major Christmas ads now out, we’ve decided to gather our pick of those released here, so you can get your festive cheer in one big twinkly hit. This year sees a large serving of what may once have seemed decidedly un-British full-on sentimentality from many brands: this is a trend that has sprung out of the success of John Lewis’s annual tug at our heartstrings, but has been taken even further by several companies this year, who are clearly searching for those Twitter tears.

Elsewhere there is a general return to traditionalism. Whereas in recent years we’ve seen some moments of experimentation emerge in the Christmas ad season (for example, Sainsbury’s Christmas in a Day), many brands are playing it safe this time round and opting for the snow-turkey-celebrity combo. But hey, perhaps this should be expected: Christmas is a time when convention rules, after all.

Anyway, enough chit-chat, here come the ads:


First up, the Sainsbury’s ad. Created by AMV BBDO, this spot has received the most interest after the John Lewis ad, having racked up over four million views on YouTube since its release on Thursday. Not all of this attention has been positive, however. The ad focuses on the famous football game played between German and British soldiers in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day 1914. It is a gorgeous piece of film, directed by Ringan Ledwidge, but whether a brand has a right to co-opt such an important moment from history (even though the ad is created in partnership with the Royal British Legion and proceeds from the sales of a chocolate bar featured in the ad will go to the charity) has been the subject of fierce debate. The Guardian called it “a dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece” while even a Telegraph columnist said it had “gone too far” (though its commenters were heavily in favour of the ad).


Next, the behemoth: the John Lewis Christmas ad. We’ve already reviewed it here, but just in case you’ve somehow managed to miss it, here it is again. Views on YouTube are already over 14 million. Agency: Adam&EveDDB. Director: Dougal Wilson.


Whereas Boots was once a brand we could rely on for Here Come The Girls-style cheeriness, the company has switched to the tearjerker route lately, and this family focused ad delivers that in spades. I miss the joyfulness of the earlier spots personally, but there we are, blame John Lewis. YouTube views: 236,000. Agency: Mother. Director: Noam Murro.


Sticking with earnestness, here’s the Waitrose ad. It’s a sweet tale about a schoolgirl overcoming her fear of baking, set to the obligatory saccharine soundtrack (this time a cover of Dolly Parton’s Try sung by members of the public who took part in the brand’s ‘Donate Your Voice‘ campaign). Things get a little confusing at the end though when the voiceover comes in and gives another brand message about Waitrose being owned by its staff, which sits a little oddly with the girl’s story. YouTube views: 455,000. Agency: BBH; Director: Tom Tagholm.


On to the rest of the supermarket chains now, where things start to blur. Here’s Tesco’s offering, which plays it very safe, focusing on Christmas lights. It’s created by Wieden + Kennedy, but rather lacks the cheery (and slightly cheeky) oomph of the agency’s first Xmas ads for the brand, in 2012. Still, it’s been a tough year for Tesco so maybe it’s wise to go for the middle ground this time. YouTube views: 416,000. Director: Guy Manwaring.


Lidl has opted for a competitive approach, serving up a Christmas meal and leaving the guests to work out where the food has come from. They say M&S or Waitrose, and are surprised (and perhaps even a teensy bit disappointed?) to see it’s from Lidl. Such blatant competitiveness feels a bit unChristmassy, but rams home the point that Lidl is now a serious player in the supermarket wars. YouTube views: 119,000. Agency: TBWALondon. Director: Finn McGough.


Aldi has gone down a fairly conventional route, showing a series of different Christmas dinners topped off by an appearance by Jools Holland. It all feels quite mainstream compared to the brand’s brilliant ‘Like Brands, Only Cheaper‘ series of ads, which is a bit of a shame. YouTube views: 31,000. Agency: McCann Manchester. Director: Lucy Blakstad.


Onto the department stores now, and first up is the big one in this category: M&S. It stars two fairies delivering Christmas wishes, and is glossy but safe fun, but with almost 3 million YouTube views so far, is a major contender in the Xmas film battle. The ad is also backed up with an account on Twitter for the fairies (@twofairies) and a whole range of stunts whereby said fairies bring a little Magic & Sparkle to communities up and down the country. Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. Director: Philippe Andre.


More sparkles from Debenhams, as a group of kids run riot in the closed store, discovering treats aplenty. YouTube views: 639,000. Agency: JWT London. Director: David Edwards.


Argos’s ad has plenty of traditional Christmas references, including an advent calendar and snowflakes, but with a soundtrack from Run DMC and the sharp visual approach of its new creative direction, feels a bit different from the rest. YouTube views: 329,000. Agency: CHI & Partners. Directors: Geremy & Georgie.


If it’s real convention you’re after though, here’s the Coke ad. And, a little surprisingly, the first big appearance from Santa on this list. If this is your thing, Coke’s Christmas Trucks will also be on tour around the UK from the end of this month. YouTube views: 101,000.


As we’ve reported previously, Gap’s US holiday ads are a little more tongue in cheek this year. Shot by Sofia Coppola, they highlight how the holidays bring families together, no matter how awkward that might be. One of four ads is shown above. YouTube views: 80,000. Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York.


We’re on the home straight now, and moving onto the luxury brands. First up is some out-and-out comedy from Mulberry (read our full review here). YouTube views: 310,000. Agency: Adam&EveDDB. Director: Andy McLeod.


Burberry’s Christmas ad is a four-minute-long glam fest featuring Romeo Beckham, alongside plenty of examples of Burberry’s signature garment: the raincoat. The film has been a huge hit online, with nearly 5.5 million YouTube views, though we can’t help feeling that the soundtrack, by Ed Harcourt, doesn’t quite fit with the visuals? Director: Christopher Bailey.


To close, two animated pieces. First up, from TBWALondon for Harrods, is a stop motion work by A+C Studios that tells a cutesy story of Father Christmas and his mice helpers (perhaps inspired by the mice in Bagpuss?). YouTube views: 26,000.


Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! And to reward you, here’s a beautiful piece of animation for Tiffany & Co, from Ogilvy & Mather and Psyop. I can’t find it on YouTube so no viewing figures, I’m afraid.

Merry Christmas everyone! (is it too early for that?)

What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

Buy the issue

The Annual 2018

The Creative Review Annual is one of the most
respected and trusted awards for the creative
industry. We celebrate the best creative work from
the past year, those who create it and commission it.

Enter now


South East London - Competitive


London - £35,000 - £40,000


Birmingham - Salary £30-£35k


Leeds, West Yorkshire - £20,000 - 30,000