What do 2019’s Xmas ads reveal about the state of the nation?

It's a well-known fact that the latest Christmas TV ads are an infallible barometer of the nation's mindset. Three of Sticky's leading social commentators (aka resident Christmas Grinches) look at what this year's crop say about us

What do 2019’s Xmas ads reveal about the state of the nation?

‘Thank Santa for M&S!’

‘This year’s crop of Christmas ads doesn’t generate so much of a warm glow as a feeling of unease. Frankly, I’m worried about Edgar, the John Lewis dragon. OK, so this benighted beast can ignite the brandy around a Christmas pudding, but the rest of the time he’s a pyromaniacal menace. I fear the villagers will take matters into their own hands once the dessert course is over.

‘While Edgar’s village has a touch of folk horror about it, the Boots offering seems to be set in some kind of dystopia. I genuinely don’t know what’s going on, which sadly isn’t the case with the Argos ad where I think I might be the target audience.

‘I know who Simple Minds are. I know what the Argos catalogue is. And while I don’t really get the drumkit and teddy bear schtick I can’t help finding it all rather stirring, which can’t be said for the Sainsbury’s chimney sweeps. Sorry, too dark. Once read, The Water-Babies is never forgotten.

‘Thank Santa then, for M&S. I know what they’re selling. They look like they’re having fun. And everyone loves an M&S jumper for Christmas, except my mum. But only because she’s got too many already.

Jackie Kingsley, Head of Editorial

Only Mariah can save us now

‘The embers of bonfire night were practically still aglow when this year’s yuletide battle of the brands hit screens across the country.

‘For me, it’s when that big, red lorry rounds the corner that the “holidays are coming” – partly due to treasured childhood memories. And Coca-Cola’s tried-and-tested ad didn’t disappoint, nicely churning up feelings of nostalgia, spice and all things nice, as it has since its first release in 1995.

A festive lesson for Adland – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

‘Whimsy and longing for days-gone-by was at the core of many of this year’s lavish productions. Tesco travels through time, delivering some jolly good fun to characters from across their 100-year reign at the top of the (Christmas) food chain.

Over at Aldi, Kevin the Carrot makes his return, telling the latest chapter in his adventures; this year, he’s been kidnapped by a gang of flat-capped and belligerent Brussels sprouts. (Well, Brussels sprouts get a bad rap for a reason.) Argos and their laminated pages of joy are also celebrated in a glittering hue of nostalgia. Haven’t we all, at some time, circled what we want for Christmas in their glossy tome? And Sainsburys ambitiously decided to play with the origin of St Nick – but let’s be honest, they’re still struggling to top their outstanding 2014 offering.

‘But I can’t help feeling they are all a little out of step with the real world we find ourselves in. Advertisers are desperately trying to tap into the carefree frippery of Christmases past with shimmering throwbacks to yesteryear – but in doing so have missed the mark. Rather, they have left me with the sense that Christmas is, more than ever, a commercial bunfight for the pound in your pocket.

‘Until, that is, Walker’s saved the day. A bejewelled Mariah Carey arguing with an elf over the last pack of Pigs in Blankets crisps, before deafening onlookers with an impressively shrill note. What’s not to love?’

Guy Bevan, Head of Strategy

‘A much-needed reality check’

‘What a year. What a return to form. No more trying to change the world. No more Rang Tangs or sombre Elton Johns. No, 2019 is about getting back to basics – back to shifting product.

Iceland encapsulates it perfectly. From campaigning for an end to deforestation to partnering with Disney in the space of a single year – it’s a dizzying escalation. But they know what they’re about. The mission this year is plain and simple: sell frozen turkeys, and don’t get banned again.

‘Elsewhere in supermarket world, I can’t tell whether Tesco is trying to flog panettone or make a late entry to the General Election. Did they really just conjure up the ghost of Winston Churchill, Back to the Future-ify a scene from Bullseye and take a strawberry roly-poly to an acid house rave, all in the same Christmas ad? I’m all for Great British nostalgia, but this might be too much even by Boris Johnson’s standards.

‘And then there’s Visa. Sorry, Visa have made a Christmas ad? Damn right they have, and it’s a B2B belter. Take one pinch of residual hype for Bohemian Rhapsody, give all the actors a thousand-yard stare, sprinkle some frost on the windows, et voila. Now that’s how you make a Christmas ad for a card terminal. No messing about, no tired clichés. There’s even a call to action. I’m in love.

‘My favourite? Barbour, who are on-hand to provide a much-needed reality check in the form some Grinchy cynicism. I’m blooming sick of it as well, Santa; I, too, am getting too old for this.’

Jonjo Maudsley, Senior Content Editor