The Grinch’s Guide to Christmas Adverts 2014

The Christmas ad is now something of a yuletide tradition, when our nation’s big retailers punch you in the heart and hope some money will fall out of your pockets. Already we’ve been inundated with pleas to buy stuff cunningly masquerading as tearjerking tales of seasonal friendship and kindness. So it’s about time to take a cynical eye to these ads and see what they are really saying. John Lewis We’re at the point now where all you have to do is utter the words, ‘John Lewis Christmas advert’ and people uncontrollably burst into tears. This year’s precision-calibrated blub-inducer feels like a greatest hits collection of previous John Lewis ads – cute animals (check), sentimentalised childhood innocence (check), even a saccharine story of romance between inanimate objects (check). More than anything I worry about the boy. Sure, we all had imaginary friends as kids. Not all of us got a mail order bride for a stuffed animal.   Marks & Spencer The message appears to be: if you don’t buy things from Marks & Spencer this Christmas, duelling pixies will transform your stuff into its products anyways. Got your girlfriend an alarm clock? Not anymore, now it’s M&S lingerie. You’re welcome. If you happen to get stuff Marks and Sparks doesn’t sell – games consoles, televisions – they’ll just set off a fairydust EMP so you have to play outside in the snow. It also depicts a woman being attracted to a man in a turtleneck, something that has never happened.   Burberry Burberry’s epic Singing in the Rain homage makes a big song and dance (see what I did there?) of the fact Romeo Beckham is in it. But anytime Lil Becks has to do any actual dancing, he’s always in silhouette, or behind a curtain, or his implausibly well-groomed head is cropped out of shot. I think RoBecks himself is only in the ad for about eight seconds, and the whole thing is about four hours long. His dance double should really be getting the bigger paycheck.   Aldi I like to think that Christmas at Jools Holland’s house involves everyone eating dinner off a really long piano while Jools plays for them.   Asda ‘Guys, people haven’t really forgiven us for that Christmas ad we did two years ago. You remember, the one depicting a mum in cowed servitude to an unappreciative family. This Christmas, we need to play it super safe. People love smiles, right? Nobody could get angry at us for doing an ad about smiling, surely? Everyone loves smiling. Doing it and seeing it. Nobody’s going to complain that there’s too much smiling in an ad.’   Sainsburys This is a tough one. In so many ways, this is a great ad – impeccably crafted and with a noble message. It works brilliantly as both a story of Christmas spirit and a poignant centenary tribute. But then the Sainsburys logo appears at the end and, I don’t know, it tarnishes the solemnity a little. They are selling those vintage chocolates in Sainsburys and all profits go to the British Legion, so that’s good. I guess I can’t decide whether it’s leaning too hard on the First World War just to sell stuff.   Tesco The enormous light display. The seasonal hair metal/dubstep mashup. My question is, where did Tesco find all the money to pay for this? (OH NO HE DIDN’T)   Waitrose Waitrose really out John-Lewised John Lewis this year with a genuinely lovely ad about a young girl who just wants to make good gingerbread for her schoolmates. It’s a narrative straight from the JL playbook, and of course it comes with the regulation-issue schmaltzy low-fi rendition of a pop tune, but somehow it ends up being quite affecting. At least it straight up admits it’s an advert for a shop and not a parable of heartwarming life-affirmitude.