The Christmas adverts are as big and bold as ever, but are they missing something?
Christmas is coming for real this year and there’s a bigger sense of celebration than usual, if the festive adverts are anything to go by.
While we all did our best last year with a Christmas spent very differently from normal, it seems the big retailers are chomping at the bit to welcome Christmas back with a bang, and have gone big with their productions in readiness.
One which seems to capture the general mood of the 2021 Christmas ad offering is Argos, which has titled its advert Baubles to Last Year, Christmas is On!, with the focus on families going all out sporting festive jumpers, decorating beards and even setting fire to the Christmas pud with a blow torch.
Another retailer that has opted for a super-celebratory feel is TK Maxx, which has launched its biggest Christmas campaign to date, with adverts running simultaneously in the UK and Europe for the first time. Called Christmas To The Maxx, the ad creates a warm and fuzzy feeling as we watch teenager, Laurie, becoming the unsuspecting star of his local Christmas show.
The best play on words has to go to Aldi, with ‘Marcus Radishford’, a central character in its advert styled on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which encourages us all to be kind. The value retailer’s production celebrates a partnership with the England football player as part of its pledge to donate 1.8 million meals to families over the festive period.
Unsurprisingly, a number of other brands have also reeled in celebrities to headline their Christmas offering. Boots has gone for the big names with its festive film Bags of Joy, which stars BAFTA-nominated actress Jenna Coleman as the character ‘Joy’, and is directed by Academy Award winner, Tom Hooper. Meanwhile, Sports Direct has enlisted US Open winner Emma Raducanu, Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and England players Jack Grealish and Jordan Pickford to encourage us to get up off the sofa and play some sport in the fresh air over Christmas with its Go All Out campaign.
The M&S Food advert has pulled out a cracker bringing Percy Pig to life, with the voice of Spiderman actor, Tom Holland, accompanied by Dawn French as the Christmas Fairy – and the scripting is both funny, as you might expect, and heart-warming.
And the Christmas stalwart, John Lewis, hasn’t let the side down either, with its alternative Christmas love story. We witness the unusual relationship between a young boy, called Nathan, who befriends space traveller, Skye, after she lands in the woods beside his home, and introduces her to our Christmas traditions. The controversy as to whether John Lewis copied a lo-fi arrangement of Together in Electric Dreams by UK alt-folk duo, The Portraits, may take the festive gleam off this offering a little, however.
So, the usual themes are back in force for Christmas 2021, most notably celebration, love, nostalgia, family and togetherness. There’s clearly a nod to last year and an eagerness to leave the pandemic in the past – even if that may be still a little premature.
What’s also encouraging is the diversity now on our screens in these festive productions that are designed to reflect British society. Just last year, such diversity caused a rift among the viewing public when some people objected to the family being black in the first of Sainsbury’s three Christmas adverts.
What does seem to be missing, however, is an acknowledgement of the importance of conscious consumerism, even at Christmas. Some, in particular, make for uncomfortable viewing just after the UK has welcomed world leaders to Glasgow for COP 26 and Wales is holding its own series of COP Cymru events. While Christmas is not known for its conservatism – and you can understand why retailers are keen to push hard for sales after such a difficult time – the message from COP 26, COP Cymru and Wales Climate Week (22-26 November) is that we not only have to start looking at the bigger picture – but acting on it.
So, while the festive ads are certainly entertaining, there’s an argument that the 2021 offerings are a missed opportunity. Maybe next year a retailer will be brave enough to acknowledge that saving the planet really is the best present of all.
This article was written by our chief executive, Angharad Neagle, and featured in the Western Mail on 15 November 2021