Every Christmas, there's a scrap. The one I'm talking about, it starts in music.
Singles, albums and mad collaborations are released as the twinkly lights come on around the country with the simple aim of capturing Christmas in our collective memories. To win our hearts and minds, the single that wins this vicious ruck will be instantly classic, yet somehow capture exactly how we all feel, right at this moment. Our Christmas number one.
After the bodies of our fallen musical gladiators are carted away and the victorious chorus is yelled drunkenly from every boozer in the country, advertising gets its go.
Every year, there's an ad that gets talked about into a pot of bubbling gravy. An ad that's recanted over the steaming Yorkshires, or forever remembered as the muffled hum you heard through the wall while giving cousin Lauren a knee trembler on the coats in the spare room.
So, with that, I'm going to delve into my magic sack and unwrap the sweet little John Lewis (6) number. While wrapped in pretty pictures we can all relate to, this present has come from people who understand the power of a great track. Elton John's musings about having no money but lots of love sing softly to a nation with fuck-all in their wallets. Ellie Goulding's take on it all lets us feel like it's young, fresh and all ours.
Music is everything. I love the interruption of the Volkswagen (2) ad's arrival.
A weird present at first, the more you watch it, the more it works. Nothing to do with Christmas, or cars for that matter, it dances with a fresh and disruptive swagger. Walking that tightrope between the "clever" work gone before and the need for some life in the brand, it gets me excited.
Excitedly wrapped in sparkly chintz comes the Sainsbury's (5) ad. Some fake snow. Fake cooking. Fake friends.
I'm pretty sure we'd all love some extras this Christmas, but these crass gits turning up in my quaint, yet skint, village with a snow blower and an Addison Lee car with Jamie in would just about ensure mass suicide.
Carols are nice at Christmas. This isn't strictly on the Christmas theme but T-Mobile (4) has gone from showcasing honest, albeit crowdsourced, joy, to making an ad where deranged, paid freaks yell at normal people who are unsettled by jetlag. Some bits work, just. Some bits make you seriously hate advertising agencies.
Wrapped in flashing tinsel, PG Tips (1) leaps from an advertising world taking itself too seriously, to a world giving away Monkey toys. Yeah. OK, I'd quite like one. The ad? Whatever. I want a Monkey.
Speaking of giveaways, Waitrose (3) has had the excellent idea of giving away the simplest, poshest Christmas pudding ever. More than an ad, it's going to work. It's going to be effective. It's going to sell hard. The fact it's sandwiched between Zelda from Terrahawks (Delia could have had another five in make-up) and the Severus Snape of cooks is OK. It's still a present the nation will love. We won't remember the ad with Heston and Delia as our 2010 Christmas. We might remember the paint-by-numbers pudding, though.
CLIENT - RICK VLEMMIKS, MARKETING DIRECTOR, BRITISH GAS
As Christmas approaches, the competition for our tightly clutched purses and wallets hots up. I'm intrigued to see what some of our biggest brands have to offer, and it's certainly traditional fare. Six telly ads, including a plump Christmas pudding and some juicy budgets. Let's dig into the food offerings first.
Delia shows us how to make her legendary Christmas cake, with more than a little help from Waitrose (3). The pre-measured kit will definitely get more families into the kitchen and filling their homes with the festive waft of booze-soaked vine fruits. But, like mulled wine in a bottle, I can't help feeling it takes the sparkle out of the whole thing a little.
You have to commend Sainsbury's (5) for having the confidence to let a festive promotion lead the advertising (a bit like recent Walkers crisps successes). And if Jamie can teach America how to eat, surely he can persuade us Brits to share warmed mince pies and awkward small talk? Morrisons may have famously dropped celebs this time but Jamie here proves he's as indispensable as goose fat when it comes to pulling off a big Christmas ad. The end result? A warmer festive glow is hard to come by as the slick brandy sauce-layered production leaves me feeling post-dessert-wined and mince-pied in front of a Royle Family re-run: even the fake snow and an outdoor projection of The Snowman didn't leave me feeling, well, cold.
Time for a quick cuppa. It's worth noting that those cheeky monkeys at Mother have managed to completely rehabilitate a piece of their intellectual property as the stuffed face of PG Tips (1). How many people now even recall his ill-fated previous life with ITV Digital? The knitted one has created a likeable double-act alongside the often funny but occasionally disturbing Mr Vegas (have you seen him in those oversized clothing ads?). And, while I don't get many sleigh bells from this Free Monkey promotion, I'm sure it will shift bushes of tea.
John Lewis (6) lately seems to get it right in every department, and this piece of advertising is no exception. Pristine scenes that could easily exclude you seem to welcome you in. Good insight, beautiful direction, nice touches (parents hauling a reluctant giant toy horse up the stairs, the inept wrapping of a candelabra). And the brand continues using classic covers of soundtracks, this time Ellie Goulding breathes new life into Your Song. Suddenly, I'm feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
There's much rejoicing in T-Mobile's (4) latest ad. This time, the plain-clothes choir are welcoming shocked travellers back to London as they come through arrivals at Terminal 5. I really liked the original "life's for sharing" ad filmed at Liverpool Street station, it really captured the idea and was brilliantly executed. I felt T-Mobile lost its way with the second execution - the huge karaoke crowd, singing Hey Jude in Trafalgar Square. However, it's definitely back again with "welcome back", which captures the idea. I found it hard not to smile during the renditions of The Boys Are Back In Town and Return Of The Mack. Highly watchable stuff, once again; they've created a really entertaining ad that is true to the original idea.
Finally, it's certainly the season of goodwill over at Volkswagen (2). It's given about 90 per cent of the new Polo ad over to a sexy, urbane couple having a bit of a dance. Erm ... Turkey?
1. PG TIPS
Client: Emma Reynolds, marketing director, Unilever
Brief: Wish PG Tips drinkers Happy Christmas by giving away Xmas
jumper-wearing toy Monkeys
Art director: Mother
Director: Garth Jennings
Production company: Hammer & Tongs
Project: Last tango in Compton
Clients: Sarah Clayton-Jones, comms manager; Nigel Brotherton, national
marketing and comms manager; Rod Mcleod, head of marketing, Volkswagen
Agency: DDB UK
Writer: Dave Henderson
Art director: Richard Denney
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Production company: Academy Films
Project: Everyone's recipe for a great Xmas
Client: Sarah Fuller, head of marketing, Waitrose
Brief: Bring to life the inspiration offered by Waitrose, Delia and
Heston to help the nation make this a great Christmas
Writer: Jeremy Carr
Art director: Ken Hoggins
Director: Graham Sherrington
Production company: P for Production
Exposure: TV, print, online
Project: Welcome back
Clients: Spencer McHugh, brand director; Lynne Ormrod, head of brand and
comms; Kelly Engstrom, senior ad manager, T-Mobile
Brief: Create an experience so memorable, people just have to share it
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Steve Howell
Art director: Rick Dodds
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Production company: Smuggler
Exposure: TV, print, digital, radio
Project: Christmas 2010 campaign
Client: Claire Harrison-Church, director of brand communications,
Brief: Sainsbury's has everything you need for the perfect Christmas
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Martin Loraine
Art director: Steve Jones
Director: Adrian Moat
Production company: RSA
Exposure: TV, online, press, radio
6. JOHN LEWIS
Project: A tribute for givers
Client: Craig Inglis, head of brand communications, John Lewis
Brief: For those who care about showing they care
Agency: Adam & Eve
Writers/art directors: Sidney Rogers, Harry Bugden
Director: Eric Lynne
Production company: Partizan