As dreary November reaches its bitter end, the Christmas advertisement juggernaut strikes the general populace without warning. Can one really consider the festive season to be in full swing without spotting that plucky child run out onto the road after the red Coca-Cola truck as the manic chorus of “Holidays Are Coming” crescendos? For one month, John Lewis is not just an individual unlucky enough to possess two first names. Forget the familial customs, the inevitable weight gain, the overwhelmingly spirit of good will; don’t even mention the irritating Spotify advertisements of their Christmas playlists, or wishing random acquaintances you bump into at the beginning of Advent a happy Christmas.
The true magic of Christmas lies within our television screens as minute long adverts, which we bemoan for the other eleven months of the year. Yet, in December, they capture our hearts and often our tear ducts. It is truly ironic that the most popular advertisements for the cheeriest period of the year are often those that cause our eyes to well up. Here in Trinity News, we grew curious: which adverts are impossible to forget? Which special creations rest comfortably on the greatest hits list?
Things that only 90s kids can remember, due to the amount of lists and articles online, are apparently vast and epic. However, forget Saturday morning cartoons, Beanie Babies and Game Boys. The Kelloggs Christmas advert, which was first broadcast in 1990, played a vital role in advertising at this time. How can one forget that beaming blonde child sharing some cornflakes with the man himself, Santa Claus? This advert never truly lost its magic as we all pitied the clueless siblings who fell asleep. Lame. However, what few people know is that the angelic star was actually played by twins, Alexandra and Holly Stapley. In 2013, the internet erupted in shock as articles, exclaiming “See what the blonde Cornflakes child looks like now!” were published. Photographs were also released, portraying Holly getting married. Oh, how old we all felt! This classic advert remains a firm favourite as it captures the child-like excitement and glee we all shared in imaging an encounter with Santa Claus as he paid a visit to our homes.
Another classic is the Budweiser Christmas advertisement, which dates back to 1987. There’s even a Facebook page entitled “It’s Not Christmas Until the Budweiser Ad Is On TV.” At present, the page only has 364 likes (365 after I stumbled upon it) but such appreciation for the Christmas advertising spectacle cannot go ignored. The advert truly is a voyage into a white Christmas as the huge Clydesdale horses appear onscreen, trotting along in unison through the snow. The carriage they pull with ease is stacked high with Christmas trees. That catchy tune that worms itself into your brain also cements its status as an honest to goodness staple in the Christmas advertisement charts. They don’t make them like they used to, some might say. The Budweiser Clydesdales are quite the exclusive group that continues on to this day. The ever-changing group of horses that make appearances all over the US every year must fit certain criteria in order to be chosen for such a honour and according to the Budweiser website, it does not hurt the world famous horses when new shoes are being put on their hooves as “it is much like a person getting a manicure.”
Forget American capitalism filling our screens. One of the most adored Christmas adverts which broadcasts to the population year after year is the Guinness “Dreaming of a White One.” This year it reaches a ten year milestone. The concept is eerily simple – a one minute montage of easily recognisable Irish sights, from the Custom House to the Claddagh to an unidentified typically Irish suburban street and finally the walls of the Guinness factory, all adjourned with a sprinkling of snow as the clock strikes midnight on December 25. Perhaps the reason for its popularity is its simplicity and slow emotional music that makes you yearn for the warm glow of an open fire and a selection box (or three). The creators of the advertisement were apparently inspired by the final pages of James Joyce’s The Dead.
We cannot proceed much further without mentioning the success of John Lewis’ many and varied Christmas adverts that all share the ability to garner millions of views online and cause people to admit to weeping. These adverts are sprinkled with such a festive magic that they are warmly received by the public annually. The products and music featured gain instant popularity, and John Lewis know how to capitalise on the exposure their adverts bring. Independent publisher Nosy Crow has published three picture books, each based on characters from different Christmas adverts of the department store. Some proceeds from the book’s sales went to children’s charities. This charitable theme continued in 2013 when one could not enter a single store without hearing the strains of Lily Allen’s cover of “Somewhere Only We Know.” The song reached number 1 in the UK Charts, and portion of its earnings were donated to Save the Children’s Philippine Typhoon Appeal. This year, a man residing alone on the moon is a result of a collaboration with Age UK. It cost over £7 million to produce, and the telescope used by the little girl to spy the man on the moon sold out in minutes on the John Lewis website.
We all know John Lewis know how to pull on the heartstrings, but this year the title for the most heart wrenching Christmas advert must be bestowed on a German advert. Promoting the supermarket chain Edeka, the story focuses on an old man facing Christmas alone. It’s a recurring theme in this year’s crop, and it’s not hard to see why – the theme can affect viewers as they reflect on the lives of their own parents or grandparents. This elderly German man has no option but to take drastic measures to reunite his family for a festive celebration and so – spoiler alert – he fakes his own death. But not to worry. The family lands into what they believe is a dead man’s home, but instead appears a large spread from Edeka (naturally) with the elderly jester alive and well. A celebration begins for the elderly man’s unbelievable continued state of living and also, no doubt for the delicious food from Edeka. It is almost impossible to watch this advertisement without feeling the tears well up in your eyes.
Every year, the struggle to achieve the elusive title of the undisputed champion of the Christmas advert crop becomes more and more difficult. Many are doomed for a short burst of national acclaim before disappearing into the archives, never to be wept at again. The classics, that we still YouTube fondly to this day, will never lose the beloved status among their audience. This is mainly due to the fact that in their prime, the target audience of such simple masterpieces could be reached through traditional forms of media: the radio, the television and a still image plastered across a billboard. Today, social media presents a challenge to marketing masterminds as they strive to find a message that will cross many varying platforms, stop people from refreshing their newsfeeds, cause them to pay attention and eventually pass it on to others. This mammoth task would appear to be more challenging than trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve.