‘Tis the season: Battle of the Christmas adverts


It has begun.

It’s just over five weeks until the most wonderful time of the year, and Britain’s biggest retailers have fired the starting pistol of over-spending, over-eating and general over-indulgence that can only be enjoyed during that most festive of times.


It’s difficult to remember exactly when it all started, but I’m pretty sure that the annual battle of the Christmas ads began some 10 years ago, when John Lewis broadcast something that would warm all our cockles and, inevitably, inch us one step closer to buying the latest iPad.

Since that time, the nation has waited with bated breath every November for each retail giant to unveil its annual ode to the baby Jesus/gift-giving.

The mass hysteria and excitement generated by this annual battle of the marketing budgets reached a crescendo this week, when John Lewis released its Christmas creation to a somewhat iffy response.

In case you missed all the fun, here’s the low down on some of this year’s entries from the UK’s biggest retail brands, my personal ratings – and some consumer responses from around the interwebz for our amusement…


Boots – ‘Gifts That Get Them’

Sob-worthiness – 2/10

Re-working the lyrics of Robbie Williams ‘She’s the One’ to ‘She’s Me Mum’ is enough of a reason for me to vehemently dislike this one.

Mainly because it’s a terrible song.


Us too, Claire. Us too.



adam 2 - annabel
Adam has a point, Annabel…



John Lewis – ‘The Boy and the Piano’

 Sob-worthiness – 4/10

…or ‘What happens when you use a multi-millionaire as the face of Christmas.’

The simplest Christmas gift can change a child’s life, unlock a door to their dreams, transform their souls, and ultimately deliver them to their true destiny.

If you have the talents of Elton John.

You could say it was brave of John Lewis to step away from their usual cuteness – but when the man at the centre of your heart-warming Christmas message has a biopic and a farewell tour coming up in the New Year, it all smells a bit like self-promotion.

I found the ad sweet in its own way, although the Great British cynic in me did cringe a bit at the inclusion of Elton’s mum in the story, given that they had a less than perfect relationship.

The internet was not kind…


Well played, Eric.







Sainsbury’s – ‘The Big Night’

Sob-worthiness – 6/10

A school performance has never looked so spangly as in this ad, where a little girl battles her nerves to deliver a magnificent rendition of You Get What You Give by the New Radicals, surrounded by kids dressed as baubles, Christmas lights, and even a plug (which has now become the meme of the season). 

It’s adorable and uplifting, to the point where you almost forget it’s Sainsbury’s talking to you – and it’s had wall to wall praise on social media (how often can we say that?).







Marks & Spencer – ‘Must-haves that make Christmas’ (Clothing and home ad)

Sob-worthiness: 1/10

Unlike most of its competitors, this M&S outing (one of two, the other being for its food offering) doesn’t sugar coat the real meaning behind Christmas – stuff.

Focusing on all the ‘must-haves’ we need for a good Christmas including underwear and shoes (top of my Christmas list, obviously), it’s a neat little package that brings to life the true consumerism of the season.

God bless us, everyone!


Keep dreaming, Dean.


Sam just got deep.



Iceland – ‘Say hello to Rang-tan’

Sob-worthiness – 8/10

Tapping into consumer interest in saving the earth – a worthy cause – Iceland surprised everyone when it partnered with Greenpeace to release an ad all about the effects of the palm oil industry on natural habitats, which features an adorable ‘rang-tan hanging out in a little girls bedroom.

Upsettingly it’s been banned because we’re not allowed to have nice things, and apparently drawing attention to the impact of human behaviour on wildlife is frowned upon on the telly box. Thankfully, human beings are resourceful as well as hideously destructive, so the video has still had over four million views on YouTube, and garnered support from dozens of celebrities who have stepped up to spread its message (not that that’s necessarily an indicator of quality every time).

The cynic/PR manager in me says that ultimately, their aim is still to sell things, but you have to hand it to Iceland for reading the room.


Merry Christmas, Ross!


Which of this year’s ads made you want to run up an enormous credit card bill?



Image credits: 

Header image: Iceland; John Lewis; Sainsbury’s.

Author: Alyssa

PR professional. Comedy enthusiast and cat lady.

5 thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s