Christmas ads 2019: Adland reviews M&S, TK Maxx, Lidl, Ikea and more

Countdown to Christmas continues.

Clockwise from top left: Ikea, TK Maxx, Aldi, Boots, M&S and Lidl
Clockwise from top left: Ikea, TK Maxx, Aldi, Boots, M&S and Lidl

With Christmas campaigns in full swing, Campaign has called on a number of industry folk to offer their thoughts on last week’s weird, wonderful and winitery festive ads.

This week, we look at TK Maxx "Gift different" by Wieden & Kennedy London, Aldi "Christmas spectacular" by McCann UK, Lidl "A Christmas you can believe in" by Karmarama, Marks & Spencer "Go jumpers for Christmas" by Odd, Ikea "Silence the critics" by Mother and Boots "Bootiques" by Ogilvy.

Sarah Douglas, chief executive, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Barely have I bought and lost my poppy three times over and watched my pumpkins compost than here we are with our Santa hats. And as the subwoofer of high-street threat notches up another level, it’s time to get serious about offline shopping.

In the spirit of unconscious bias, I must declare that I love TK Maxx. It’s retail entertainment, or rentertailment (a new concept I am playing around with) – something you can actually do with your kids on a Saturday that doesn’t involve sitting in the dark dribbling popcorn in your crotch or a cagoule. In the rentertailment realm, it leads the pack hands down. I love it. I love this. It’s witty and bling and ridiculous in equal measure. Just like our family trips to TK Maxx. Winning.

As partners to the big green, we love the onset of the grocery wars. I’m never sure about the anthropomorphisation or animation of the major food groups, but I kinda love Robbie Kevin. As a girl who spent her summers at camp, I know how hard it is rewriting hits with bespoke lyrics for comedic value. "Get your mince pies over here… with cream" is pure genius. 

Lidl, on the other hand. In trying to be ordinary about Christmas it has succeeded in… well… being ordinary about Christmas. Something one would have thought impossible. Big on TVRs, Lidl on interest. 

Meanwhile, Boots is rubbishing my favourite Christmas gift of the cookery book (hint, hint) and setting itself up as the "Bootique" (the pun being the lowest form of wit for us English graduates) for all nightmare gifting. While my nostalgia for Boots knows no bounds – I was the girl whose Christmas began with the Boots Christmas catalogue and an orange highlighter – there is a hefty dose of Gen Z wrapping to address the core business issue of relevance for our beloved high-street icon, but it doesn’t excite me the way that I am longing for it to. Sorry.

Jumpers that scare your dog and make you gyrate badly probably does a good job for jumpers. Does it put our beleaguered high-street mainstay back in my heart though? Not really.

Trust Ikea to bring it. A home that even causes your ornaments shame. "If your house was a car, it would get pulled over" – I think technically it would be a caravan, actually, but let’s not split hairs. It’s Christmas and it’s brilliant. 

Billy Faithfull, chief creative officer, Engine

Ads are like friends; you don’t see them that often, then at Christmas you all get together for a few precious moments, in glittery garb and getting a bit carried away with the spirit of the season, and you think about how much you like ads and if only you saw ads more often. 

Getting most carried away at the party is Aldi with another instalment of the bafflingly popular Kevin the Carrot. Strong start with Peaky Blinders, but quickly descends into drunkenly murdering a Robbie classic. Aldi’s like that fun uncle whom the kids love, but sort of glad we don’t hang out with him all that much because it always ends up the same way.

Lidl pitches up and everyone rolls their eyes as it constantly bangs on about how big it is on everything. Big on this, big on that. Bloody hell, it’s all about you, isn’t it? To be fair, some good Christmas tales to tell, but doesn’t really let anyone get a word in edgeways.

I like TK Maxx. Quirky, fun, with a simple story to tell. The ooohs and ahhhs thing is spot on. Why don’t we see TK Maxx more often, darling? We should maybe do a long weekend away with TK Maxx.

Boots is no doubt the most desperate of your friends. "Don’t forget about your old pal Boots, guys! I’m just like everyone else, guys. Guys?! You could pick up a gift for granny when you get your corn plasters and bum cream." Actually, that might be a better way in. Respectfully, this age-old strategy for Boots must work because, yawn, here it is again. The ad is undeniably well-turned-out, but you lost me at "Bootiques".

Marks & Spencer pitches up and it has brought everyone jumpers for Christmas. Not shit ones from Primark either. No words, just a simple story (an actual strategy, it’s a Christmas miracle!) and a good song. It’s a bit Kenzo, but only fleetingly, so you can come next year.

Yes! Ikea‘s here! I didn’t think Ikea would show up. Christ on tinsel bike, I love Ikea! Not your usual Christmas fare, but seeing some white space in the Christmas melee to make a brilliant point and a reason to go to Ikea. John Lewis hasn’t turned up yet (is John Lewis OK? Has someone called him?), but I’ll call it now and say this is better. Bitty-bop-bop!

Chaka Sobhani, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett London

It’s that time of year again when Mariah, George and Slade fill the air and advertising throws its weight behind some festive offerings of its own.

It’s been a pretty good outing so far, from the sublime to the TK Maxx, which dishes up another brilliant offbeat Xmas yarn. Enter our off-piste skier who, faced with the usual drab gift choices, decides to go on an adventure to mix it up. So refreshing to play to a different beat at Xmas and everything – from the brilliant casting to art direction to music (Balero, anyone?) – pulls you into the madness and makes you smile ear to ear. 

From an Xmas cracker to something that made me think I’d indulged in too much Baileys. Simply batshit. Kevin the Carrot returns for a fourth year and finds himself in a bit of bother at the hands of some Peaky Blinders-esque thugs. His response? He quickly escapes and starts belting out Robbie’s Let’s Me Entertain You in a big-top tent. Of course he does. Oh, and it’s actually Robbie singing as Kevin. With the classic track changed to talk food groups. As confused as I was, it made me strangely happy. I’m going back to the Baileys. 

On to Lidl and a far more sensible affair describing what a proper Xmas looks and tastes like. Nice enough, but nothing memorable or original, and it misses that sense of magic that feels right at this time of year.

Magic is fully at play in the new M&S campaign, as jumpers come to life and make their wearers literally jump around to the classic House of Pain track. It’s nice to see M&S try something new and Jake Nava creates a beautiful film, full of an infectious energy and bounce. Personally, I would have loved to see this freshness applied to a broader and more interesting cast rather than just the young 'uns – would have felt truer to the brand. 

Speaking of true to the brand, Ikea couldn’t be more on point with its absolutely brilliant "Silence the critics". We all get home shame, especially when we want to get people round at Xmas, and the couple in the film are taunted by all manner of grime-performing inanimate objects in their house, who goad them to sort their house out. Utterly original, hilarious and memorable, thank you Ikea for flipping Xmas on its head and bringing the funny back with such force. 

From one strong insight to another – with Boots acknowledging how hard it is these days to find the perfect gift for our friends and family. Again, it’s nice to see Boots try something new and be more challenging while playing to the diverse likes we all have. Nicely done. 

A couple of crackers, but at least no turkeys.

Merry Xmas.

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