The Philosophy of… Christmas adverts

Why does a two to three minute-long advert with a heart-warming story behind it cause so much anticipation and emotion around Christmas? Whether it is John Lewis or Sainsbury’s or Coca-Cola, the UK eagerly wait in anticipation for that weekend in mid-November where these big companies release a special Christmas advert. This year we’ve seen John Lewis retell Elton John’s life story, Sainsbury’s show us a children’s performance of a classic 90s song, and the return of Kevin the Carrot in Aldi’s ad. We now have associated different companies with Christmas; gone are the days where the Coca-Cola ad came on during an X Factor break.

We’ve also seen a shift in the way companies advertise. Who actually sees the advert on live TV now? As students, most of us see Christmas adverts on social media or online. Most advertisers, this year, spent less money on their Christmas TV advertising, but they still spend more than usual. For those of you who saw the Iceland advert this year, it proved that advertisements are no longer restricted to TV. The Iceland ad is a collaboration with Greenpeace but was banned from mainstream broadcasting due to being ‘too politically biased’, as it showed the story of an orangutan’s environment being destroyed due to the production of palm oil. The advert was later released on their social media and caused outrage towards the advertising regulators.

Christmas ads change our view of Christmas. It all started a few years ago, when we saw Sainsbury’s tell the emotional tale of WWI soldiers and John Lewis told the story of the bear and the hare. However, the Christmas ad quickly became a staple of the commercialisation of Christmas. Since then, we’ve seen different takes on what means most at Christmas. The common theme is family and how important it is to have family around at this time of year – even if that family is portrayed on TV as animated characters. This year the Sainsbury’s advert shows us the spirit of children and parents in a school show and the Aldi advert shows us family bonds in the form of animated carrots. The stories change each year and somehow continue to grab the nation’s heart.

But what’s the big hype for? I think because it’s part of the Christmas build-up it’s worth the excitement and buzz, but some see it as an expansion of commercialism in Christmas – with Aldi selling Kevin the Carrot toys and Iceland selling cuddly ‘Rang-tans’. The hype will always remain around Christmas, whether advertising changes or not. Lots of these ads also have positive messages about family and the community sense that Christmas brings. So, whether you’re a huge Scrooge or all Buddy Elf about Christmas, Christmas ads serve a purpose to put us all in the festive spirit while we’re enjoying a good bit of Christmas telly.

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Lauren Baxter

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July 2022
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