As the release of Christmas ads continues, Campaign asked Sarah Jenkins, managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi, and Darren Bailes, executive creative director at VCCP, for their thoughts.
The festive spots they review are: Aldi "Kevin's journey" by McCann UK; Asda "Asda price Christmas" by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO; Three "Your phone's seen a lot this year" by Wonderhood Studios; Walkers "A sausage CaRoll" by Elvis; and Disney "From our family to yours" by Disney.
It's hard for anybody or anything to spread any more joy than the US election result did over the weekend. Biden and Harris were the best Christmas present any of us could have hoped for, so I'm already feeling more than a little festive and full of good cheer, ready to sit back and relax with a set of seasonal ads from some of the UK's biggest brands.
Unfortunately, they instantly remind me of what a tough year it has been. Imagine having to come up with a cracking Christmas idea in the heat of the summer lockdown, then wrestling with the complexity of Covid-19 production? Perhaps no surprise that many brands have played it safe when it would have been a perfect time to show empathy with the nation, to step up and to deliver their best.
Aldi: when you have a strong brand icon that you know works hard for you, it can be a challenge to move it on year after year. I don't remember much about this ad apart from the very sudden cut to the Christmas cake.
Asda: like Kevin the Carrot, Sonny is popular and his kids are cute, but this ad isn't quite a Christmas cracker. Asda is going to be serving an awful lot of families this Christmas, and plays an important role amidst a gloomy economy. I would have loved it to have taken a chance to make more of a statement on what it does every day in the UK, to deliver value to its customers.
Bravo though, for making a non-white character hold a Christmas ad on his own, lots of credit to Asda and AMV for that.
Three: this was a much-deserved win for Wonderhood Studios, an early Christmas present that will herald a cracking 2021 for it. It's a great insight, and the execution might have really popped if we hadn't had such a glut of UGC ads for the past six months. Three is a brand that needs to shout a lot louder than bigger spenders in the market – hopefully we'll see more of that in 2021.
Walkers: working back from a pack activation doesn't open up much of a path to Yuletide joy. It's an illustration of the classic Christmas 2020 conundrum: what do I say and how do I say it? You won't find any answers here.
Disney: some of that post-election love dust has made its way into the Disney commercial. It's a touching family story and lovely to see the older generation at the heart of it, no doubt the group who will be most impacted by a Covid Christmas and the likely distance from relatives.
It's hard not to think about the battle it took to make work amidst such uncertainty. And then think about all the amazing scripts that perhaps didn't get bought this year. But let's not STOP THE COUNT yet, because there are already signs that 2021 is going to be a lot, lot better.
At Christmas, everyone likes something different. For me it's a Chocolate Orange and the pigs-in-blankets. My friend Jon Burley is all about the four-bird roast and watching Human Centipede in front of a roaring fire.
Each to his own. Christmas ads are much the same.
I can't say I'm a massive fan of all this work but no doubt it will make someone's Christmas.
Which is a roundabout way of saying I find nothing to like in the Asda offering.
Sunny the "superfan" is back... remember him?
He's the Gio Compario of 2020. Are we supposed to love or loathe him? I honestly feel he's having the piss taken but he doesn't know it. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
I don't get it. But hopefully someone will.
Disney up next. It's the story of a Mickey Mouse toy through the generations. And a granny. And some star decorations. And a girl that grows up. Familiar Disney themes strung together like fairy lights, that may well cause you to have a little something in your eye come the end.
Aldi now. Kevin the Carrot is a long way from home... you know, as carrots often are at this time of year, apparently. Even Jim Broadbent's Santa isn't quite sure why Kevin is out in the snow.
But Santa has his sled, no, sorry, his bike, and gives Kevin a lift home E.T. style.
Kevin has been around for a while now – I think this is his fifth Christmas. I bet the agency has fun writing it, fun making it, and its audience look forward to it. It's too easy to panic and re-invent whenever the wind changes direction. But brand success stories happen when a commitment to an idea is made between both client and agency. Merry Christmas to you both.
"Your phone has seen a lot this year" is the idea from Three. I'm not sure mine has even left the BN5 postcode. It's not very Christmassy and only the endline mentions the brief – "choose a new one with our online experts". But I'm not really sure I need an online expert if I'm honest.
But the film has insight – from home working, to pissed-up fancy dress parties, to dropping recklessly on the floor. A good start for a new agency.
The sausage rolls are coming in the Walkers online film.
A YouTuber, Ladbaby, plays the lead, singing about sausage-roll-flavour crisps that, together with the Trussel Trust, will help fight food poverty.
Everyone is in it. Carol Smilie is one of four Carols. Aled Jones, now in his 70s, joins in. East 17's Tony Mortimer from East 17 appears in his white parka. Even Gary Lineker shows up via deepfake.
It's truly bonkers. And Ladbaby's fans will lap it up.
Pass the Chocolate Orange.