LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
15 November 2015
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All warm and fuzzy, all sentimental and homely. Yes it’s those competing
Christmas adverts. I wish I could remember the exact time that family Christmas-
affection turns to family Christmas-acrimony. Is it 11:04am or 3:16pm? I’m
thinking the former. Yes there is a specific time when all that fuzziness vanishes.
We all know the ads are merely a ploy to have people buy products family and
friends don’t need. Not another pricey woodland spice candle….

John Lewis has set the benchmark for ‘ads that touch people’. Surely you’re
repelled already. You should be. Having moved on from stuffed toys to buy -
remember £95 Monty the Penguin? - John Lewis may sell masses of telescopes
to scan the moon for sad/lonely/forgotten pensioners. If you’ve suffered through
this year’s advert…sigh…once is really enough…you know the
cute/sweet/nauseating story line. Forget the tissues - pass the sick bag. Really.

22,500 sentimental-seekers tweeted and retweeted the manipulative ad the first
hour, it was viewed 100,000 times in the first hour, watched 9 million times in five
days. For every £1 that John Lewis spent on its campaign, they reap £5 on
profit. They spent £7million for two-minutes of mawkishness.

Oh yes. The story line. Using her professional telescope little girl, Lily, (surely
we must know her name – makes it all so ‘personal’) spots a really old man-on-
the-moon.

Oh stop. Come now. Who is this old man, why is he on the moon, why is there a
garden shed, why is there a bench, where’s his space suit? Was he an
uncooperative astronaut? Is he a hologram? Having seen the ad possibly dozens
of time by now, you might have more questions.

In their Oxford Street store John Lewis will construct a giant moon for kids to
play in. “Mummy! I don’t want a mug! Why can’t I have a massive moon for
Christmas? I want a new grand-dad.” Perfect. John Lewis may be selling
millions of moon-mugs, but they are making mugs (sorry) out of everyone really.

The ad agency chose an Oasis song by Norwegian Aurora rather than R.E.M.
Oh how cool.
'If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there's nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool.’ This advert certainly isn’t.

No surprise, M&S Christmas ads are fabulous as well as fantastic – and the
seven ads are only 20-30 seconds. Awhile back they hired Rainey Kelly
Campbell Roalfe/Y&R to create their adverts and all their ads are actually a
pleasure to watch. Really. “We are the only UK agency to ever win a BAFTA
and this year we won our second - we are far more proud of our effectiveness
awards from the IPA, Marketing Week and Marketing Society.  In fact, we've
won more effectiveness awards than any other London agency in the last 5
years.”

Let me list a few convincing adjectives: clever, cool, inspiring, fun, sophisticated,
modern, visually exciting. For Christmas they used a remix of Mark Ronson’s
Uptown Funk. Of course they did. Surely you are convinced by now.

M&S based their ads around ‘The Art of Christmas’. OK. I’m not saying the ads
are ‘art’ – but damn close compared to John Lewis. Credit should go to Joseph
Bennett responsible for the sell-out Alexander McQueen retrospective at the V&A.

Not just M&S jumping with joy - Burberry does homage to
Billy Elliot with the
joyful jumping celebs - Romeo Beckham not quite a celeb yet, right? –
recreating the opening scene from the 15 year old film. Viewed more than 20
million times and counting. Really. Philippe Halsman did it so brilliantly with his
JUMP book, 1959. Really!

£500,000 will be split and donated to the town where the dancing film was filmed.
That’s good. A red carpet premier was rolled out, as you do when you’re selling
‘iconic’ plaid scarves. That’s possibly not so good. £1000 teddy bears. Not good.

Sainsbury does sentimentality with a clever twist of a cat’s tail; Mog’s Christmas
Calamity. Children’s author Judith Kerr has brought back
Mog The Forgetful Cat.

I tried not to smile, I tried not to like it, I tried not to think Mog was cute, I tried
not to think about my favourite calamity, but I couldn’t help myself. Well, up to
the point when it went all soppy. But falling (sorry, really) for the classic domino-
effect admittedly I couldn’t help myself. The 95 year old author tells the little girl
that “Mog deserves a medal.”

Sainsbury’s will sell the book in stores for £3 and a Mog soft toy will be available
for £10 with – pay attention here - all profits from both going toward Save the
Children’s work to improve child literacy in the UK. Surely you’d rather have a
£10 Mog than a £95 Monty, OK, so last year.

Very.co.uk does cute as well clever. Blimey. I now surely have surrendered to
Christmas-brain-drain; I love the Anchor spreadable advert. I clearly am in need
of help. A Christmas advert intervention perhaps? Oh god. I’m still smiling.

I’ve been lucky not to have seen all the ads made especially for you, but
apparently this year it’s the ‘perfect-present-reaction’ theme that is we want to
see. Do we?

Lidl, Curry’s, even Harvey Nichols (who use the same agency as John Lewis
which should be noted) think so. If you’ve missed any of these, no worries, there
are multiple videos to view. One is not enough?

Curry’s employs wise and knowing American actor Jeff Goldblum (what am I
missing here?), Lidl focuses on good-face/bad-present and Harvey Nichols’
Avoid #Giftface wants to “bring a smile to [our customers’] faces”. Not smiling.
Are these similar ads made to prevent mayhem? You know that when you open
an uninspired present, you use all your willpower not to shriek: “You know I hate
pink! You know I hate pink socks!” before you smash the box on their head.
“Are you an idiot? Do you know me at all?” Hmmm. “Is this a bloody re-gift?”
Hmmm. What was that time when happy-family-Christmas collapses?

Last week Channel 4’s Dispatches revealed the truly evil ways of Aldi, so best be
warned; your Christmas carrots/brussels sprouts/potatoes/pudding/etc may not
be One of My Favourite Things (accompanying song to their Christmas advert
don’t you know) and may in fact be weeks old, often featuring mould as
additional enticement. Aldi doesn’t print ‘use by dates’ on their packaging. Bad
enough? Their employees must ‘donate’ 15 minutes of free time every day
before they begin work. I’m thinking boycott, although I have never been to or
even seen an Aldi, so I’m safe.

So will you be curled up on your sofa mesmerised by all the adverts you’ve
taped to keep you in that fuzzy Christmas mood and  all the endless blatant
product placement to inspire you to buy, buy, buy…to go into debt, debt, debt?

Lest we forget: Nous sommes unis.
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