Christmas ads 2019: Adland reviews Amazon, Argos, Asda, Iceland and Walkers

The first batch of seasonal ads have arrived.

Christmas: (clockwise from left): Walkers, Iceland, Argos, Amazon and Asda
Christmas: (clockwise from left): Walkers, Iceland, Argos, Amazon and Asda

With Christmas fast approaching, Campaign has called on a number of industry folk to offer their thoughts on the first wave of festive ads.

This week, we look at Amazon "Let’s smile together" by Lucky Generals, Argos "The book of dreams" by The & Partnership London, Asda "Let's make Christmas extra special" by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Iceland "#Magicoffrozen" (in-house) and Walkers "All I want for Christmas" by AMV.

Martin Beverley, chief strategy officer, Adam & Eve/DDB

Tapping into the nostalgia of the Argos catalogue and rebranding it the "book of dreams" could well be a killer move. It rekindles some latent love for Argos from my childhood and I’m sure it will for many others. And then, well, what’s not to love? The drum kit. The casting. The retro soundtrack. The merry little moments throughout. It’s a refreshing crescendo of joyousness among the warm bath of Christmas advertising. 

Asda is showing us the wide-eyed wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a little girl called Tilly. However, I’m sorry to say that I found it a bit confusing and couldn’t quite follow the story, which got in the way of the feels. While there were some magical touches, it felt like an ad for Christmas time rather than an ad for Asda.

The Amazon boxes are back with festive smiles on their faces. Despite being a newfangled internet brand, Amazon appears to understand the power of old-fashioned TV advertising and investing in a long-term creative vehicle. It has all the ingredients to make it effective with the masses. Distinctive brand assets – tick. Singalong soundtrack – tick. Vignettes with something for everyone – tick. Parent’s emotional return home for Christmas with their children – tick. I’m sure it will help put Amazon near the top of people’s Christmas lists and ultimately put a smile on Jeff Bezos’ face as he tucks into some turkey. 

Iceland is following up last year’s partnership with Greenpeace with another partnership – this time with Disney’s Frozen 2. It’s based on a pun (which I’m not always adverse to, but some say it's never really an idea) with "the power of frozen". The execution itself lacks the Disney magic and leaves me neither wanting to buy some frozen pigs in blankets from Iceland nor wanting to buy cinema tickets to Frozen 2. Hopefully, next year Iceland will get a shot at telling its own story, because the best brands have something of their own to say.   

Walkers has always managed to be populist with advertising that makes the great British public chuckle and this festive effort continues that tradition. The nation’s favourite crisp brand has managed to bag Mariah Carey and one of the UK’s favourite festive songs on the 25th anniversary of its release. Couple that with a decent comedy script, decent comedy performances and some indecent limited-edition Brussels sprout-flavoured crisps, it feels like Walkers might sell a few more packets over Christmas.

Mark Elwood, executive creative director, MullenLowe Group

Ahhh, Christmas ads.

That means our industry (and the nation) are staggering towards the finish line of a tricky year. Retailers, however, are limbering up for their busiest and most crucial time of the year.

First thoughts, looking at all the spots – certainly no fear of Brexit budget cuts here. All the spots seem to have all the trimmings: time lengths, production values, guest stars both live and animated, and so on. But have the obviously decent budgets been used to good effect? Who gets a pressie; who doesn’t?

Asda has made a two-minute epic about "the Christmas magic in the sky". This spot has got a bit of everything, for everyone, just like the store. Nice enough, but just doesn’t really land anything about what Asda is actually selling this Christmas…

Argos "The book of dreams" – certainly was when I was a kid. This opus is two minutes and 50 seconds – now that’s a fuckin’ film. We all know that longer time lengths act as stronger memory "anchors" and enhance the "image memory" (nice), but still… Simple Minds, drumming, cute kid, nice dad and product: this will go down well with the great British public (until the drum kits arrive, that is).

Amazon has brought back the old singing parcels… only one minute and 30 seconds – it must be skint AF? Is it just me or is this whole spot a bit A-flat? I love the original song, but here it just sounds laboured, to be honest. A gift to return, I think.

Iceland and the "Magic of Frozen" – a partnership with Disney and Frozen 2. I loved Frozen, so good. The spot featuring Olaf, Anna, Elsa and Kristoff could have been brilliant, but why didn’t you do a song? WHY? The cold never bothered me any way and this one doesn’t particularly…

Last but not least to our feast is Walkers and five-time Grammy winner Mariah Carey, doing an ad for crisps – she must be skint AF too. First thing I did after watching this was look up how old MC is… she's FORTY-NINE (50 in March). The woman is 49 years old… Basically, she’s the miracle of Christmas. Believe me. Maybe it’s because she’s never eaten a full crisp. She looks like she hates crisps at the end of this spot. She takes a tiny, tiny nibble. I reckon that’ll be a good meme before Boxing Day.

Not a bumper year. I’m off to read "the book of dreams"…

Laurent Simon, chief creative officer, VMLY&R London

Getting Christmas right is tricky business.

Worse, it gets harder each year that goes by.

You can see all the effort that went into making these films, but there’s only one clear winner for me.

Asda and Amazon suffer from a lack of strategic thinking.

The Asda story is sweet, but I’ve seen "make Christmas special" on more commercials than I can remember. I would bet my reindeer socks that the public will forget the Asda ad before Christmas. 

Amazon – I expect a market leader to deliver the goods, not pretty much rerun last year’s ad. My wife would be understandably underwhelmed if I gave her the same gift two years in a row. You’re Amazon, literally the biggest company in the world and probably the closest humanly possible incarnation of what Santa does.

Iceland and Walkers have had more planning baked in.

However, the former lacks heart. So overtly commercial that I’m left freezing cold.

Walkers has some funny bits in it. Don’t get me wrong, the song brings back some fond memories but, again, emotionally it doesn’t feel quite right or genuine. Perhaps it’s Mariah sounding like she’s clearly just reading words off a piece of paper? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear her agent spent more time reading her contract.

The Argos Christmas ad was gifted with both planning and creative flair.

There are, to me anyway, minuscule echoes of previous ads done by other brands, but the music and the casting are perfect. I love how far they took it.

It’s so superbly executed that I want to thank the whole team behind this for giving such a joyful, entertaining and loving present.

In the same way that John Lewis turned Christmas ads from "ho ho ho" into "ho ah aw" and has run with it since, The & Partnership may have found Argos’ long-lasting festive formula.