Another year, another advert

With the arrival of the much awaited Christmas advert season, along comes the familiar slew of criticism too.  We all know that the Christmas adverts’ genius has a bottom line: profit. Yet, just because they are being created to sell a brand, is it right to suggest these adverts are not art?

I’d argue no. Maybe this stems from my own broad approach to the definition of art, or maybe it’s because I love this time of year and all of the over-dramatic, tacky media that comes with it. I’d even argue that Love Actually is a piece of artistic genius -(seriously, think about it!). Early Christmas adverts do have strong traits of the ‘tastelessness’ that the art world often attaches to anything new and popular among the general public, but as time goes on and the Christmas advert genre becomes more refined, this criticism must simply fade away.

The main issue many find with Christmas adverts as an art form is the conflict of interest caused by their main aim being to sell Tesco, or Amazon, or whichever company it may be. However, it’s worth considering that these adverts are moving away from even selling the shop itself. Take this year’s Sainsbury’s ‘The Greatest Gift’ advert. With a soundtrack by James Cordon, a stressed father is shown rushing around, struggling to accomplish all of the different tasks required of him in the holiday season. The advert finishes with the message ‘the greatest gift that I can give is me’, without a Sainsbury’s bag in sight. This can be viewed more as a short film than an advert, and although the message may be oversimplified and, to some, sickly sweet, the animation, music and skill in execution deserve proper appreciation.

In the age of the internet, the artistic content we know and love is becoming more and more condensed as our attention spans do. You can fight against Christmas ads as a form of entertainment as a symptomatic of this change, or you can accept them in all their glittery christmas glory.

For me, the clincher is the message they portray. My favourite this year is Amazon advert, in which an Imam and a Priest are shown to be friends, and each purchases knee pads for the other in order to be comfortable while praying. 2016 has been a dark year for tolerance and understanding, yet this understated advert allows a glimmer of hope that in normal everyday life, acceptance still reigns. And what better place to look for hope than in art?

Christmas adverts may be cheesy and created by by brands, but they have merit; they’re moving away from shifting products, and towards important message about what it means to be human, which is what art means to me. It is a new, ever evolving, unsubtle, for-the-masses kind of art.

But art nonetheless.


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March 2021
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