Christmas ads never used to have your mum’s approval. She’d recoil in horror every October, her screen suddenly bombarded with bombastic powerpoints of kiddie-baiting products at low-low prices, all soundtracked by Noddy Holder hellishly wailing “IT’S KRISSSMAAAHHHSSS!”
“It’s far too early for this,” she’d tut, exasperated, already feeling the hit her bank balance would be taking over the coming months and shivering at the thought of having to wait that bit longer to turn the heating on. “All this consumerist rubbish, it’s got nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas!”
But then something changed. Christmas ads became meticulously planned, delicately shot, lovingly crafted featurettes, pumped full of mawkish sentimentality and The True Meaning Of Christmas. Most importantly, this means Christmas ads are now aimed specifically at Your Mum, and she loves them. Every time she sees one, Your Mum hits that share button on her iPad so hard it has to be taken back to the shop where it’ll be so fucked from the force of her sharing, she’ll have to buy a new one, which she’ll break again.
Your Mum and her friends want to share Christmas with one another, but how well have the brands’ efforts delivered served them this year?
Pitch: Ruth Jones off of Gavin and Stacey aimlessly wanders around Tesco with an empty shopping trolley while her internal monologue lays out a series of minor festive gripes and her Christmas chores to-do list.
Ben Miller, her in-advert partner, pops up at the end, calls her “Jo” and puts a small box of mince pies in the trolley. They have none of the chemistry of BT’s quintessentially quotidian sexless advert couple ‘Adam and Jane.’
You couldn’t even imagine these two having a perfunctory smooch under the mistletoe for a dare. “Go on!” the office Christmas party would yell, and Ruth Jones would pull a grimace, point at her cheek and brace herself as if she was about to have a filling, and Ben Miller would lean in and peck her and then recoil as if her face was on fire and he’d just burnt his lips. They’d never look each other in the eye again. One of them would hand in their notice in January.
True Meanings Of Christmas: Gets the crushing, underwhelming inanity and underlying annoyance at having to buy a load of shit out of obligation to a family you quietly resent. Spot on. 5/5
Tears jerked: If this advert leaves you feeling anything other than complete ambivalence, consult your GP. 0/5
Actual relevance to brand: It’s essentially just one long, unbroken shot of an aisle in Tesco. Which you can find in Tesco. 4/5
Contemporary reference: ‘Twerking.’ 5/5
Will Your Mum share it: This reminds Your Mum of everything she forgot she hated about Christmas. These new Christmas ads were meant to suspend Your Mum’s disbelief and make her dream again, but Tesco’s edition is the equivalent of a jaded magician talking you through his worst trick in a piercing monotone.
Mince Pies Out Of 5: 1
House of Fraser
Pitch: The idea for this video must’ve been knocked up on a hangover or acid trip, because no straight-thinking mind could conceive this. It’s just a load of nonsense choreography thrown together with a shit load of glitter.
‘True’ meaning of Christmas: It rains Brussel sprouts at one point and that’s about as Christmassy as it gets. I suppose you could also consitute the psychopathic dancing to the same you do at your office Christmas party after you’ve made up your low wages in free tequilla. 1/5
Tears jerked: I did cry a bit. Not from a happy, warm sadness though. I’m terrified of the aggressiveness of their ending tagline: CHRISTMAS IS COMING FOR YOU. Jesus Christ, chill out HoF. 1/5
Will your mum share it: Only out of confusion. “Is this cool?” she’ll think to herself, worried about what all your mates she’s added might make of it. Don’t do it, Sharon. It’s wank. 1/5
Relevancy to brand: Sure it’s decent, contemporary clothing like souvenir jackets and skinny checked suits, but the whole thing just seems too extreme for a high street brand. I don’t even think a premium brand would go as bat-shit crazy with their ad. 2/5
Contemporary reference: It’s got Laura Mvula singing it, the only saving grace for this car crash of an advert. They’ve also got a sexed-up Santa that looks like he’d leave his number along with your presents. 3/5
Overall mince pies out of 5: 1
Pitch: Sainsbury’s throw all the money they have at a three minute animation sang by an incredibly annoying James Corden, talking about the annoying everyday situations of working people in a satirical way and how time consuming they are at Christmas time.
But the protagonist father figures a clever yet safety hazard way of being there for his family: using toys from his factory to do his jobs.
‘True’ meaning of Christmas: Major stress and slave labour being adopted in toy factories. Pretty Christmassy to be fair. It also sends the message that the greatest gift you can give your family at Christmas is yourself, which is a nice thought. But you can’t wrap that shit up and put it under a tree, can you? 1/5
Tears jerked: Going to be honest, I couldn’t make it to the end of the advert. It’s probably the single biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched all the Twilight movies in one day. 0/5
Will your mum share it: If anyone’s mum shares it, delete their Facebook account and put them in a home whatever their age. 0/5
Relevancy to brand: None at all. There’s nothing that says, “Hey Jamie, come and buy your dad a Nivea aftershave set from out store.” If you walked in the room half way through you’d just assume Wallace & Gromit had gone right downhill. 0/5
Contemporary reference: I can’t believe that Benjamin Mackenzie from Flight of the Conchords could stoop this low and write this nonsense. But good on Sainsbury’s for putting same sex parents and a mixed-race couple in there at the end, however forced and contrived it was. 2/5
Overall mince pies out of 5: 1
Pitch: A Morrisons-own-brand budget Milky Bar Kid walks to Morrisons and back, showing off the general knowledge he’s somehow gleaned from reading the Guinness World Book Of Records. It turns out everyone is conspiring with him to humiliate his ‘still unbeaten’ grandpa at Trivial Pursuit.
True Meanings Of Christmas: Accurately evokes the shit cracker trivia you have to rely on to get you through the tedium of having precisely nothing to say to your relatives who you see once every 365 days. 4/5
Tears jerked: None. Despite having glasses and looking like he’d lose a fight with the rain, the boy doesn’t get bullied and is in absolutely no peril. A missed opportunity. 0/5
Actual relevance to brand: A narrator boasts of Morrisons’ ability to offer everything “from mince pies to turkey… you need to be ready for the big day” (Christmas.) Points awarded for showing both of these products, points deducted because they are two products you can buy from almost every supermarket in Britain. Every supermarket it would seem, except – as a “Majority of stores” disclaimer underneath clearly warns – some branches of Morrisons. 2/5
Contemporary reference: A joke about the Eurovision Song Contest winner from 2003. 1/5
Will Your Mum share it: There’s a potential she’ll find the plucky little triviameister and his cute-by-numbers Buddy-Holly-specs-and-woolly-hat look adorable, and there’s also room for her to share it with a cheeky, playful dig at grandpa. But that depends on whether your grandpa’s still alive. All in all, too corporate.2/5
Mince Pies Out Of 5: 2
Pitch: A little girl loves bouncing, so her dad gets her a trampoline so she doesn’t fall off her bed and break her neck, because that’d just ruin Christmas. But a load of wild animals have a go of her present overnight, much to the annoyance of the family’s boxer dog, Buster, who’s viewing the shenanigans from a window.
The next morning, the child runs out to go play with it, when…HA HA HA…the dog runs past her and starts bouncing on the trampoline! HA HA HA! Dogs aren’t supposed to bounce! HA HA HA! Silly advert.
‘True’ meaning of Christmas: I…I don’t know. Is there a Christmas meaning to this advert? It’s just kind of made me paranoid that, as well as foxes having annoyingly loud sex outside my flat, they’re also creepily playing on swings and seesaws, secretly learning how to operate human objects to take over the world. They saw what happened to Harambe, now they’re revolting. 2/5
Tears jerked: Zero. Which I’m gutted about, as John Lewis usually opens up the festive flood gates for me. Unless they release a sequel on Christmas Day showing Buster ran over in cold blood by the family’s partially sighted neighbour in their Ford Fiesta, my eyes are as dry as the Sahara.1/5
Will your mum share it: Of course she will, mums love John Lewis. You could put a supercut of Eighties snuff films up there with the store’s branding and it’d still get mother’s everywhere sharing along with some irrelevant emojis. 3/5
Relevancy to brand: Those cuddly toys of all the animals will end up on eBay any day now, just like that horny penguin and his mail-order bride did the other year #StopSexTrafficking. 4/5.
Contemporary reference: They use barely known modern hipster British band Vaults to sing an old slow song, a tried and tested formula for them. No EDM version though, it’s all orchestra and choirs. Do kids even know what violins are these days? 2/5
Mince pies out of 5: 3
Pitch: A robin braves the terrifying dangers of our horrible world, beautifully rendered in Planet Earth-style cinematography, narrowly avoiding being brutally killed several times, all to end up in some girl’s garden to share a mince pie with another randy robin. Then the girl goes to have Christmas dinner with her family.
True Meanings Of Christmas: Is Christmas about risking life and limb to travel halfway around the world just to get your end away on top of some food? Not for me. Christmas is a damn family occasion. Mucky stuff, this. 1/5
Tears jerked: The robin is small and in regular danger, which will make Your Mum’s tiny heart break like her damn litany of iPads. Bit of a cop out at the end though, feel like they missed a trick by not having the robin have a small taste of the mince pie, and then die, as if to say; “because I, a humble robin, had a tiny nibble at a crumb of a Waitrose product; nothing can touch me; no hurt, no grief, not even death. Everything was worth it.” What an ending that would be. Your Mum would have to get new tear glands fitted after weeping the old ones away. 4/5
Actual relevance to brand: You can buy both mince pies and food at Waitrose. As far as I am aware, however, birds aren’t actually particularly arsed about them. 3/5
Contemporary reference: The young girl appears to live in candelit Beatrix Potter-y house in a graveyard. Very classy, very Gothic, not very contemporary. 1/5
Will Your Mum share it: She won’t just share it, she will painstakingly go through and tag every relative in the comments underneath, twice. 5/5
Mince Pies Out Of 5: 3
Pitch: Having seen her hub Santa off with a packed lunch to deliver the entire planet’s gifts as if she was sending him off to war, Mrs Claus receives a letter. It’s from a boy called Jake asking for a special gift for his sister and requesting specifically Mrs Claus to facilitate this for a reason which is left completely unexplained. His pet dog ate his sister’s shoes, and he wants to give her something which will set things right.
Mrs Claus does a coy ‘I know just the thing’ smile and sets off in a shiny helicopter to deliver the mysterious present to a well-heeled residential area in London. Surprise: it’s a new pair of shoes. Then Santa comes home from his shift and Mrs Claus pretends to have fallen asleep reading a Fifty Shades book, hiding Jake’s letter so he doesn’t suspect anything. None of this advert makes much sense.
True Meanings Of Christmas: Giving gifts to your family: very Christmas. Keeping something you’ve done completely inexplicably secret from your spouse: even more so. 4/5
Tears jerked: There is a bit where a little girl’s face crumples at the sight of her favourite pair of shoes being ruined, and another where she shares an embrace with her bug-eyed little brother whose ickle-wickle voiceover sweetly declares he “just wants her to be happy this Christmas.” Remember that concerning phonecall you received the other day, when Your Mum rang you in the middle of the day and just spent twenty minutes incoherently bawling and telling you she loved you? She’d just watched this ad. 5/5
Actual relevance to brand: Unless you can buy the girl’s shoes in Marks and Spencer, I have zero idea. I’ve spent ten minutes trying to understand the whole Mrs Claus conceit. The best I can come up with is that it’s meant to be some wordplay on ‘M&S’ - as in: ‘M&S Claus’? It can’t be that. Surely. 1/5
Contemporary reference: Fifty Shades. This is the holy grail of Your Mum cultural catnip. Her eyes went wide with alarm when she spotted it, then quickly scanned the room, checked that the coast was clear, then mischievously tittered for a full five minutes. 5/5
Will Your Mum share it: Buy her twenty new iPads so she can put it on all of her Facebook friends’ walls. 5/5
Mince Pies Out Of 5: 4
Pitch: Most likely a product of heavy pesticide use, a sentient carrot called Kevin gains consciousness and makes his way across a table full of Christmas food delights, running into various obstacles and pitfalls. He ends up falling asleep next to a mince pie, but instead of being devoured by a reindeer, he’s used as an incentive to get ol’ Saint Nick back home quick. So as well as experiencing freezing cold temperatures travelling to the North Pole, he’s also subjected to prolonged torture knowing that he’ll be eaten once he arrives at the destination.
‘True’ meaning of Christmas: It’s got Santa, Rudolf and a massive turkey dinner, that for some reason is unattended and is being served on Christmas Eve. No f*cking around, you straight up get Christmas shoved down the throat like you’re a foie gras duck. 4/5
Tears jerked: Mild croaky throat for the sheer nostalgia of it all and the lovely ending. And a bit sorry for Kevin having to walk past all of his dead, cooked mates. 3/5
Will your mum share it: Depends. Is she middle class? Then probably not. She’ll think Aldi is beneath her, even though they do proper champagne for a tenner and you can’t complain with that. But if she thinks fish goujons are fancy, then definitely. 4/5
Relevancy to brand: It’s got food. Aldi sell food. Good marketing, guys. You did your job. Gold sticker for you. 4/5
Contemporary reference: None at all. Even the music is from Nineties classic Home Alone. That’s why it comes across so well, because modern stuff is bollocks and Aldi know it. 2/5
Overall mince pies out of 5: 4.5