You sit on a throne of lies!

Featured image: Buddy the Elf, not impressed with Department Store Santa.

What’s that you say? It’s been just over a month since my last entry? I said I’d do this weekly? Wait… what? You’re not saying that at all? You’re not really that bothered? Well okay then… I am, though. This was supposed to be a creative outlet. Time just worked against me. I am, of course, hugely sorry and will do my best to rectify the situation and write more often in future. I’ve said that before but this time I doubly mean it. Honest.

Aaaaaaanyway… let’s get on with today’s entry… which is all about something which is very much going to occupy my time over the next few weeks – Christmas ads. I’ll be doing the radio ones (I heard a ‘Black Friday’ one I voiced on Newstalk this morning… and while I didn’t make any extra cash for it, that was kinda nice) – but these are the TV ones that caught my eye from a creative point of view.

First up… one that’s hitting Irish TV screens from today – and it’s a NEW one… for Dunnes Stores. They had run the same advert for the past 4 years or so – the one where dad returns home on the bus, amid a snowy scene, noticing – as he does – all the Christmassy things going on around him… the ladies getting ready for a night out, the dog patiently waiting while dinner is prepared, people playing happily in the snow… and so on – and on his return, he gives the gift of a book to his daughter – a book which had been gifted to him by his own dear old dad.

Now they’ve finally come out with a new creative ad – called “Shine Bright”, it’s one in which a group of kids, concerned at news reports saying that the weather may result in Mr. Claus finding it difficult to find his way this Christmas, go on a quest to light Ireland up and provide him with a beacon so impressive that it bewilders an approaching jet plane. While it uses the same “Make Christmas” slogan and graphic as the previous campaign (why fix what ain’t broken), it’s clever, it’s cute, it’s colourful, it’s very well made – and, thankfully – it’s fresh! Here’s hoping that Dunnes keep that up now, keep bringing out new creatives, and don’t let it run for the next 3-4 years just to get their money’s worth.

On to the others… ALDI quite cleverly announced the return of their popular ‘Kevin the Carrot’ character from previous years with a nod to the Coca-Cola truck adverts – in this teaser ad, which began a story thread, but left poor Kevin in a literal cliff-hanger:

… I did think it was odd, however, that the next ad to air featuring Kevin didn’t follow up on this story thread at all and just went off on a tangent, telling the story of Kevin and his family taking on ‘The Wicked Parsnip’. Still a very nicely done ad… but what happened after the cliff-hanger??? Did Coca-Cola turn up in their Santa truck and give him a tow? Lads???

The other German budget brand’s ads have (once again) been completely uninspired this year… and there isn’t much creatively going on with the other Irish multiples, so let’s head to the UK – and the most famous of their supermarket/department store ad campaigns these days is also the most highly anticipated – as Christmas ads have become almost as looked-forward-to as many blockbuster movies.

I’m talking here, of course, about the John Lewis ad… who have followed up their past classics (Man on the Moon and Buster the Trampolining Boxer come to mind), by linking up with one of Britain’s best known and best-loved musical stars for this sweet advert – which goes backwards through his career to the (fictional?) moment of inspiration when he got a piano for Christmas – no doubt giving great marketing for both his upcoming bio-pic and the fact that John Lewis are now selling pianos for the first time in 70-odd years.

Some have complained (thousands, if you’ll believe those newspaper web site articles that quote tweets) that it’s not very ‘Christmassy’… but in fairness, I can’t see how it could be MORE Christmassy, bar the inclusion of all the stereotypical corny Christmassy elements… extra holly, snow, trees, twinkly lights, etc. – it’s about how a simple gift you give could influence them and seriously improve and impact on someone’s life… if that’s not Christmassy, I don’t know what is!

The ad also prompted a couple of smart-ass replied from competitors, including the aforementioned German brand having a cheeky pop at the cost of said pianos…

… and Waitrose, who seem to suggest we should just fast-forward through it and get to the grub:

In my humble opinion, it shows a proper lack of creativity (and a resignation to the idea that everyone will have seen and enjoyed your competitors ad, and that it’s bound to be better than yours) if your campaign includes a dig at someone else’s creative ideas. You’re better off putting your time and effort (or – more likely – paying a good agency to put in the time and effort) into coming up with something clever and imagination-capturing yourself.

These are, of course, all adverts at the end of the day… while they might be cute, creative and clever – they’re smartly trying their best to separate you from your money… and at the busiest and most commercial time of the year, so you may be forgiven for being somewhat cynical about it all… or you could just get on with it and enjoy them for what they are – engrained in popular culture and now straddling the individual worlds of marketing and entertainment in order to more effectively… separate you from your money… 🙂

From my own point of view (making radio ads), I’ve got a few weeks of ‘never to be repeated’ sales, Black Friday ‘madness’ (don’t get me started!), Christmas party nights, Santa impressions etc. before it all drops off around mid-December (if your ad isn’t booked in and made by then, forget it!). Fun times!

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