Looking a lot like Christmas

Christmas ads have been hitting TV screens thick and fast over the past few weeks, with a slew of retailers staking their patch in the battle for festive consumers.

Christmas ads have been hitting TV screens thick and fast over the past few weeks, with a slew of retailers staking their patch in the battle for festive consumers.

As a round-up of some of the ads shows, there is the expected dose of Christmas cheer and festivity and heart-warming emotion as well as the downright surreal, with many retailers and brands jettisoning tried and tested formulae of the past in favour of a new approach.

The reliance on celebrities is especially conspicuous by its absence. Sainsbury’s, for example, launches its first post-Jamie Oliver Christmas ads on Tuesday. Created by AMV BBDO, the campaign includes 14 ‘Christmas Days’ TV spots set to the track ‘The Frozen Forests’ by Aaron Espe, which celebrate the various family moments that make up the festive season, such as ‘Being Good for Santa’ and ‘Who Ate All the Pies?’ days.

Morrisons’ ‘For your Christmas’ takes a humorous look at the numerous – and often seemingly unsurmountable – tasks mothers face during the festive period. Created by DLKW Lowe, the ad features scenes of a mother going a few rounds in the ring with a Turkey, tackling a mountain of Brussels sprouts and welcoming a queue of ‘helpers’ that snakes around her suburban home. In its surreal depiction of challenges facing everyday mothers, it’s a significant step away from the supermarket’s celebrity-led clips of the past, which included the likes of cricket player Andrew Flintoff and Saturday-TV veteran Bruce Forsyth.

Asda’s also eschewed c-list celebs in favour of everyday mothers in its ‘Behind every great Christmas there’s Mum’ campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi. The production took the supermarket’s rolling Mumdex survey and other consumer insight into account, but nonetheless managed to spark a Twitter-storm of negative comments accusing the supermarket of sexism – although many commentators have also admitted they see themselves in the multi-tasking mother.

Marks and Spencer also unveiled an A-list-free commercial this month, opting instead for a coterie of bubbly, smiley models. Its ‘The Greatest Hits this Christmas’ campaign, created by RKCR/Y&R, shows them in different product categories, filmed music-video-style to a sequence of much-loved music, including Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ and a Rod Stewart cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’.

Under the strapline ‘We’re here for you this Christmas. We’re here for you for life’, The Co-operative Group’s series of Christmas ads, created by Leo Burnett and directed by Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo, features a number of festive scenes with a focus on the grocer’s products.

Boots’ ‘Let’s Feel Good’ campaign also plays on the sense of togetherness and family time. Created by agency Mother, it marks a distinct shift from its previous ‘Here come the Girls’ string of ads. Set to Elton John’s ‘Are you ready for love’, the campaign casts real-life couples and family members in an attempt to connect with all its target consumers.

Tesco’s Christmas commercial is the first of a series which will feature famous songs, in this case Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’. Created by newly appointed ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, the ad also has a touch of the obscure, featuring a Furby toy serenading a time-pressed mother.

Debenhams, meanwhile, goes for full-on Christmas sparkle – magical train rides, fairy lights galore and shiny happy people in abundance. The multimillion-pound Christmas ‘Make it Fabulous with Debenhams’ campaign, created by JWT, is the department store’s first since 2006, and shows a woman’s journey home for Christmas. It features the retailer’s Designers at Debenhams designers Julien Macdonald, Jenny Packham and Henry Holland’s workshops and builds on the brand’s ‘Life made Fabulous’ TV campaigns.

Waitrose has come up with perhaps the most surprising execution of Christmas spirit. Although it draws on the services of its celebrity stalwarts Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal, rather than surrounding the duo with lavish glitter and culinary opulence, the campaign places them in a sparse setting. Instead of making a ‘fancy TV advert’ the supermarket will donate an additional £1m to good causes through its Community Matters ‘green token’ scheme, they reveal. Created by BBH, the ad breaks convention, and recognises what is “a difficult time for many people across Britain”, according to its marketing director.

One retailer that has revisited the Christmas ad formula of its hugely successful past campaigns is John Lewis,  In ‘The Journey’, it once again combines a touching film by agency Adam & Eve/DDB and director Dougal Wilson with a stirring cover version of a classic song. Such a Christmas staple are the John Lewis ads these days that the latest release trended on Twitter. And most amusingly it has already spawned a ‘Horror Version’ tribute, as well as a ‘failedjohnlewisads’ Twitter hashtag, with contributions including ‘@ajscroxton Four minutes eleven seconds of Eric Clapton and Angela Merkel staring at a dying clown. Music by Natalie Merchant. #failedJohnLewisads’ and ‘@jayforeman A one-armed boy takes ten excruciating minutes to unwrap his present. It is an accordion. #failedjohnlewisads’.


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The issue also doubles up as the Photography Annual 2012 – our showcase of the best images in commercial photography produced over the last year. The work selected is as strong as ever, with photographs by the likes of Tim Flach (whose image of a hairless chimp adorns the front cover of the issue, above); Nadav Kander (whose shot of actor Mark Rylance is our Photography Annual cover); Martin Usborne; Peter Lippmann; Giles Revell and more.

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