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

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own