Life is cruel, relentless and bitter. Despite our many privileges, we suffer according to our stations. I am cold. Lord McKelvey is ever-dissatisfied. Now he has ordered me to review the Christmas television commercials. Eheu!
The news is unremittingly bleak. Everyone is consumed by money worries. We are deconstructing what little benevolence our culture once possessed: it seems like only yesterday that we clapped on our doorsteps for NHS workers; now we are encouraged to demonise them as Putin’s collaborators for having the temerity to ask for a wage that might mean that they do not need to use foodbanks to subsist.
Still, it is time today to summon what flimsy shreds of optimism we can muster in order to ‘celebrate’ the long, cruel triumph of late-stage global capitalism. It is time to drape the bulldozer that is ploughing through the smoking ruins of our society in fairy lights. It is time to nail the little donkey of our once-shared enthusiasms to the crucifix of Mammon, to divide between us the meagre sprout, to warm our frozen fingers at the guttering candles that half-illuminate the imaginary shrine of our ancestors, to deck the halls with boughs of sodding holly, for it is, I am reliably informed, the season to be JOLLY.
So here goes, it is my solemn duty to tell you what I think, even though the Kristmas Kommercials themselves seem to have caught the mood of stoic despair that pervades the winter of 2022 like the unwelcome pong of cinnamon and cloves.
Boots, Joy for All by VMLY&R London
Thank goodness that everyone’s “phavourite pharmacy” is here to ‘bring joy for all this Xmas!’ Well, apparently, if we buy our spectacles from Boots’ Optical Service our lives will be transformed! When one dons this ophthalmic eyewear, scenes of gloomy, quotidian mundanity will transform into cheery, Christmas-themed, living tableaux!
This is obviously where I have been going wrong! Had I chosen Boots as my spectacle provider everything would have been so much more Christmassy! Sadly, in this commercial the “before” merely looks mundane and the “after” smacks of desperate, manic festivity. I think I prefer the authentic gloom of my own squalid and miserable existence.
Three Pigs In Blankets that have congealed to the plate – 3 out of 10
Asda, Have Your Elf A Merry Christmas by Havas London
My notes on this advertisement say: “Terrifying weird American appearing to suffer some kind of affectless, manic episode in the living hell that is Asda.” This is “a triumph of the editor’s craft” as Asda weren’t prepared to fly the star of ‘Elf’ over to Blighty at punitive expense and so ‘made do’ with somehow splicing together echt-scenes from the film into its own narrative. Sadly, the joyless characterisation of the Asda staff is probably all-too true to life – and the inability of the ‘star to interact with the other characters really does make it seem as if the ‘elf’ is undergoing some kind of continuing psychological breakdown.
One lonely, malodorous brussels sprout that you only find under the sofa in February – 1 out of 10
Lidl, The Story of Lidl Bear by Accenture Song
“Big hug, Lidl bear, narrative complete”. These are the words that conclude this emetic offering from those good people at Lidl. I thought we had seen the last of the incompetent-male-failing-at-domestic-chores meme. But no, this commercial begins with ‘dad’ shrinking a repellent Lidl Christmas jumper so that it fits only his gap-toothed urchin’s teddy bear. And PRESTO! A star is born. Let me refer you again to that concluding line, which oozes the woozy self-conscious shame that the copywriter (and presumably everyone else involved in this abomination) felt at having been part of it.
That half of a still-wrapped Quality Street that has passed through the digestive system of a Labrador – 0.5 out of 10
Aldi, Kevin the Carrot is Home Alone by McCann
Oh FFS it’s Kevin the sodding carrot. Bereft of ideas again this year, the creative department thinks ‘We know! Let’s do ‘Home Alone’ with Kevin the sodding carrot! Job’s a good ’un. What’s more let us include the client’s association with that excellent charitable organisation Neighbourly while we are at it. In a spirit of fairness, the CGI rendering is of the highest standard, but even that cannot rescue this atrocity.
Two tablespoonsful of Aldi trifle mashed into the carpet by urgent feet on their way to the facilities – 2 out of 10
Waitrose, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas by Adam & Eve DDB
As a faithful customer of Waitrose for over 40 years, I always want them to do well in this (entirely-made-up-by-Charlie-McKelvey-annual-race-to-the-bottom) review. My notes tell me it is beautifully shot. Beautifully shot. And, since watching it this morning I half remember exquisite footage of courageous servants of the global agri-business complex toiling nobly in the fields and orchards of the land. We then stiltedly segue into a strange scene of a family at a table and a small child having an apparently authentic tantrum, but I had lost interest by this point, soothed by some toothsome treat from one of the nation’s favourite mutual societies’ newly relocated sweetie counters. Perplexing. It gets its comparatively high score here only because I liked the shot where the agri-labourer’s hat blows off.
The two pairs of slippers belonging to one’s late Nana that no-one can bring themselves to recycle – 4 out of 10
Sainsbury’s, Once Upon A Pud by Wieden+Kennedy
This commercial stars somebody called Alison Hammond who has a charming West Midlands accent. She plays a hard-to-please Duchess who for reasons of televisual convenience has the Sainsbury’s Research & Development team working in her kitchen. She hates Christmas pudding, hardly a remarkable position to take on a dessert concocted out of the most indigestible Victorian store-cupboard staples plus a type of booze known for containing at least 142 toxins. Our geeky yet winsome chef re-invents the horror to her satisfaction, and we can all move on. I liked the accent…
Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar on the Christmas card from that slightly racist cousin you haven’t spoken to since 1972 – 3 out of 10
Marks & Spencer, Gifts that Give by House 337
With human life as horrible as it presently is, M&S has gone in all guns blazing on a traditional Christmas commercial with a twist! This is not so much a Christmas commercial as a triumph of rebarbative virtue-signaling. This year, M&S will be supporting good causes all over the UK – from city farms to local choirs and, according to this ad, may well be sending a brass band up your back stairs, which sounds to me like a particularly unpleasant sexual euphemism.
A Curlywurly that has had one bite taken out of it and then been abandoned down the side of the sofa-cushion to melt and reform repeatedly into an unrecognizable THING like a creature from a Cronenberg movie – 0.75 out of 10.
Tesco, A Christmas Party by BBH London
Tesco’s agency had a wizard wheeze this year: A party political broadcast on behalf of the Xmas Party! They have some fun with this, and I particularly liked the Cost-Of-Living-Crisis-Conscious slogan, The only thing we’ll cut are prices and cake. I also liked the fact that the MVO is done by that comic actor I admire but can’t be arsed to search-up (as the young people are wont to say) from Horrible Histories, Ghosts and that thing with Paddington and Her late Majesty The Queen that everyone inexplicably went nuts for that time.
That said, I watched it this morning and at five to five on a particularly gloomy December evening I can remember nothing more of it, though in the case of this annual ordeal that is my Christmas Ad review disappearing immediately from my consciousness is a virtue, so it gets a solid 5.
Five Cadbury’s Fingers that look as if they have been somewhere that they shouldn’t have been – 5 out of 10.
John Lewis, The Beginner by Adam & Eve DDB
It would seem that the response to this commercial, which came out very early in the schedules, was enough tears to power a small steam turbine. The living-rooms of the land echo to the sobs of those who watched our hero, a strangely ‘relatable’ Johnny Vegas lookalike, doggedly failing to learn how to skateboard in the run-up to Christmas, all set to yet another of those instantly and thankfully forgettable heart-wrenching ballads.
Why? Why is he learning to skateboard? Well may you ask. All is revealed when social services turn up just before the festivities with an adorable child who our hero and his wife (a very small part, it has to be said) are about to foster.
See! She is clutching a skateboard defensively to her bosom and immediately espies (virtue-signalling within virtue signalling) her soon-to-be foster-father’s own board propped up in the hallway!
John Lewis is a commendable organisation organised upon mutual society principles (see Waitrose above), the publicising of the role played by foster-families in our failing society is, in and of itself, a jolly good thing. I know some of the people in the creative department at Adam & Eve and they are assured masters of the Xmas Ad BUT have things really reached the point where we need an expensive retailer to tell us support the crumbling edifice of national social care? It would seem we have.
Six geese a-laying around on the patchy lawn terrifying the dog which yaps uncontrollably from sunrise to, thankfully early, sunset – 6 out of 10.
The Co-operative Group
And finally. If only they had all done this. I quote from Retailer magazine: “The Co-op has decided to ditch its Christmas advert for 2022 in a bid to instead raise awareness on community food projects as inflation soars to a 40-year high. The supermarket is pumping its ad campaign cash into a network of Your Local Pantry shops – the membership-based food scheme and community hub where Brits can pick up food at a discount.”
I bet the rest of the retailers are cursing themselves for not thinking of this. Spend less! Signal our virtue! Do good! It’s the most professionally ‘on-brand’ piece of work in this year’s crop of Christmas commercials and its true triumph is that it doesn’t even exist! Hats off to the Co-op!
May I also take this opportunity to wish you a wonderful Winterval and to wish us all a far, far better 2023.
If you want me, I will be out the back making Molotov cocktails and preparing for the sadly inevitable, violent and bloody revolution that will surely come in the New Year.