For years now, the Christmas period begins with the inevitable masses of Christmas adverts on our TV screens. Every year they seem to air slightly earlier and have now become staple traditions of the holiday season. So much pressure means that the criteria to make a ‘good’ advert are longer than ever: but why should we care?
Advert power has shifted over recent years: gone are the days where the Coca Cola truck was the first sign of Christmas. Now, becoming viral is all that matters, which can blur the message that companies are trying to tell. Last year’s John Lewis advert is a good example: an old man watching a young girl through a telescope is not what John Lewis wanted us to take away, but that’s all it was. There was no clear message at all, and I found the same with this year’s advert about the dog and the trampoline. It was sloppy advertising at best with the versatility about a trampoline being the only thing I took away from it; a “get more for your money” campaign is how I saw it – no warmth and no fun.
It may seem trivial to criticise TV adverts: if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, right? But the problem is the wider implications. People feel that they have to buy into the magic of seasonal advertising and it takes attention away from worthwhile messages. The anticipation of Christmas adverts means we accept what is portrayed, rather than questioning the actual values we associate with this time of year. We become bombarded with consumerist pressure rather than warm feelings of Christmas spirit.
Sainsbury’s have consistently shown advertising campaigns with a personal and emotive message. They first stole the Christmas advertising headlines with their 2014 re-enactment of the Christmas Day truce of 1914. It was a simple but powerful message of unity, and they simplified it even further this year with their animated advert about an over-worked father trying to find a perfect gift. Sainsbury’s are consistently highlighting what we want to see this time of year: heart-warming stories that excite us to spend time with our families. This isn’t limited to supermarket adverts either, but it’s always the case that the most successful adverts are the ones that get to our emotions rather than our wallets.
Adverts that have an impact after their two-minute slot is up are the ones that win. This year, Co-Op used their Christmas campaign to spread the powerful message ‘#StopFundingHate’. If you haven’t seen their advert, it is about how companies should not preach unity at Christmas and then advertise in publications that advocate division and hate during the rest of the year. It is well worth a watch. It couldn’t be more relevant after the turmoil of a political year 2016 has been and the many events that have highlighted just how far we have to go until equality and compassion is the norm.
The power of advertising is unparalleled, and at Christmas we are most susceptible to whatever a particular company wants us to believe is desired. Think actively about what Christmas means to you; I think it is important to only give into advertising that reflects this.