The Christmas advert: here to stay

It's time to stop hating on the lighthearted stories told by John Lewis and others

by Rebecca Astill

Forget the premature stocking of Christmas products in supermarkets and the Christmas light turn-ons. Everyone knows the most hotly anticipated event and the true mark of the beginning of the Christmas period each year is the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert. 

In typical fashion, this year’s Christmas advert centres around animals and children in a transparent, yet successful attempt to tug at the heartstrings of people across the nation. ‘Excitable Edgar’ the dragon, who keeps accidentally ruining the snow and Christmas decorations with his fire, joins the long list of lovable animated characters to have stolen the hearts of John Lewis’ audience throughout the years.

“People at Christmas want to be engaged in stories”

Sadly, every year, without fail, the stories are overshadowed by cynics who sit on their pedestals and rant about the commercialisation of Christmas and the capitalist underbellies of the seemingly innocent adverts. It is true that the base purpose of Christmas adverts is to encourage consumerism. According to the Guardian, advertisers will spend a record £5.6 billion on Christmas adverts this year. Craig Inglis, Customer Director at John Lewis & Partners and Chairman of the Marketing Society has even said: “We make just over £8 [profit] for every pound we spend so the Christmas ad campaigns are hugely profitable.” With statistics like this, it may be hard to ignore the capitalist intentions. However, he went on to say that “People at Christmas want to be engaged in stories.”

The Christmas adverts rarely directly advertise their own products. Instead, they leave you with a warm, tingly feeling and anticipation for the festive season, even seven weeks before Christmas when the adverts first premiere. My highlight from last year’s Christmas adverts was the Sainsbury’s nativity scene, in which one child was dressed as a plug, and had to run and jump into a wall in order to switch all of the Christmas lights on. It didn’t make me want to immediately get up and go and buy everything festive which Sainsburys had to offer, but it did make me chuckle and feel warm inside each time I watched it.

“Adverts run all year round with minimal criticism”

So why is it so hard to ignore the cynics inside of us and simply accept the Christmas adverts for what they should be – a bit of fun? This year’s John Lewis advert teaches us that there is a place for everyone in the world, even ‘Excitable Edgar’ who melts snowmen and burns down Christmas trees; his job is to light the Christmas pudding with his fire, a job which I’m sure everyone can agree provides a challenge each year! 

In danger of sounding terribly cliché, Christmas is a time of giving and happiness, not for nit-picking and over-analysing. Adverts run all year round with minimal criticism, so Christmas adverts, which are the only actually interesting adverts, should be treated the same. As soon as the John Lewis advert came out it was the main topic of conversation – in my family group chat, with my housemates, and I even heard people talking about it in my lectures. The reason for this is simply that people enjoyed it and wanted to share the happiness it made them feel with others. So this Christmas, let’s put our festive pessimism aside and embrace the magic which comes from stories and giving.

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