High Five: December


By Alex Reeves

Are you ready for Winter Consumerfest 2014? The best ads of the month might help.

Ding dong merrily on high! It’s that time of year again when capitalism goes into overdrive, with companies splurging huge chunks of their marketing budgets on schmaltzy nonsense to try to convince us to open our wallets for them. And all thanks to the birth of a Middle Eastern baby who may or may not have existed around two millennia ago. Cheers, Jesus.

We’ve certainly got a lot more yuletide marketing come yet, but here’s our rundown of the best efforts the ad industry made in November. Thankfully this year’s Christmas advertising isn’t all schmaltzy nonsense. Some of it’s just schmaltzy.

Freeview – Left Behinds

We’re quite used to this kind of advertising. Cuteness, everyday setting, clever CGI and a corker of a power ballad to burrow into your brain for the rest of the day. There’s certainly a formula at work here, but we shouldn’t let that fool us into thinking it’s bad. With some of the very best craftsmen realising the script, it’s ended up more than the sum of its parts – a charming film that warms the soul. And a nice Christmas present for Foreigner, without whose track the whole thing would be undermined. A masterstroke of licensing.

John Lewis – Monty the Penguin

The John Lewis Christmas Advert. Somehow, a fairly ordinary department store has managed to carve out a slice of Christmas tradition in Britain. There are probably people who say “my Christmas starts with the John Lewis ad” (mercifully we haven’t met those people). This year’s offering delivers on so many levels. A wintery tearjerker in which a cute boy buys his cute penguin a cute mail-order bride. It’s heart-warming for the softies and easy to lampoon for the cynics, as the many parody responses have proven. Beautifully written and expertly made, it’s everything John Lewis asked for.

Maille – Memorable Guest

It’s unclear whether many people will see this online film, which is a shame because it’s funny. Made very much to the old template of a ‘viral video’, its success will depend on the right people sharing it online (and how much seeding Maille pay for). James Rouse made his name doing willy jokes on the internet and he’s still one of the best at this art form, delivering his unmistakable brand of nuanced comic performance. Respect to Maille for buying this filth. For a mustard brand with heritage, it’s a leftfield strategy.

Sainsbury’s – Christmas is for Sharing

As if people weren’t talking about the Christmas ads enough already, Sainsbury’s go and throw some controversy into the mix. We’ve all heard both sides of the argument over whether it’s in good taste or not, but it’s hard to deny that it’s a rousing piece of film about one of the most heartening moments in human history, set against a backdrop of one of the most horrifying moments in human history. Take the Sainsbury’s logo off the end we’d be united in support for this excellent piece of storytelling.

Think! - Don’t Drink and Drive 50th Anniversary

This one’s definitely no schmaltzy nonsense, but’s still emotional. Christmas is all about tradition. Sadly, road accidents caused by drink driving are one seasonal custom that we’ve found hard to shake off, proven by the fact that the government have needed PSAs like this for 50 years. The idea here is actually very smart. It manages to get across a message we’ve heard too many times in a compelling way, and reminds us that for the emergency services, it’s not necessarily the most wonderful time of the year.