Waitrose & John Lewis & Partners, Adam & Eve/DDB
I have a lot of sympathy for Waitrose and John Lewis & Partners, as a mutual organisation that makes shareholders of its staff and distributes profits (fairly) honourably, but this muddled and insufferably twee plod through multiple animation styles (like a very dull ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’) is only getting five Decision Marketing Icelandic Prawn Rings from me because it trumpets the unspecified donations being made to Home Start and FareShare two excellent charities that deserve all of the help that they can get. Some of the animation is truly horrible and the ‘Red Balloon’-style story of an object (a heart!) that holds the ‘narrative’ together along with Celeste’s intimate warbling do not encourage me to ‘Give A Little Love’ they encourage me (quasi heroic street pigeons anyone?) to walk the extra mile and a half to Sainsbury’s.
Sainsbury’s, Wieden & Kennedy
Hang on a second, though. Here come ‘Gravy Song’, ‘Perfect Portions’ and ‘Big Sarnie’ from that very same supermarket! FOOD IS HOME! HOME IS CHRISTMAS! The supers bellow, like an AI programmed to create Xmas aphorisms. There is something extremely downbeat about these montages of über-nostalgic Super-8 home video and camera-phone footage, each illustrating a telephone conversation between two family members. They reference the pandemic and at least two of them directly reference DEATH, which is a first for my annual Xmas telly-ad review. The direction is done with some finesse and the performances are convincing. It pleases me that the one showing a family of African heritage has inflamed the community of online racists too. They have a lot going for them so why are they only getting four Decision Marketing sugar mice? It’s the ‘Xmas thing’, you see, the sub-Dickensian, Cilla-Blacky, knee-jerk sentimentality that late-stage capitalism uses to manipulate the plague-weary population into conformity. Nice but ultimately dishonest. Visit this supermarket in honour of your dead father or grandmother? No! Rise up and smash the plutocracy!
Marks & Spencer, Grey London
And, as if by Xmas magic, here’s the Empress of Luvvies, Olivia Colman furthering the cause of International Socialism by oozily and amusingly reading a script about food over expensively filmed images of things you do not want to eat, trilling and emoting as if they were not foodstuff but sexual positions. And to show that she is ‘street smart’ she ends with ‘because Xmas’ – an Internet-meme-related grammatical solecism that is a personal bête noir of Spoon Creative Ltd. To cap it all, the whole dreadful, sugary goulash of real-gold-flaked this, dry-aged that and oak-smoked the other is set to a soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ a song that was Number One for so long in this column’s youth that it became unlistenable to at about week seven. Two pairs of slack-waisted Decision Marketing underpants for this effort. Poor. I cannot bear to watch the other manifestations of this campaign and it is only getting points at all because, as seems de rigeur this year, there is a charitable contribution in there somewhere to some of each of the performers’ favourite causes. Only my third commercial and already I am feeling the Xmas bile rising in my gorge.
Argos, The & Partnership
This is more like it! An evening with AbracaDaisy and the Incredible Lucy! I would like to enjoy an evening with AbracaDaisy and the Incredible Lucy, perfectly cast (female!) children who deliver performances of great élan in an unashamedly Xmassy living room Xtravaganza that comes across part Saturday Night at the London Palladium circa 1982 and part Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge. Excellent performances all round from this season’s most inclusive cast and full marks for knowingly cheesey product placement. A hit! As my local Argos stands empty and boarded up, I salute this last hurrah for many of the stores and their jobless staff with an astonishing six Decision Marketing beakers of Lord McKelvey’s unique Bardolino and lighter fuel hot toddy!
Burberry, Riff Raff Films
Good lord! It’s Dreya Mac with Lank & Tank for Twenty Below Music and an unashamedly ‘urban’ (what a racist term that has become!) version of ‘Singing in the Rain’ which soundtracks a superb dance performance by some agreeable young people wearing Burberry outfits in a way that would have given my Great Aunts Jennie, Edith and Jemima conniptions! They were great fans of the brand, and long-dead though they all are, I like to think that they would have enjoyed this cheerful, apparently ayahuasca-inspired, exquisitely shot and beautifully danced little film that is created with charm, energy, wit and elegance. As a strict and disinterested judge, however, I can only award it a very generous seven old Decision Marketing rugby socks, each with a tangerine in the toe as none of us can afford to buy anything from Burberry and probably will never be able to again. Plus, no unctuous charity-related virtue-signalling at the end. But seven! Seven makes it the leader so far! And I have regained some of my traditionally elusive joie de Noël!
Aldi, McCann UK
Oh, for the love of Satan, it’s Kevin. My joie de Noël! may be short-lived. What is it with hedgehogs this year? There was one with pitiful aspirations to be a pigeon in the dreadful Waitrose thing. Oh god. And now there’s another in this appalling farrago of piffle. I cannot bring myself to review it and you don’t need me to, as it will be all over your Xmas scheduling like spilt egg-nog. It gets one pitiful Decision Marketing Xmas sprout squished on the underside of Santa’s fake boot for it’s final super: ‘Merry Xmas and THANK YOU all key workers’. An abomination.
Boots, Ogilvy UK
I don’t know if I can go on. Burt Bacharach’s liltingly exquisite ‘What the World Needs Now’ sung by a variety of hygiene products with ‘cute’ googly eyes, to announce that Boots is giving a pitiful £1 million to fight hygiene poverty and is encouraging you to donate to hygiene banks in its stores. Lord McKelvey will not thank me for yet another political polemic here, so I am going to plead the fifth (as they say in butch American television programmes) remain silent and give this three Decision Marketing pop-less crackers each containing a broken plastic toy.
Asda, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
I suppose I am going to have to get to ten of these things aren’t I? And this is only the sodding eighth. Asda has sensitively recognized that none of us has any money and, therefore, sympathetically spent four-fifths of f**-all on its Xmas commercial. Traditional mixed-heritage family showcases Asda products, Goofy Dad prances and gurns while performing patriarchy-subverting, mundane household chores, everything is adorable, delicious and cheap. Also, Goofy Dad in a frenzy of enthusiasm for the Xmas season has decorated his house with an enormous, flashing, grid-draining, green CGI advertisement for Asda which would surely have fallen foul of local planning regulations. Even the grading looks cheap. But it is all somehow (and please don’t ask me to get into the hermeneutics here) honest! So, it is getting five sad strands of Decision Marketing tinsel. I think I may be getting the Xmas Ad Review equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.
Arrgghhh! It’s all becoming a bit ‘meta’. Lidl’s Xmas commercial contains a moment when Aldi’s Kevin the carrot is killed (can you kill a carrot?) with a sharp fork. And the knowing, ironically twinkly Xmas song refers to ‘the bit where we make you feel sad’ focusing on a loveable, belching animated grandfather. Fortunately, they simply don’t have time to make you feel sad because they are too busy telling you about how bloody cheap all their Xmas food and drink is. I am tempted to walk the three miles to the gasworks location of their Brighton store just to buy a case of their méthode champenoise at £3.49 a bottle. I don’t like the sub-Pixar animation and some of my vegan acquaintances might be disturbed by the loving relationship that the young female protagonist has with a garden robin jump cutting to a very real looking roasted bird BUT the clever, arch, knowing, brittle and self-deprecating lyrics, their clever, arch, knowing, brittle and self-deprecating delivery and the clever, arch, knowing, brittle and self-deprecating meta narrative earn this commercial a bewildering five generous helpings of Decision Marketing ‘emotional gravy’ (to quote those clever, arch, knowing, brittle and self-deprecating lyrics).
Tesco, BBH London
Well, I suppose I have to end with this. Otherwise intelligent, thoughtful and worldly-wise friends and colleagues have told me, ‘I like that Tesco ‘No Naughty List’ TV ad’. Reader, this is the truth. I am attributing it to what I like to call the ‘Vicar Of Dibley Effect’ where otherwise sane and rational people are drawn in, possibly by traumatic events in their past, to a world which is a monstrous cartoon of their own and which contains both ‘broad humour’ and neat, topical cultural apercus that reflect their own reality and excuse their personal psychodramas. You cannot not have seen this thing. It too is an abomination. But wait, what is this? Am I mellowing? There is an amusing quip about Sir Major Tom! There is a canal boat laden with bogroll! There is a sympathetic Welshman with a magnificent beard! Sibling rivalry! A sexy Santa with a tan! Footage of every single character in the commercial appearing to genuinely enjoy rich food and alcohol! Sod it. This one gets an astonishing eight limp Decision Marketing Turkey Twizzlers, each with its own sprig of plastic holly and a taramasalata and prawn dipping pot and is therefore (I fear I have not been looking after my own mental health too carefully since March) the winner of this year’s Decision Marketing Xmas Telly Ad Review!
Congratulations to all of the smug-yet-desperate advertising people who contributed to this year’s entries and genuine kudos to the creative people in animation, production, camera, songwriting, make-up, costume, editing play-out etc etc who made these terrible things happen because our lives wouldn’t be the same without you. Let’s hope that 2021 is a little kinder to us than I am capable of being about Xmas TV Advertising.
Merry Xmas one and all! I wish you each a special Yule that conforms to your Platonic Ideal of such a thing! God bless us every one!