On the whole, I think it would be safe to say that the Great British Public find TV ads to be a nuisance.
They are always appearing just as things are about to get interesting, forcing everyone who’s watching to go and make themselves a cup of tea just to calm down after having had their evening so rudely interrupted.
However, in the latter months of the last few years a kind of truce seems to have formed over the no man’s land between the TV watching public and corporate advertisers. The terms? They all agree to try and outdo each other by making high budget, star studded, tear jerking and/or hilarious Christmas ads, and in return we, the Great British Public, agree to care more about their adverts than we do about the programmes which they interrupt for six weeks at the end of every year.
It’s one of the quirkier aspects of the British Yule time, but the Christmas ad has become something of an institution, and the people who make them know it.
Some of the more successful adverts are not only being spoken about well after their holiday season, but some have become so legendary that they still get mentioned years after they were released. These aren’t your bog standard, run of the mill advertisements. These are arguably some of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time, reaching almost propagandistic levels of coverage and effectiveness.
This year has boasted some wonderful (and some not so wonderful) additions to this peculiar genre of cinematic art with high end ads having been launched by old favourites and greener names alike, including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Argos, Lidl, Aldi, and many more. Good though this year’s crop may be, looking back through the years, some of the most memorable Christmas adverts, in my humble opinion, would have to be: Boots’ 2014 ‘because she’s special’ tale of a nurse’s family making sure their hard working loved one still gets the Christmas she deserves, despite having to work Christmas day; Sainsbury’s 2014 ‘Christmas is for sharing’ retelling of the WW1 Christmas truce which took place as the two sides played football together; John Lewis’ contributions from 2011 (The Long Wait), 2013 (The Bear and the Hare) and 2014 (Monty the Penguin) and of course, we cannot forget, the ad where it all began: Coca Cola’s ‘The Holidays are Coming’. That I should be writing about favourite adverts at all is ludicrous enough, but the fact that these are Christmas adverts from six years ago is nothing short of absurd.
To be fair, though, the truly famous ads are not famous without good reason. The production values of these short, cinematic sales pitches are now astonishingly often matching those of feature films, both in the look of the final product and in the actual making of the ads themselves; a fact I can personally attest to, having worked on one of the above productions in some tiny capacity. The scale of the operations are mind blowing; from the sheer number of people involved to the vast quantities of high end, professional equipment, from the jaw dropping sets to meticulously detailed costumes, all for these short stories meant to sell us fancy toiletries at the end of the year.
As insane as it all is, there is something uniquely wonderful about adverts, one of the most annoying aspects of modern life, being used to spread the joy of the holiday season. They are still ruthlessly trying to sell us stuff, of course, but the Christmas spirit of an animated, imaginary penguin finding love takes the edge off of the sales pitch a bit, don’t you think?