Well, the John Lewis Christmas ad was a bit underwhelming this year, wasn’t it?
The animals weren’t quite cute enough to warrant an “aww” factor and an adorable or even amusing cat video on YouTube could probably garner at least half the amount of interest.
It’s more than this though; what was it really trying to achieve? I definitely didn’t feel excited about Christmas after watching it and it wasn’t thought-provoking or funny enough to distract me from that thought.
John Lewis arrived at this advert due to responses over the gloominess of their 2015 “Man on the Moon” advert with the Age UK charity. The “Man on the Moon” ad embodies the spirit of Christmas, including the importance of spreading “good will” to your family and others. It effectively showed how the elderly man would remain alone during Christmas, and even the subsequent days and years after. Despite Christmas being a time for escapism, the ad’s harrowing message did make people stop and think.
Saddening topics might grab the attention of the audience, however, in the spirit of Christmas, it’s essential to turn these sad situations around and show we can help each other. The old man from ”Man on the Moon” ended up receiving the gift of Christmas from a young girl, exemplifying the value of sharing and caring especially in the festive season. However…
Is the time for “timeless” Christmas adverts over?
It’s quite telling that the John Lewis advert was made into a parody of the presidential election (with just under half a million views on YouTube so far). Maybe people would have preferred an advert relevant to current events?
Similarly, Burberry’s “short film” features a striking moment when Thomas Burberry – played by Domhnall Gleeson – painfully stares at troops in the trenches being shot, right as we hear the song lyrics: “hold onto each other, or I fear we won’t recover”.
In a year still reeling in the aftermath of mass-casualty attacks across the globe, increasing resistance against refugees seeking aid, the murder of a UK politician, and widespread concerns of rising prejudice following Brexit and the US election; the relevance of this moment in the Burberry advert is sure to strike a chord with many viewers. It helps us focus on the commonly associated themes of Christmas – valuing moments and relationships in our lives – by issuing the Christmas message to “hold onto each other” in times of fear and hardship.
Amazon has also tapped into the political climate with what appears to be a stance against the growing presence of Islamophobia, racism, and prejudiced rhetoric. The advert shows two seemingly old friends – a Priest and an Imam – having a catch-up in one of their homes before later sending each other knee pads as a gift, to be used for when they kneel to pray.
We’re encouraged to remember the existing humanity in the world and the ad shouldn’t be overlooked. It calls for us to work together by spreading normalisation of all people and relationships – like Amazon is doing in a mainstream space – to combat those who segregate and attack certain groups. The ad emphasises that even though these two men may look different, believe in different religions, and pray to different Gods – in reality, they are the same because we are all human.
Climbing up the ranks in popularity is the Christmas ad by Allegro, a Polish auction website. The amusing, tear-jerking advert features an elderly man learning English and – without spoiling it – at the end of the ad we learn why.
The company that created the advert for Allegro said they knew there would be resonance [in Poland], and that their advert is “about life”. Similar to Amazon, Allegro is presenting an insight into the lives of those who many ostracise or deem “other” – such as foreigners or immigrants. These adverts help to fight dialogues of intolerance.
In essence, these kinds of adverts have captured audiences this year by ignoring the temporality of Christmas and looking more at the bigger picture. They encourage us to use the happiness and inclusivity of the festive period as fuel to move forwards into the New Year, and leave us thinking about our own role in the world today.