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Tim Walker: Let's hear it for the Christmas No 1 ad

Tales From The Water Cooler: Christmas has always been commodified, be it by Coca-Cola, Cliff Richard or Simon Cowell

I've never been too interested in the contest for the Christmas No 1, but now that the top of the Yuletide chart is invariably occupied by an X Factor single (or by its even more tedious counterpoint, the anti-X Factor single), isn't there something a bit sad about what we've replaced it with? By which I mean: the contest for the most popular Christmas ad.

As it happens, even this year's Christmas ads are colonised by X Factor contestants: the M&S one stars the 2011 finalists, while the Iceland one stars Stacey Solomon, a former runner-up.

But the outright winner, the viral chart's Christmas No 1, is the John Lewis mini-movie that everyone is blubbing over, starring the child who (utterly implausibly) prefers giving to receiving. The plan, I suppose, is to persuade us to spend loads on new cutlery sets for our parents.

Of course, it's not a "viral" in the true sense of the word. It arrived online accompanied by a marketing fanfare. The PR experts ensured its emotional power was reported in every paper, and I've already been asked if I'd like to write a story about the singer of the Smiths cover that is its soundtrack – and which will probably rival the X Factor single for Christmas No 1.

Incidentally, many so-called virals are now driven up the YouTube charts not by human viewers, but by banks of automated computers in China, which click a link over and over to give the illusion of popularity.

Then again, Christmas has always been commodified, be it by Coca-Cola, Cliff Richard or Simon Cowell. And at least while we're complaining about the evils of consumerism, we can comfort ourselves with some shiny new spoons.