CR’s great big Christmas ad review

In case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are coming. And with them comes a deluge of Christmas advertising. Here’s our take on the trends in this year’s crop, plus some of our favourites

It may only be the second week of November but Christmas is upon us, at least in the world of advertising. If this year it all feels a bit earlier and more intense than usual, you’d be right – a number of brands have released their ads a good week ahead of their usual schedule and more brands than ever (Sports Direct?) are getting in on the Christmas ad bonanza.

Whether this is a good thing or not depends on how much of a fan you are of the festive season, or of original, unexpected advertising. If you’re after the latter, you’re going to be somewhat disappointed, for while there has clearly been plenty of money and time spent on producing these ads, there is a danger that they are all suffering from a case of craft over substance.

It’s painful to say that, as at CR we naturally love an emphasis on craft. But if that craft is employed in an almost uniform way across multiple very different brands, it all starts to cancel itself out. What’s left instead is an awful lot of talk about kindness, a lot of cute characters and children, and very few distinct brand messages. Lidl aside – and I almost love its ad for slotting in such blatant product messaging, just for some relief from the earnestness – it would seem that a lot of really major brands are a bit embarrassed to show even their logos much in their ads this year.

It all ends up a bit soppy, gloopy and samey. There are exceptions – JD Sports has brought some serious youth culture star power to its spot and Aldi has reached new heights with its Kevin the Carrot saga this year, with the masterful introduction of two new characters, Marcus Radishford and Ebanana Scrooge. The same sadly can’t be said for the John Lewis ad (which we covered here), which, despite being the brand that started this whole festive ad rush in the first place, feels like a franchise that is running out of steam.

Anyway, that’s enough Ebanana Scrooge from me. Here’s our pick of the good ones so far from this year – and the craft in many of them really is lovely. Hopefully next year they’ll remember to include some standout branding and new narrative ideas too.

Aldi, A Christmas Carrot, McCann UK

Aldi takes on Dickens’ Christmas Carol, with Kevin the Carrot playing the Spirit of Christmas alongside Ebanana Scrooge. Marcus Rashford does a star turn as Marcus Radishford.

Coca-Cola, Chimney, Real Magic; Agency: DentsuMB UK

Coke eschews its landmark Holidays Are Coming ad (though this will apparently make an appearance on our screens later in the festive season) for an elaborately crafted tale of neighbourhood togetherness, with barely a shot of the fizzy brown stuff in sight.

Boots, #BagsOfJoy; Agency: VLMYR

Boots has thrown everything at this three-minute-long spot, with actor Jenna Coleman delivering gifts from her never-ending bag of Boots products. It’s full of glittery wonder but feels more luxury brand than Boots to me.

McDonald’s, Reindeer Ready; Agency: Leo Burnett

Clearly heavily influenced by John Lewis, this spot features a charming imaginary pet monster, but bears little connection to McDonald’s’ wider branding.

Lidl, Big on a Christmas you can always believe in; Agency: Karmarama

Heavy on the product shots, Lidl still manages to have fun with time travel (and Lidl-themed Christmas jumpers) in this humorous spot.

Amazon, Kindness, the greatest gift; Agency: Lucky Generals

Amazon picks up on the popular theme of kindness in its cinematic global spot, which is soundtracked by Adele and references the impact of the pandemic on our lives.

Ikea Canada, Assemble Together, Agency: Rethink

Bollywood meets Christmas in this smart Ikea Canada ad which shows a family working together to create a perfect festive time.

JD Sports, Welcome to JD Street, Agency: Cake

Featuring an array of cameos from Little Simz to Jadon Sancho, JD Sports has delivered the coolest Christmas ad by some distance.

TK Maxx, Christmas to the Maxx, Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London

TK Maxx brings some hipster quirkiness to the traditional school Christmas concert.

Disney, The Stepdad, Agency: In-house

Disney tugs on the heartstrings with this animated short which sees a stepdad bonding with his new family at Christmas.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes