Yes, it's another piece on the John Lewis Christmas advert — but this one is the inside story

For advertisers in the UK, the Christmas period may as well be the Superbowl

Click to follow
The Independent Online

On the bus to work this morning I had a call from Tesco saying their Christmas advert was ready and they wanted me to write about it.

But I couldn’t inform The Independent’s readers about the commercial just now because the supermarket giant wants all its publicity to come out on Sunday and not before. In this manner, Tesco attempts to marshal news journalists so that they leap into action when orders are barked and become obedient auxiliaries in the ludicrous annual battle that is the Christmas ad season.

John Lewis, which through its PR teams has been doing the rounds of newsrooms for days with laptops primed to show its seasonal creative under a strict embargo, has already done its big reveal.

The “partnership” has for several years now held the crown as king of Christmas advertising thanks to its agency Adam&Eve/DDB, which has made a succession of popular campaigns including last year’s The Bear & The Hare cartoon and 2012’s tale of a snowman couple exchanging scarves.

The latest creation is another unlikely animal tale, starring a penguin called Monty, shown to the soundtrack of an established hit, once again sung by a younger artist (Tom Odell compared to last year’s Lily Allen). Audiences are thus encouraged to watch schmaltzy stories of penguins and hares as they look forward to banqueting on turkeys and rabbits, and other animals besides.

The media's reaction has been another embarrassing circus which will do nothing to persuade the discerning public that the media in not in thrall to big business. These are giant retailers trying to flog stuff to the public. Nothing more.

At best, the ads have an element of sentimentality and a notion that “gifting” is good for you. But don’t expect to find any suggestion that Christmas is a time for quiet contemplation or that gifting could be done with a discreet donation to struggling people overseas. There’s no shortage of those right now, but such philanthropy doesn’t help the bottom line of the big shops.

At this time of the year retailers and adland try to convince us we are about to experience a period of intense creativity. They hope to generate the levels of anticipation enjoyed by American advertisers around the broadcasting of the Superbowl.

In the British equivalent, the supermarkets jockey for prominence, while journalists respond to their whips like snorting steeplechasers and bring them before the public in the grandstand.

I haven’t watched the Tesco ad but the brand is going to have quite a task in imbuing the audience and its shareholders with a seasonal glow after a scandalous year in which it let £263m disappear down an accounting black hole and profits fell by 92 per cent as customers headed off to Lidl and Aldi.

Next it’s the turn of Marks & Spencer to launch its Christmas campaign. Marks was once the star act in this gaudy annual pageant. Its advert will be breathlessly unveiled at an invitation-only premiere in a London hotel with breakfast canapés. It must be St Michaelmas!

Comments