The phosphorescent tints, sloppy-grin drooling over perfectly basted turkeys, check-pyjamaed children writhing in Barbie/Harry Potter ecstasy beneath an unfeasibly co-ordinated spruce, advertising mums in cheap sequins ... ah, the joys of seasonal ad campaigns. Yep, it's 16 degrees outside, bonfires are still smouldering, that Cadbury's mini roll treat chucked by trickers on Halloween is still smearing my bay window, but in telly adland it's already Christmas.

Why is obvious. It becomes almost impossible to tell one C-list, celeb-packed Christmas retail ad from another by sherry-soaked mid-November.

So it's important to get in early, before we've spent all our money and good-will-to-all-men. Asda is one of the first off the blocks.

Your consumer view of Asda pretty much depends on your income bracket (one Asda-shopping colleague tells me people go to his local store for a day out in the "restaurant"). But retail snobs can't argue with the figures: Asda recently overtook Sainsbury's as the UK's second-largest supermarket and its George clothing range has annual sales of £1 billion (last year it bought 3,400 miles of fleece).

And if it came to a punch-up between Jamie Oliver and Asda's new but unoriginal actress-of-a-certain-age figurehead, I know who my Monopoly money would be on. You don't mess with Julie Walters when she's doing her professional common person thing, Asda's fairy godmother in a pink tracksuit.

I like Walters and here she does a fine job giving Asda some warmth and personality, something the store has lacked.

But she's a desperately safe choice and I'm not sure she'll leg-up Asda once the yule scrum kicks in. On the other hand, she does look like she knows the price of toilet rolls and how to dress up mutton for under 50 quid. And the way her eyes mist over when she sees that Asda diamond necklace is touching to behold (show that special lady in your life how much she means to you, and score some cheap bevvies at the same time).

Now I absolutely love Christmas and can't be doing with any of those miserable sods who jet off to the sun or sit ankle deep in wrapping paper moaning about how commercial it's all got. From the first speck of glitter on the nose of a Christmas card writer to tearful Auld Lang Syne-ing, I can't get enough. But even so this ad didn't get me panting for Santa.

The ad is everything you'd expect ... lingering shots of the sort of food everyone thinks people want to eat at Christmas (most of which you'll discover as leftovers in the back of your freezer when you're making room for the ice lollies next summer); beaming children waving dollies; regulation bit of lacy underwear to compensate poor old mum for spending the rest of the year in Marigolds; and wifey done up to the nines even though the rest of the family still have their pyjamas on.

Walters is as watchable as ever as the fairy godmother able to bugger off to Barbados because Asda's got Christmas sorted. She gives the ad some real charm and slaps her arse like a true Asda trooper. Scrape a bit of the Vaseline off the lens, though, and the whole scene is revealed as a rather more plastic than pine Christmas than many of us would like to imagine ourselves enjoying come 25 December.

But the value message rings loud and clear and for many of us that is never more important than at Christmas, when every notch you have to let you belt out means double the tightening in January. But God forbid that bloody necklace shot should give anyone I know any ideas.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Only the pastel sort that come in pretty cases

at the bottom of your Christmas stocking.

File under ... W for that's the wonder of Walters.

What would the chairman's wife say? "It's Tiffany or divorce."

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