Christmas Advert Autopsy 2015

Every year, there are new Christmas adverts, and they get crasser and crasser and crasser by the year. This appears to be the year in which hashtags hit in earnest, and it’s truly intolerable, since putting a hashtag on something automatically cheapens it and dates it. Do you remember around the height of the dot com bubble, when companies stuck “@” symbols everywhere and put references to texting and the Internet in unrelated places, so as to appear hip and trendy? That’s what hashtags remind me of; something you don’t do because you think it adds any merit, but something you do because you want to appear “in” and everyone else is doing it. That I can see this, and people whose entire jobs are to make branding and adverts don’t, worries me a bit.

Asda’s people have seen the shit trend and gone balls deep into hashtag wankery with “#becauseitschristmas”, which due to the lack of an apostrophe just looks wrong, in addition to being so generic that it has no real association with Asda at all which makes the entire endeavour completely pointless. They are also continuing their new trend of having the same completely irrelevant song in every advert, this time an upbeat number about playing a sax which started off a bit crap and is now, after hearing it about fifty times, the worst collection of sounds I’ve ever heard. Seeing that the song was somewhere near the top of the iTunes charts recently almost made me commit genocide.

It’s still better than House of Fraser’s effort, which stars a group of obnoxious looking people doing strange dances like they’re tearing their hair out in the midst of a painful-looking and quite possibly terminal neurological event. The main lyric of the equally obnoxious song is “you don’t own me”, which is a rather odd sentiment for a Christmas advert to begin with (even more so than “play that sax”) but downright strange for a business whose entire reason for existence is for you to buy things that you can then own. What relevance any of it has to the festive season at all is beyond me, aside from the fact that it makes me want everyone in it to get a house fire for Christmas. The hashtag for this one is “#yourrules”, which actually is vaguely relevant, because I’ve had to institute a house rule that the channel be changed whenever this advert is on, lest I throw the entire fucking TV right out the window.

Should my girlfriend be unable to restrain me after the remote gets lost somewhere, I could always go to Littlewoods and get a new TV through them; helpfully, they tell me, I can spread the cost, which is an innovative idea which in no way is superfluous to the existence of credit cards that can be used anywhere, including places which are cheaper than Littlewoods to begin with. Given that Littlewoods are essentially a massive firm of bastard debt collectors with an overpriced Argos attached, it’s no surprise that they avoid mentioning this aspect; in fact, they avoid mentioning much of anything. All that happens is that that a woman silently plays piano outside in the snow for some reason, she smiles beatifically into the camera, and then you’re shown some electronic tat that you can buy. The entire message of the advert confused me at first, since the woman playing piano in the snow doesn’t seem to have any relation to anything at all (a running theme in all of these adverts), but then I realised that she looks an awful lot like the fire-worshipping religious fanatic Melisandre from Game of Thrones, and it all fell into place – it’s a threat. Buy an Xbox from Littlewoods or be roasted alive in a sacrifice to the fire god. Already a more compelling sell than the Asda thing, and no pointless hashtag or irritating song to boot – although they still have a way to go to make up for the horrid thing they unleashed upon the world in 2011, that more or less ruined Christmas for anyone who saw it and may as well have ended with Santa being drowned in TCP.

The best so far, indisputably, is that of M&S (cretinous pound sign: #TheArtOfChristmas), who in complete opposition to Littlewoods’ quiet pointlessness have gone for a more “shock and awe” tactic of simply playing a good song extremely loud and then shoving their wares in your face as quickly as they can, so you don’t quite get a good look at anything shown but you still want it anyway. As adverts go it’s as simple as you can get, the basic message being “look at all the cool shit we sell, buy it you bastards”, but it’s the presentation that it gets very right – less a statement of purpose than a declaration of war. It looks like what you would see if you recorded an entire Christmas Day using a head mounted camera, sped up the footage to fit the whole thing into 60 seconds and then sat down to watch it after drinking an entire bottle of Night Nurse – a riotous and slightly trippy series of bizarre scenes of multiple children jumping on multiple beds, a family sitting on a house-sized sofa, Morecambe and Wise and, for some reason, a reference to the 80s avant-garde synthpop band Art of Noise. As the barrage of flashing images of nice looking food and frolicking people and loud, brash music ends, and the advert with it, there’s almost a quiet air of “there. Take that, John Lewis, and stick it right up your arses.”

Still got a fucking hashtag on it though.

Ah, John Lewis. Talking about John Lewis’ advert (useless hashtag: “#ManOnTheMoon”) is mandatory, since it’s a yearly event now on par with Christmas itself. This year’s is (surprise) another attempt to make people cry and, in their moment of weakness, buy expensive homewares – I give it three years until they simply edit their logo into The Pianist and go with that. Unfortunately for JL, this year’s offering isn’t very good at the whole mawkishness thing – in these post-Yewtree years, perhaps an advert revolving around an old man being shipped a device with which he can observe little girls through the windows of their houses from a distance is a bit inadvisable. In fairness, the advert is supposed to be a collaboration with Age UK to raise awareness of the plight of lonely elderly people, which would be alright if all the television showings hadn’t completely excised the bit at the end where it says this and therefore just makes it a rather stupid and tedious story, and a nakedly manipulative one at that. “Diminishing returns” springs to mind. So does “fucking hashtags”.

Easily the worst and most odious, however, is Tesco’s cringeworthy, unbearable shitblips with Ben Miller. Do you remember corporate-agent-of-Satan BT’s attempt at creating a lovable family in all of their adverts, which you could follow along and grow to love? Do you remember how it took approximately two looks at them to want to kill all of them? Tesco have managed to outdo this, somehow, by making a family so hateful they could have made them more likeable by showing them being enthusiastic participants at the Nuremberg rally. Every single one is a supposedly-amusing but actually horrifying look into the world of three people who are about as relatable and filled with charm as Mr Blobby and are approximately twelve thousand times as annoying, especially the “kooky” teenager who appears to have some sort of mental disorder that makes him the most obnoxious pisswipe in the room at any given time. He’s shown sexually harassing a random customer and being confused as to whether lightbulbs are gluten free, which at least gives me the cheering thought of him being forced to eat one. On the plus side, Tesco have deigned not to include a hashtag, possibly aware that the only cogent comment anyone could make on this bollocks is “I’m going to Sainsbury’s”.

In fact the ones I’ve appreciated most of all have been those from Waitrose, Morrisons and Iceland, because they’re simple, low budget affairs. They’re not trying to make me laugh, cry or (in the case of M&S) feel like I’ve just sat through a nuclear war. They just show me a nice looking Christmas pudding, tell me what it is, show their logos and fuck off and leave me in peace. Iceland have even had the good sense to fuck off Peter Andre for a bit; because of this my entire Christmas food supply is now coming from there, with the added bonus that it will cost me about £2 in total and I’ll get at least 50 grams of free added salt. Get in.