The festive battle to tug at the nation’s heartstrings – and loosen shoppers’ purse-strings – has begun after Britain’s biggest retailers unveiled rival blockbuster television advertising campaigns designed to induce a collective “aaah”.
The feel-good films, with their formula of celebrity gift-givers, children discovering the true meaning of Christmas and a haunting soundtrack, have become so keenly anticipated that this year John Lewis launched its £6 million offering with its own Hollywood-style “teaser” trailer.
Last year John Lewis chose The Smiths’ Please, please, please let me get what I want, as the soundtrack to heart-warming film which dramatised a little boy’s determination to give his parents the perfect Christmas present.
Following a series of 10-second “teasers”, broadcast without any John Lewis branding, the sequel, a 90-second epic called The Journey, will be premiered at 9.10pm on Channel 4 this Friday.
Another 80s classic, The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, has been chosen to soundtrack the story of a snowman who travels on a “magical journey” in order to return with the perfect gift on Christmas morning.
The hit song will be reinterpreted by Gabrielle Aplin, a 20 year-old singer who has amassed 12 million YouTube views for her own self-released songs. John Lewis stores are stocking up with CD copies of Aplin’s song, which will be released on Friday.
Marks & Spencer responded with a Christmas campaign which features a four-year-old boy with Down's Syndrome, in stark contrast to last year’s offering which featured the stars of The X Factor.
Seb White was chosen after his mother Caroline asked M&S in a Facebook post to consider using her son in advertising because youngsters with Down’s Syndrome were not represented in modelling campaigns.
The advert, premiered during Wednesday night’s Coronation Street, is designed to promote the brand’s kidswear, and features “cosy knitwear” and “stylish party outfits” in a series of five product scenes.
The campaign, called “The greatest hits this Christmas”, will be sound-tracked by a Rod Stewart cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and features a final scene where children dance to Kool & the Gang’s Celebration track while wearing M&S knitwear. The campaign is central to M&S’ attempts to reverse a 9.6 per cent fall in profits, reported for the first half of 2012.
Debenhams, which has shied away from a Christmas campaign for the past six years, announced its return with a “multi-million pound” advert, designed to capitalise on a 4.2 per cent increase in full-year profits.
The advert, launched at the end of Wednesday’s Coronation Street, follows a woman’s Christmas journey home as she shares in moments such as a little girl dancing with her grandfather and a man haplessly wrapping his gifts for his girlfriend on the train.
The heroine passes by the toiling workshops of Debenhams designers Henry Holland, Julien Macdonald and Jenny Packham on her eventful journey. Billie Piper voices the catchline “Wherever you are this Christmas, make it fabulous with Debenhams”.
Debenhams hopes that the real star of the campaign is the £150 red belted Jonathan Saunders/ Edition fit and flare coat worn by the lead actress. Stores have ordered extra supplies to mark the first airing of the campaign.
Last year’s John Lewis campaign helped make a star of Slow Moving Millie, the singer who covered the Smiths song. Aplin, who set up her own record label aged 17 to release her Joni Mitchell-influenced songs, can expect a similar boost. She said: “I’ve always been such a fan of the John Lewis Christmas ad and it’s great to be a part of it, especially with a great song that fits the visual perfectly.”