We’re now fully into the run up to Christmas, and with last minute panic shopping to be done, food to be bought and consumed and TV to watch, what better way is there for shops to grab our attention with a massive advertising campaign? John Lewis is famous for its usual tear-jerking campaigns, and M&S usually pull something good out of the bag. As a last scrapbook of 2016, we thought we’d rate our favourite ever Christmas adverts…
M&S 2016 – Mrs Claus
This year’s John Lewis ad was (I think) slightly disappointing based on previous years, which left the place for top Christmas advert of 2016 wide open – and M&S stole the show. Their full-length Mrs Claus ad had it all – Christmassy setting, a heart-rending story of family, the joy of giving, and a cool twist on the typical Christmas theme.
If you haven’t seen it already, go and watch it now. It’s two stories in one – what Mrs Claus gets up to when Santa’s out on Christmas Eve, and the tale of 6-year-old Jake. Both are brilliantly told alongside one another, evoking festive feelings and a sense of the true spirit of Christmas.
Most people – including St Nick himself – would assume that Santa’s wife doesn’t have much to do on Christmas Eve, but she has a secret life: she gets her own letters, and is in charge of delivering special presents that Father Christmas doesn’t know about. Jake writes to Mrs Claus, telling her about his older sister, Anna, who he annoys a lot, and his dog, Tiger. He wants something special, and he knows Mrs Claus is the one who can get it for him.
Enter spy-style Santa’s wife, with hidden technology in the house, and a helicopter rather than a sleigh. Mrs Claus is on a mission to save Christmas for Jake – and have some mince pies along the way. The advert ends with an emotional Christmas morning for Jake’s family, and Mrs Claus leaving a present out for her husband – two happy families enjoying the spirit of Christmas. It’s a great story, a lovely message, and a brilliant Christmas advert. Well done, M&S!
H&M 2016 – Wes Anderson
There’s something truly magical about the festive season. Twinkling fairy lights, scrumptious mince pies, cosy armchairs – they all add up to the warm atmosphere that helps to put everyone in a good mood. And adding to that Christmas cheer is Wes Anderson, whose H&M advert is a gift to Fan-dersons (which is a term I just coined) and the public alike.
Of course, while Anderson’s earlier forays into adverts have been rather successful (his 3-part miniseries for Prada in 2013 was suitably quirky) this is perhaps the longest, most narrative advert he has made, with a somewhat expounded plot. When a train is delayed for 11 and a half hours on Christmas Day, conductor Ralph (Adrian Brody) must keep his passengers’ spirits up, with the help of his colleagues both near and far. This gem of an advert is chock-full of the typical Anderson foibles that we have come to expect from his work: symmetrical framing, a distinct colour palate, beautiful set design, a regular collaborator and, of course, moustaches.
But the most notable Anderson trope – the thread that ties his entire filmography together – is the “dysfunctional family” element. From The Royal Tenenbaums to Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson has successfully woven this theme into all of his projects and this latest advert is no different. As both Ralph and the passengers realise that the hope of spending Christmas with their loved ones is an unlikely prospect, they decide to put away their differences and come together and open gifts, reminding us of what the holiday season is all about: family and presents.
John Lewis 2012 – The Journey
In recent years, the annual release of the John Lewis Christmas Advert has become a national event. Some might say that the hysteria surrounding these adverts proves how commercialised Christmas has become and shows that we have forgotten “the true meaning of Christmas” (whatever that means). This may be true and society may be going to Hell in a handcart, but ultimately it is undeniable that the John Lewis adverts centre around sweet human stories which are enjoyable to watch and emphasise the spirit of giving at Christmas time.
The 2012 advert titled ‘The Journey’ was one of the first to stamp the release of the John Lewis Christmas Advert as a cultural phenomenon. This advert is set to Gabrielle Aplin’s haunting cover of ‘The Power of Love’ (originally sung by Frankie Goes to Hollywood). The protagonist of the story is a cute if not slightly misshapen snowman who risks life and limb, or rather twig, to reach his nearest John Lewis store to bring his snow-girlfriend back a new hat, scarf and gloves, since snow-people get cold too! Even Scrooge would tear up at this little snowman’s determination and bravery as he crosses mountains, valleys and rivers with only a robin to guide him.
Although it is not John Lewis’ most successful advert it is by far their sweetest. It is also the first time in a John Lewis Christmas Advert that animation was the focus, adding an element of magic which set John Lewis Christmas adverts apart from the bombardment of advertising we see each year. The advert is more akin to a British take on recent Pixar short films than a standard TV advert. The theatricality and emotional elements of each advert may be what resonates with audiences year on year as the popularity of the annual John Lewis Christmas advert continues to grow.
Sainsbury’s 2014 – World War 1
On the centenary year of the First World War, Sainsbury’s made us all feel goosebumps with their advert telling the story of the Christmas truce on the battlefields of World War One. Based on one of the most heartbreaking true stories of Christmas, the advert illustrated how the best of human nature can be found even during the darkest of moments.
The advert can be celebrated for visually bringing the beautiful story of the Christmas truce to a newer generation. The start of the advert, with soldiers in the trenches from both sides singing ‘Silent Night’, brings home a sense of sadness looming around Christmas, and truly cemented the advert as an emotional journey into the past.
A feeling of fear hangs over the establishing scenes, with war on the soldiers’ doorstep, but all of this changes as brave soldiers come over onto no man’s land to unite in the spirit of Christmas. The rest of the advert focuses on the two central characters of Jim and Otto who shake hands, exchange gifts, discuss girls and play football, together with the rest of the soldiers who joined in on that day.
The most heartbreaking part of the real story is executed brilliantly by the directors. Cannon fire is heard, stopping the music of the advert. This acts as a stark reminder to the audience that this was a war and that these men had to fight each other the next day.
However, Sainsbury’s don’t dwell on the sadness and perfectly portray the Christmas truce as the most quintessential true story of Christmas, establishing themselves as a rival to the John Lewis monopoly of emotional Christmas adverts.
It is an advert that would have been suited to show the spirit of Christmas any year, but its 2014 airing made it more special and really brought it home. Most of all, it showed the power of a good old kick about to unite enemies and that Christmas is truly for sharing.
Heathrow 2016 – Coming Home For Christmas
Anyone who knows me knows what an emotional wreck of a person I am; I can cry at almost anything, especially TV adverts. However, this year, without John Lewis providing me with the chance to weep into a tissue for a few minutes, I had to look elsewhere for a good old sob. Thankfully Heathrow’s 2016 ad campaign featuring a pair of teddies did the trick.
It opens with an elderly bear couple landing at Heathrow for Christmas, being given a lift in those vans we all secretly want to sit on when at airports, and sharing a cheeky kiss under the mistletoe. They then make their way through passport control, thankfully not the electronic ones (as someone who was stuck behind a poor old man who couldn’t work it out for about 10 minutes, I think there should be an age limit on them). After going through all the faff of collecting suitcases, going to the loo and maneuvering the escalators, they find themselves at arrivals, searching the crowds for their loved ones. The icing on the cake of this very sweet advert, is two children rushing forward, and the camera cutting back to the bears, who are now humans.
It’s nice to see a heartwarming advert which sums up what Christmas should be about – being with your loved ones, something that feels ever more important after the year we’ve had!
Media sourced from YouTube.