Adland's Christmas Crackers

The big retail chains are going all out to make the Christmas market their own, but what winter warmers will win the public over this year?

ARGOS

THE ADS

Clemmow Hornby Inge continues its "once upon a time" fairytale theme for the catalogue retailer with the story of a little boy, a Christmas wish and a father who was prepared to do anything to make it come true. That it was a Scalextric GT Racers set from Argos and not world peace made the task somewhat easier.

THE STRATEGY

The retailer is continuing in its "Argosing it" strategy as the solution to the usual high-street hassles, while attempting to transform itself into a destination where shoppers' Christmas wishes can come true. The ads aim to talk to consumers in a more emotive manner to appeal to hearts as well as minds.

THE CHALLENGE

Argos needs to address the invasion by supermarkets into non-food categories and the consumer demand for more convenient shopping. Christmas is shaping up to be dominated by multi-channel retail, with a predicted 50 per cent rise in online shopping. Argos must think innovatively about how it reacts to consumer demands.

THE VERDICTS

Gerry Moira - director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

It's Christmas time and the robber barons of Britain's high streets are putting on their smiliest faces. "Christmas wishes from Argos"is by some margin the most sugar-coated of this season's offerings. I was always taught that retail advertising should match the retail experience, and there's certainly a disconnect here between dad swinging on stars to capture the Christmas wish and the grim Sangatte staff party experience that is Argos at this time of year. Maybe this retail rule doesn't apply in December.

David Hackworthy - strategy director, The Red Brick Road

The X-mas Factor verdict: I'm afraid you're going home.

Simon: I just don't get it, guys. You've got something different from the others in the competition, but you've chosen to perform every Christmas cliche in the book. I'm not buying it. Time to go home.

Louis: You are a bit cliched, guys, and as much as you know how to give your audience what they want, I just don't think you've got the X-mas Factor.

Ros Flounders - housewife and mother of two, Doncaster

I loved this ad. I like the way they have mixed traditional Christmas time with the more up-to-date way of doing the Christmas shopping. There is a lot of content in this ad (promoting everything being in one place, that goods can be delivered to the door, that you can do your shopping online in your own home, that there's a great variety of goods), and they put all this across without losing the magical Christmas feeling. I will definitely check it out.

BOOTS

THE ADS

Mother has persuaded David LaChapelle to bring his trademark kitsch glamour to bear on one of the most traditional of high-street retailers. Impossibly good looking desperate housewives go about the Christmas chores while pampering and preening themselves, because ... 'tis the season to be gorgeous.

THE STRATEGY

This year, Boots' advertising is focusing on beauty, allowing it to talk about its hero(ine) gifts. Research showed that women's desire to look good at Christmas was at odds with the endless responsibilities at the time of year. The ads showcase a range of indulgent beauty treats, while recognising the hard work the season entails.

THE CHALLENGE

Boots has traditionally opted for Christmas advertising showcasing its three-for-two offers. It needs to attract more and younger customers, showcase the quality of gifts on offer and exclusive brands available, and drive a reappraisal of the store as a Christmas shopping destination.

THE VERDICTS

Gerry Moira - director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

You're unlikely to see girls like these in your local Boots unless they've popped in to renew their methadone prescriptions. But there's something heroic about its heroin tongue-in-chic. The spot has a sluttish, decadent, almost Brechtian glamour, and the turkey-fisting scene will haunt me as I sit down gingerly to lunch on the 25th. There's courage, too, in the choice of director. One surrenders a certain amount of creative control with LaChapelle, but this looks ... gorgeous.

David Hackworthy - strategy director, The Red Brick Road

The X-mas Factor verdict: You're still in the competition.

Simon: When you came out on stage dressed up like that, I'll have to admit, I was nervous. You seemed completely out of character. But you nailed it. A totally unique tone of voice for the competition. You proved you could try something different and get away with it. Loved it.

Louis: I actually have to agree with Simon on this one. You took a chance and you pulled it off. You might actually be the first women to win the X-mas Factor.

Ros Flounders - housewife and mother of two, Doncaster

I really enjoyed watching this ad. It was very comical, eye-catching, and had lots of colour and glamour. But I did think it was a shame that, although there was a variety of gifts, they were mainly for women. This ad will give the men plenty of ideas for gifts, but what about all the other things we need at Christmas? I loved the ad, but it won't make me go to Boots to do my shopping. It needs to show more about what it sells in its stores.

WOOLWORTHS

THE ADS

Wooly and Worth are back with breaking Christmas news, and this time they've got Westlife in tow for a spot of celebrity support. There's more product and offers than you can shake a sprig of mistletoe at, backing Woolworths' belief that it's impossible to overcook a Christmas ad. The ads were created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

THE STRATEGY

Woolworths wants to cement its reputation as the store that's synonymous with Christmas with a campaign that says it's impossible to overdo the Christmas magic. The store is attempting to own the fun and magic of the season, giving it an up-to-date twist, and reminding consumers what they can discover in-store.

THE CHALLENGE

The retail environment is at its fiercest and most competitive at Christmas. Woolworths is seen by its target audience as having everything needed for a family Christmas, and more. However, in recent years, its ownership of the territory has suffered, with competitors moving in, and a growing amount of tactical price-led ads.

THE VERDICTS

Gerry Moira - director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

The agency that brought us Flat Eric now offer up Wooly 'n' Worth. Perhaps not the progression in iconic brand puppetry BBH originally had in mind, but the sheep and his dog are back, so they must be doing something right. Here, Wooly's in charge of a runaway train, while Worth tries his hand at news-reading with "hilarious results". I don't see why it has to be so shouty. Sooty never said a word, yet his passing is mourned by millions.

David Hackworthy - strategy director, The Red Brick Road

The X-mas Factor verdict: You'll have to sing again.

Louis: Good attempt, boys. You really tried to show us your full range here. I didn't think that you were going to pull it off, but you nearly did. The crowd loves you, and there's always a place for an act like you in this competition.

Simon: That's ridiculous. You see a hundred campaigns like this outside hotel bars all over the country. Listen, you're nice guys, and you try hard, but you have to face the fact that there is simply much better performers in the competition.

Ros Flounders - housewife and mother of two, Doncaster

I did not like this ad at all; it does absolutely nothing for me. I found it quite irritating and annoying. I thought it was far too fast and very noisy. Even though I watched it more than once, I still couldn't tell you all it was advertising. It might appeal to a younger audience, but it would not make me shop at Woolworths.

SAINSBURY'S

THE ADS

Jamie Oliver gets a Dickensian makeover from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and offers Sainsbury's shoppers a few tips on how to spice up Christmas favourites such as mince pies, trifle and mulled wine, as he walks through Ye Olde London Towne in a bid to make us try something new today.

THE STRATEGY

Sainsbury's is attempting to balance consumers' love of the old favourites - the mince pies and mulled wine - with their desire to make the season as special as it can be. The campaign focuses on celebrating the familiar, but giving it a twist: a festive take on the successful "try something new today" strategy that was launched in September last year.

THE CHALLENGE

Sainsbury's needs to maintain its momentum after enjoying its best-ever Christmas season last year. Improving on that effort will be tough, with the store out to attract Tesco, Asda and Morrisons' custom, while discouraging its own shoppers from defecting to Waitrose and M& S.

THE VERDICTS

Gerry Moira - director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

"Try something new" Sainsbury's says, and this year you rather wish they had. This is probably the most traditional of the Yuletide offerings, a sort of "Dickens-plays-Moulin-Rouge-in-panto-land" production, featuring the Blessed St Jamie. Disappointing that, in Oliver, they now have a truly iconoclastic figure. Here, his plucky attempts at culinary innovation are eventually overwhelmed by lashings of Christmas cliche.

David Hackworthy - strategy director, The Red Brick Road

The X-mas Factor verdict: You'll have to sing again.

Louis: Don't get me wrong, you're a nice guy, Jamie. I'm just not sure they picked the right campaign for you to perform this week. When you do it from your heart it works every time, but I think you're a bit out of character here. I felt you were going through the motions a bit. Not your best work.

Sharon: Jamie, you can do no wrong in my eyes. You're charming, you're a natural performer and I'd follow you anywhere. You can spice up my Christmas any time you like.

Ros Flounders - housewife and mother of two, Doncaster

This ad shows how you can really put the fun into doing the Christmas food shopping. It makes me want to try some different ways of cooking at Christmas. Jamie Oliver is a top-class chef, but he shows that by shopping at Sainsbury's, simple meals can be made more festive. To me, this is what a supermarket ad should be - quick, simple and to the point. I don't normally shop at Sainsbury's, but I will go in and have a look at what they have got on offer this year.

MARKS & SPENCER

THE ADS

Twiggy and her model friends decide what to wear before setting out as undercover agents on a secret mission to attend a Christmas concert on ice. The star of the Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R's show is Shirley Bassey, who belts out a fabulous version of Pink's Get the Party Started to an M&S-clad crowd.

THE STRATEGY

The Marks & Spencer Christmas ad is designed to sell product. Accordingly, it's packed full of items from M&S's ranges, from Bassey's £150 "Magicwear" dress and Autograph menswear, to bath-time luxuries. The campaign also aims to further cement M&S's place in the hearts of the British public by entertaining the nation.

THE CHALLENGE

The M&S Christmas ad is becoming a national institution, and with the public aware of the role advertising has had in reversing M&S's fortunes, all eyes will be on this year's output. Despite the strength of the half-year trading figures, the M&S chief executive Stuart Rose says only a successful Christmas will lead him to use the "R" word - recovery.

THE VERDICTS

Gerry Moira - director of creativity, Euro RSCG London

Speaking of runaway trains, the success juggernaut that is the restyled, rejuvenated M&S has just pulled into Christmas Central with a Bond spoof that makes other Bond spoofs look, well, not as good as this one. Twiggy and company are back with skidoos, ice palaces, spy stuff and a lot of product. M&S has been the guv'nor for a few seasons now, and this spot cements that supremacy. This is a tribute to the talent and drive of the female star of the new M&S advertising show, and I don't mean Bassey. Take a bow, Jude.

David Hackworthy - strategy director, The Red Brick Road

The X-mas Factor verdict: You're still in the competition.

Sharon: I love, love, love this one. It's big, it's glamorous, it's just what us girls love, and you hit all the notes perfectly. I don't really notice the clothes, but I don't care.

Simon: I know Christmas is a time to go all out, but you're trying way too hard here. There's so much going on, I just don't know where to look. The public's probably going to love it, though.

Ros Flounders - housewife and mother of two, Doncaster

The M&S ad is one of my favourites this Christmas; it is very sophisticated, with a very up-to-date and modern storyline. I like the way it uses the celebrities to show off the wide range of glamorous and colourful clothing, yet still manage to keep the Christmas feeling by also showing a good range of Christmas products. I love to shop at M&S and think this ad will tempt a lot of people through the doors this Christmas.