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

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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.

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