Humour, emotion and joy are three ingredients that go into making an exceptional Christmas advert. In recent years, it’s become a competition between leading brands to create an advert that knocks the festive socks off the others.
Team PB have applied our expert eyes as storytellers to the latest crop of ads making the rounds, and here is what we had to say:
Written by Coralie – Digital Services Lead
The show must go on
Could the Amazon Christmas ad be the best of 2020? I would think so (sorry to the others)!
Firstly, it has captured 2020 in a nutshell: COVID-19, from lockdown to face masks, endless nights watching the news, Zoom-everything and the disappointment when events you’ve been looking forward to are cancelled. It also showcases how local communities have pulled together to support each other, and how we’ve found ways to come together – even when socially distanced.
Then, the ad shows the power of the arts! With a ballerina the prime character, it explores a simple dance performance can fill someone with joy and wonder, and how it can help you escape for a couple of minutes. We all need a bit of escapism at the minute, no matter what the “career in Cyber” ad was trying to achieve…
Finally, it’s emotional. The music, the storyline, you can easily relate to what’s happening on-screen and it’s exactly what advertising should be about in 2020 – telling a story that inspires you, rather than purely focusing on the product. Well done Amazon!
One last note: it shows a true representation of the UK population… something other ads could take note of.
Written by Kelly – Senior Graphic Designer
Bringing out our inner child
Smyths Toys launched its ‘If I Were a Toy’ campaign for Christmas 2020, an evolution of previous campaigns launched in 2016 and 2019.
Created by McCann Manchester, the agency behind Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot, it takes us into a fantasy world that transforms anything and everything into toys.
It may not pull at the heartstrings like other Christmas campaigns, but what it lacks in sentimentality it makes up for in creativity. Who wouldn’t want to see construction workers reimagined as Lego men, bikes turn into Mario karts and cars morph into batmobiles?
Written by Nicole – Client Account Lead
A Christmas tale that tugs on the heartstrings
Let me start by sharing that you might need a tissue or two when watching this one – especially if you have or had a close bond with your grandparents.
Disney’s 2020 Christmas advert tells the story of a vintage Mickey Mouse that represents the protagonist’s childhood and her present-day connection with her granddaughter. It is sentimental, nostalgic and touching.
In essence, every family has their own traditions that can be overlooked as the years go on. To some family members, these traditions mean just as much now as when they were created. They hold joy, warmth, love and thankfulness, which is part of what makes Christmas truly special.
With everything 2020 has thrown at us, this advert helps remind us how important family and traditions are, especially when we have not been able to experience all of these moments with our loved ones this year. This advert makes you truly thankful for what you find most important in life.
Written by Diane – Company Administrator
A warm message for all parents and children
I’ve seen a few Christmas ads on TV and YouTube over the last few weeks and there’s certainly a lot to choose from.
However, I’d have to say that McDonald’s is definitely my personal favourite. I think it particularly appealed to me because I have a 13-year-old who is showing signs of independence and battling between being a child and an adult. I love the message that we are all children at heart and we all secretly love the traditions of Christmas. No matter if you are 13 or 90, you’re never too old to leave a carrot out for Rudolf!
Written by Zoe – Communications Manager
Grab a mince pie and glass of eggnog, this is a long one
At two and a half minutes long, watching this feels a bit like sitting down for a Christmas movie! The sentiment is heart-warming and relevant – appreciating each other and the simple act of being together.
Coca-Cola’s 2020 ad tells the tale of one dad’s epic mission to deliver his daughter’s letter to Santa. When he forgets to call at the post box to send the letter the traditional way, the scene is set for his mission – a journey by boat, up mountains, on a motorbike across a desert and more to get to the North Pole. This bit goes on a while…it’s laid on as thickly as the ice he crosses to make it there.
Arriving at Santa’s, it’s closed for Christmas, but there’s hope – the iconic Coca-Cola truck arrives to deliver him back home (*festive fact – while it feels like the trucks have been part of Christmas forever, they first graced our screens in 1995).
The big reveal is the contents of the little girl’s letter; to bring Daddy home for Christmas (the cynic in me says he would have been back home quicker if he hadn’t spent days on the letter business)!
The final scene reveals the truck driver – Santa of course – and no one does a classic Santa quite as well as Coca-Cola!
Like a good movie, this ad has got action, adventure, danger, suspense…and that all important triumphant happy ending, leaving us with a festive glow that tells us that ‘Holidays are Coming’.
Written by Stella – Content Creator
A whirlpool of genres and themes
I don’t watch a lot of TV – dedicated Netflix addict, here! – but I can’t shake the feeling I’ve missed something critical with the Aldi Christmas advert. Why is the carrot parachuting from the heavens, looking like he’s re-entered the atmosphere from outer space? Did I miss some essential carrot-based plot?
One thing is clear though, Aldi’s advert is designed to sell cuddly toys, and in that, it’s very successful. I would like three scarf-wearing hedgehog plushies please. I don’t even care that it’s very confusing that the hedgehog and carrot are running about to the tune of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song.
Also, points for an extremely convincing Santa. Aldi may have splurged and hired the real guy this year.
Written by Sinead – Senior Communications Consultant
A box of gimmicks
Argos was the first brand across the line with their Christmas ad this year – possibly bound by a release date set by Gary Barlow’s team, as the crooner’s latest single provides the soundtrack.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, the brand’s creative agency chose to revisit last year’s successful ‘Book of Dreams’ campaign – someone circles a gift in the catalogue and suddenly all their gift-based dreams come to life. Cue two adorable children selecting a magic box from the catalogue and putting on a show for their families that grows ‘magically’ in size and spectacle. It should be magical. But it all feels a bit rushed.
Production levels are high but this could be anyone’s ad. In fact, it’s oddly reminiscent of John Lewis’ ‘Joy of Home’ autumn advert, which also featured two children putting on a show at home. The big difference is that the John Lewis ad was resplendent with JL products. Whereas at first glance, the Argos ad features relatively few products that you can actually buy in Argos. Aside from bookending with the Book of Dreams, it feels like a cobbled together attempt at celebrating togetherness, hope, happiness and other adjectives.
From a marketing perspective, last year’s Argos effort was fun-filled, nostalgic and a masterclass in careful product placement. This year feels like the disappointing follow-up album.
But then again, there’s little point throwing your best ideas at the void that is 2020. And of course, the beauty of every Christmas ad is in the eye of the beholder. So, you can either view this one as a heart-warming slice of festive family magic in a lockdown world, or a fever dream where two superhuman twins torment their family by stealing the mince pies, nicking Grandma’s watch and blowing up the dog.
Written by Stella – Content Creator
Is it what it’s priced up to be?
Asda’s offering lacks some of the showiness of other Christmas ads, but it’s charming in that it reflects the reality of the Christmas we’re all facing this year.
It’s a happy family, at home, trying their best to keep to – and create – traditions. They’re cooking inside and decorating the outside of their house (festively early, if the rest of the grey street is to be believed) and chatting to their neighbour at a safe-looking distance. Their Christmas food arrives by delivery, ported by unrealistically cheerful-looking Asda workers in patterned face masks.
All in all, a cheerful offering – I, for one, like the new Asda guy. He has the aura of that one husband-of-a-friend-from-uni whose name you always forget but who you’re always happy to be sat next to at a wedding or reunion.
Written by Diane – Company Administrator
The Asda Christmas ad was enjoyable until the moment the dad switches the lights on.
Who has an Asda logo on their roof?! It would have been much funnier if it had been a snowman blowing a kiss at his grumpy neighbour – haha! The Asda logo could have just appeared at the bottom of the screen and still made a good impact. Lovely scenario but poor ending in my opinion.
Written by Mark – Senior Developer
I don’t why, but something awoke in me the first time I saw the Lidl Christmas ad this year in mid-November…not so much rage, but close to it!
Now I am not Scrooge, and previous John Lewis and Aldi ads I thought have been very good but this year’s take from Lidl simply was, in my opinion, dreadful!
“Could a friendship be ahead? No… it’s a Christmas ad from Lidl with great prices instead” – only if you have a Christmas ad which shows many possible products with only two prices shown!
I completely understand there is a tongue-in-cheek nature, but it tries so hard to have the same look and feel as other ads, whilst at the same time trying to distance itself through its own messaging.
I also don’t want to judge the singer in the advert too harshly, but I think this sounds awful – “Emotional gravy, that potato looks nice” … ***shudders***. I’m probably reading far too much into this ad but as I said initially, the ad simply had the opposite effect and I never want to step in a Lidl again. That’s probably going a touch too far though, there’s one fairly close to me and the bakery is great!
I do really sound like I’m saying “humbug” at every turn, but I feel that this could be the worst Christmas ad I’ve ever seen. I’d rather watch the Coca-Cola Christmas ad on repeat in July!
- All opinions are our own and do not reflect Pillory Barn.
- All images and videos are courtesy of YouTube.com.