Have Yourself a Commercial Little Christmas?

With Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure it’s safe to say that most of us will have by now seen the long awaited and renowned John Lewis Christmas advert for 2018.  While many,including myself, felt it missed the mark a little this year (Elton John just didn’t inspire the same warm and fuzzy feelings as Monty the penguin in my opinion) they still managed to stir up plenty of conversation, both good and bad.  And their slightly less popular advert has left it open for other brands to steal the spotlight.  Iceland’s banned advertisement focusing on the damage the palm oil industry is causing to the habitats of orang-utans is one such example, or Boots heart warming rendition of ‘She’s me mum’ to the tune of Robbie Williams.

This year’s John Lewis ad didn’t quite match Monty the Penuin imo

What do these brands have in common?  Well, whether the aim is to sell cosmetics and skincare or frozen party nibbles, the consensus seems to be that sentimental stuff sells.  It feels like Christmas ads have become a bigger and bigger deal over the past few years, and it’s easy tosee why.  An ad that meets the mark can continue to work its magic for decades to come, with some ads becoming old classics that fill us with nostalgia year after year.  The famous Kellogg’s Christmas advert featuring three siblings who decide to leave a ‘rather unorthodox’ bowl of Cornflakes for Santa instead of the traditional milk and cookies (or maybe a customary Guinness or a whiskey for many Irish households) first aired in 1991 and is still shown today.  And personally, whether it’s the wistfulness of reminiscing back on childlike excitement on past Christmases growing up in the 90s, or just the picture perfect filter that commercials always manage to project onto any of the situations they show, – the Kellogg’s ad just about sums up everything a Christmas should be in my eyes. 

And I say ‘just about’, because like this year’s John Lewis offering, it doesn’t quite get it completely right.  No amount of Iceland’s Rang-tans or even tempting shots of Kellogg’s cereal cascading into a bowl can even begin to come close to the reigning supreme heavyweight champion of the Christmas adverts.  You’ve probably guessed it –Coca Cola.  You may be surprised to know that, in actual fact, around four different versions of the iconic Coca Cola Christmas Truck advert have aired over the years.  The original was first shown in 1995, the year I was born, however I was surprised to realise on researching the ads that the version I remember most was actually the third iteration, released in 1999 and taken off the air in 2001, before being relaunched in 2007.  If you’re of my age bracket, I recommend you look it up for the ultimate burst of sentimental Christmas tingles.

And for me, and many others all over the world, the first sighting of the iconic Coke Christmas trucks signals the start of the festive season.  The most wonderful time of the year isn’t hailed in while putting up your Christmas tree surrounded by family,or buying your first Christmas gift, or having that first taste of mulled wine…but while watching an advertisement. Does that seem quite right?

When you really think about, most of the time we will do everything in our power to avoid advertising. We channel hop, use ad blockers on our computers and sigh and grumble until the ‘skip ad’ button appears on our Youtube videos for the other three hundred odd days of the year, but at Christmas, John Lewis and a handful of other prominent retailers have managed to actually make us look forward to watching a video they’ve made with the sole purpose of getting us to hand over our hard earned money in exchange for their products and services.  And en masse, we buy into it, because it’s adorable and magical and gives us a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  Has Christmas spirit really just become a synonym for consumerism?

It would certainly seem that way, with statistics showing that Christmas costs the average person around £54,000 over the course of their lives, and with one in three people getting into debt in order to afford the extent of the festivities.  I’d be willing to bet the credit card companies really do wish it could be Christmas everyday.

As a Coca Cola fanatic, and somebody who in fact studied advertising, I can’t pretend that I don’t buy into the capitalist frenzy that comes with territory every December.  I appreciate a pretty gift under the tree as much as the next person and I’ll definitely be drinking fizzy cola with my Christmas turkey.  I’m also not going to pretend some of these iconic ads don’t make me melt when they grace our screens each year.  But it’s also important to remember that splashing the cash and having boxes piled high on Christmas morning aren’t what the spirit of the season should be all about. As a wise woman once said, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need,” and in fact, there’s only one thing we should all really want for Christmas – you!  Or, rather,someone special, whether it’s a friend, family member or somebody close to spend the day with.  Despite the message of the famous Coke jingle, the holidays would come whether you buy an expensive branded drink or not; you can still feel festive eating supermarket brand cereal; and kids can definitely still have a great Christmas, and grow up to be as talented as Elton John, whether or not you can afford to gift them a piano this year.  Despite what the ads might tell us, the most important things come for free –  on Christmas or any other day of the year!


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