Battle of the Christmas ads – 2023 edition

5 minute read

Luka Stephenson

Our very own SERP-tickler and self-styled ‘pop culture aficionado’ Luka, gives her commentary on this year’s best and worst Christmas Ads for 2023.

As a child of the 90’s I LOVE a good TV ad. So it will be no surprise to you that the yearly onslaught of Christmas ads is quite an event for me (I know, I need to get out more). It’s become a yearly tradition in my household to consume and discuss all of the trending Christmas ads. So here’s my round-up of this year’s festive offering;

Score: Two and a Half Gold Rings – average performance

John Lewis – Snapper: The perfect tree by Saatchi & Saatchi

This year it was newly appointed Saatchi & Saatchi’s turn to take a stab at getting everyone in the Christmas feels with the wildly popular John Lewis Christmas ad and after Adam & Eve’s (mostly) spectacular run, they had some big shoe’s to fill… If anyone’s asking, my favourite was ‘the man on the moon’ circa 2015 *SOB*.

In an interesting turn, it seemed like Mother London (M&S Clothes and Home) and Saatchi & Saatchi were given a very similar brief this year as their 2023 messages of breaking old traditions and creating new ones bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. I do love the idea of creating new traditions – but the message just feels a little substance less. What I will say is that this ad has a great score and demonstrates all of the poise and prestige that we have come to expect from arguably the most anticipated UK ad of every year, but alas, it lacks emotional depth. Bah Humbug.

M&S Clothes & Home – Love Thismas, not Thatmas by Mother London

Is it just me or does this years M&S ad feel a little tokenistic and a lot twee?  Yes, we all love Hannah Waddingham, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Tan Francis but there’s a real irony in the messaging of this very glossy and extremely polished-to-within-an-inch-of-it’s-life Christmas ad that’s suggesting we throw out the rulebook and make our own Christmas traditions. Like a badly cooked sprout, it’s left an unpleasant taste in my mouth… and let’s not mention the controversy surrounding the first version…

Score: Curve (Snow)Ball – the wildcard

Charlies Bar Christmas Advert by Staff Members with an iPhone!

Previous Christmases have seen a junior videographer releasing a fake John Lewis ad that went viral (more than once) and Phill Beastall’s ‘Love is a gift’ in 2014 – if you know you know. Well, get ready to meet the Grinch who stole Christmas, because this year I’m not buying what they’re selling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of low-budget creativity (if well executed), but this one just fell a bit flat for me.

Northern Ireland based Pub Charlie’s Bar have released their 2023 Christmas ad and (somehow?!) it’s gone viral. It depicts an old chap who is seemingly lonely, walking to the pub, when he comes upon a friendly young couple and their cute dog, who essentially emotionally blackmails its owners into going in and sitting with the lonely old man in the pub. Do we really need another ad to remind us to reach out to the elderly at Christmas time? There have been worse sentiments, but I just don’t know if we do. A social media user dubbed it ‘better than the John Lewis Christmas Ad’. Erm, no.

Score: Festive Turkey – the loser

Amazon – Joy ride by Hungry Man

This years Amazon offering really left me in the cold. I mean, what about Jeff Bezo’s independent business-gobbling monstrosity of a mega shop says ‘we care about the elderly re-living cherished childhood memories?’I enjoy sentimentality at Christmas, in fact, I’d say the cold weather adds a certain romance to it, but this felt contrived and a bit flat.

Score: Rebel without a Claus – the runner up

Boots – Give Joy by The Pharm VMLY&R

Boots came out swinging this year with their ‘Give Joy’ ad created by hybrid agency power-house VMLY&R. It’s the small things that make this ad memorable for me, like the smiles on the faces of unwitting gift receivers who (amazingly!) actually look like real human beings with pores and wrinkles and everything! Also, a super smart way to display a range of relevant products to encourage us to buy presents purposefully – things that people need, want and most importantly, will enjoy. Bravo Boots, Bravo.

Argos – This Christmas there’s more to Argos by The & Partnership

First things first – great music choice. It’s a scientific fact that everything Nile Rodgers touches turns to Christmas, so well played on this one The & Partnership. Secondly, I like the way they showcase a range of different products during this musical montage and third, it feels culturally relevant. Entertaining and a solid effort but by no means the winner and feels a little forgettable.

Score: Sleigh All Day – the winners

TK Maxx – Festive Farm by Wieden and Kennedy London

Consumerism at its finest! One thing I truly love about all of the TK Maxx ads is their clear brand messaging and how they use their signature style of using overt colour and bold imagery with an unapologetic consumer grabbing agenda. Let’s be real – Christmas ads are consumerism 101 and we don’t need to shoe-horn in a celebrity or an elderly person in order to illicit an emotion. Wieden and Kennedy have absolutely nailed it this year with their fun and punchy entry – great soundtrack too.

Tesco – Become More Christmas by BBH

Even though I put two ads in the winning category, I must say that this was my ultimate Christmas ad of 2023. BBH absolutely pulled it out the bag with their trippy almost Black-Mirroresque take on ‘getting into the Christmas spirit’. By combining a mix of both untouched shots with the surreal visuals and possibly the most catchy song ever to exist, they have managed to create a weird and utterly wonderful Christmas ad. The ad is also multi-layered with some subtle nods to feeling as a teen like you may have ‘out-grown’ Christmas (don’t be silly!) and also that classic pre-Chrimbo anticipation that makes everyone’s brains switch off a week before our actual Christmas break begins.

Some welcome tropes, good product exposure, great music choice, creative video editing and original concept. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

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