The rain is lashing against the windows like a punishment here at Montpelier Heights, the classy, new, cosmopolitan nerve-centre of Spoon Creative Ltd (visit www.spooncreative.co.uk at once!) as, jaded, elderly, forlorn, I sit down to write my latest column for witty, elegant, open-handed Charlie McKelvey, proprietor and chairman of the august, ‘industry-benchmarking and thought-leading’ publication Decision Marketing.
And had I been jaded before, what now? After all, I am here to review this year’s block-busting, budget-crippling, hype-exceeding Xmas ads.
I had planned to share a subjectively chosen Top Ten, but lost the will to live after seven, so here they are then: Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners.
You can find all of the ads at this link, though I am loath to drive traffic to Campaign, with its peremptory pay-wall and the rebarbative, poorly-written click-bait that it generates to entice the weak into the feeble, fashionable-agency-promoting, lick-spittle, fad-mad, ‘content’ that lurks limp and feculent behind it. (All views columnist’s own.)
So where possible, I have supplied a link that takes you directly to that bustling marketplace of Jihadi videos and questionable politics, which is YouTube.
I am now wearing a non-fire-resistant, synthetic, pointy, red hat with a bobble on the end, bearing the legend ‘HO HO HO!’, so let’s do this thing!
1. John Lewis “Moz the Monster” by Adam & Eve/DDB
Let’s start the Xmas season off with the annual, sugary lump of cavity-promoting pap that is the John Lewis ad from Adam & Eve DDB.
Let’s start with monstrous (geddit) allegations of plagiarism.
Those of you who like me read ‘Mr Underbed’ by the Literary Review’s favourite illustrator Chris Riddell to their bright-eyed infants, will need no introduction to this commercial since it is a straightforward rip-off of said picture-book.
I have a lot of time for the clever creatives in Paddington, having shared the Halifax account with them for some time, but does this ad signal the end of their dominance of the category? Who knows? Inclusive, exquisitely shot, sensitively directed and heart-warming, it is enough to melt the heart of any Scrooge.
I hate it.
What’s more, even within this stramash of hypocritical, sentimental humbuggery its questionable genesis makes it loathsome. And that’s without even mentioning the appalling music. Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 1/10
2. M&S “Paddington & the Christmas Visitor” by Grey London
I have worked with Mark Benton on TV commercials for the Nationwide account and he was both consummately professional and charming. I hope this work has paid for many of his Xmases to come – because Xist alone knows what this must have cost. I would imagine that there wasn’t much change from a couple of million Xmas Quids, what with all of that fancy CGI shizzle there.
A classic tale of Xmas redemption at the hands (paws?) of the furry, Peruvian Jesus is somewhat marred by the fact that Mark’s “Fank you, lickle bear” at the denouement sounds very much like “F*** you, lickle bear”, or at least that’s what several of the Internets tell me.
Though this is appalling, the latent respect that I have for Mr Bond and the fact that it has a refugee (albeit ursine and imaginary) from an oppressive regime as its protagonist prompts me to mark it up: Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 4/10
3. Sainsbury’s “Every Bit of Christmas” by Wieden & Kennedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU50dLLy7Cw
Oh god. Imagine watching this for the seventh or, perhaps, fourteenth time! There’s something post-structuralist, I suppose, about the meta-way in which it plays back all of the appalling aspects of the ‘festival’ to you while you are actually experiencing the true Xmassy horror of them. But one can read Dante for that kind of ambiguous thrill. Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 1/10
4. Waitrose “ChristmasTogether” by Adam & Eve/DDB
Here come Adam & Eve DDB racing out of the blocks again in support of the other thoroughbred in the JLP stable, Waitrose. Now Waitrose is, through laziness and geographical necessity, where your columnist buys his groceries, so I must declare an interest here, but this commercial didn’t actually make me feel sick!
I’m sure this is only because I have vivid memories of being snowed up in a pub in south Wales at Xmas, 1963, before they built the Heads Of The Valley road, where one had to put a sixpence in the telly to make it work and it seemed like the most exciting thing ever in the world in space.
I shall try not to think how many homeless people could have been housed over Xmas for the cost of artificially snowing in a picturesque public house and give it, for purely personal reasons, a ludicrously high score: Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 4½ /10
5. Vodafone “A Christmas love story” by Ogilvy & Mather
You will have to go to the Campaign website if you want the full version of this cliff-hanging Xmas romance in however many hope-crushingly, awkwardly-tender instalments, because, naturally, you’ll only find episode one on YouTube.
Once again I must declare an interest as Martin Freeman’s brother Tim, lead singer of those Eighties favourites ‘Frazier Chorus’ (here’s their critique of consumerism, ‘Dream Kitchen, appropriately enough), was my lodger for many years and I knew Martin when he was a charming pre-teen.
How can I put this? If you like Martin Freeman (as so very, very many of you do) you will love this latest addition to his ongoing Voda-soap-opera.
He is our James Stewart. This is our ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 3½ /10
6. Debenhams “You shall find your fairytale Christmas” by JWT
Again, only the Campaign website will give you the full story here.
Ever since I was a young copywriter working on the (honestly can’t remember) account that we shared with JWT, I have been a little bit of a JWT fan. It had nothing to do with the fact that at the time they had both Embassy cigarettes (yes it was that long ago) and Cadbury’s, so one could smoke free tabs in reception and stuff oneself with Creme Eggs or Twirls or the like whilst waiting to be shown into their intimidating meeting rooms.
I have no personal anecdotes about Ewan McGregor, though I did see ‘Moulin Rouge’ and was quite proud of the soubriquet that I invented for him which was ‘Mooing McGregor’. Thank you, I am here all week.
I so, so wanted to hate this. But found that I couldn’t. The performances are sufficiently nuanced, the casting is spot-on, the picture of our poor embattled capital is so tender and its message of the triumph of blind fate over social media so touching, in a ‘Sliding Doors’ kinda way, that it all-but melted this bitter curmudgeon’s heart. So what if Debenhams is a limbo of tat? So what if this is crass? Your columnist is a romantic and was therefore inclined to love it. Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 4/10
7. Tesco “Everyone’s welcome” by BBH London
Ever since I was a young copywriter working on the One2One account that we shared with BBH (remember those ‘who would you have a one2one with’ ads? Look at this one with a young Kate Moss!) I have been a little bit of a BBH fan. It will have had nothing to do with the sophisticated and comely nymphs that would waft through reception as one was waiting to be shown up through the galleries of Kingly St to a meeting room so very much sexier than one’s own, oh no.
That said, this is what a Xmas ad should be: Irritatingly catchy and appropriate Xmas song re-invented in a tremulously post-modern stylee? Check. Ingenuous performances by a cast who may even be ‘real people’? Check. Inter-generational in-jokes? Check. Inclusivity and insight into other communities that show we’re all the same at this magical time of year? Check. Superb editing and intelligent grading? Check.
But, of course, what secures the number one spot for this ‘humble yet sparky’ Xmas Xtravaganza is the fact that it has driven the Daily Mail even madder (imagine!) by suggesting that Muslim, Sikh and Hindu people enjoy having a day off and eating a lot ON THE SAME DAY AS WE DO. Santa Spooner’s Seven Sexy Seasonal Stunners Score: 6/10
So there we have it, if you expect your celebration of the putative, post-rationalised, birth date of a Galilean irredentist and imaginary deity to be enhanced by some advertisements for a variety of high street retail outlets (also available online) you won’t be disappointed this year!
Well done Tesco! Every Little Helps!
Jonathan Spooner is consulting creative director at Spoon Creative