Christmas is coming – and so is the battle of the adverts

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As retailers bring out their festive offerings, Hugh Montgomery reviews this year's crop

The goose is getting fat; EastEnders is getting good and Starbucks' Christmas cups are painting the towns red. But really, as any good 21st-century consumer knows, the true advent of the festive season comes with the onslaught of Christmas TV adverts. Last week, the big retailers began unwrapping their seasonal behests to buy stuff in earnest. Then on Friday came the greatest gift of all: John Lewis's latest snowman-themed opus "The Journey", prefaced by teaser trailers and filmed in New Zealand. Judging by John Lewis adverts of Christmas past, it can expect to divide the nation: while many hearts will surely be stirred by its frostbitten warmth, Scrooge-like cynics will find its sentimentality as gloopy as congealed eggnog.

But what can we deduce from some of the other offerings? That, in a year of "real" Olympic heroes, celebrities appear to have lost their marketing lustre, with M&S and Morrisons cutting out those starry brand ambassadors; even Iceland, that frozen-food adjunct of OK! magazine, has gone cold turkey in its yet to be unveiled offering, reportedly choosing to end its partnership with X Factor Dagenham darling Stacey Solomon to concentrate on showcasing its redoubtable finger-food repertoire. Waitrose, on the other hand, has retained its celebrity figureheads Heston and Delia but virtuously squeezed them into an austerity-times narrative: just a pair of national food treasures, standing in an empty warehouse, asking you to help make a difference to C H A R I D E E.

Not that focusing on civilians is without its pitfalls: misguided Asda's retrograde attempt to appeal to ordinary mums has already resulted in an avalanche of complaints for its apparent sexism. And who knows what other delightful calls-to-gifting action will yet fall down the televisual chimney? Simple and super-sugary tastes as we have, we can't wait for the Coca-Cola "Holidays Are Coming" perennial. But here, in the meantime, is an expert artistic analysis of the big contenders in this year's commercial-ised Christmas thus far.

Waitrose

Heston and Delia declare that Waitrose will be giving the money they could have spent on a "fancy TV advert" to good causes. Just don't tell their fancily adverted parent company John Lewis.

Matalan

Fluttering piano soundtracks a family's abnormally serene Christmas day, as a voiceover informs us that Matalan believes "every family right across the country deserves the happiest Christmas possible".

Tesco

Merely the first phase of its Christmas ad campaign, this short piece uses Lionel Richie's "Hello" to promote its Clubcard voucher exchange. As sexy as it sounds.

Marks & Spencer

With "the Greatest Hits" as a strapline, a jolly musical medley of people posing and dancing to INXS and Kool and the Gang, among others.

John Lewis

A snowman travels to the big city to buy a scarf, hat and gloves for his snowwoman amour. Naturally includes a winsome cover version: newbie Gabrielle Aplin singing Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "The Power of Love".

Debenhams

A beautiful woman in a red coat heads home to a picturesque English village for Christmas, gaze fixed to "wondrous" and passing assorted fashion designers on the way.

Asda

An Asda mum sorts out the whole of Christmas for her work-shy family. She is finally rewarded with a seat at the Christmas table – on a pouffe.

Littlewoods

M&S defector Myleene Klass oversees a child army of Santa's helpers and wraps presents at the touch of a finger – that's the "Littlewoods touch", naturally.

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