Who scored highest in our UK Christmas ads round-up?

The crop of seasonal advertising is a feast of creativity and production but, inevitably, it always ends up with the winners and the also rans.

The media investment is huge and in some cases so is the production; it has been reported John Lewis spent £1m on the Bear&Hare production with a further £5-6m on airtime. However for JL about 60 per cent of its annual profit comes from the Christmas period.

I’ve tried to focus on the main players as I see them, so apologies for those not included. Also all of my candidates are retailers who account for the biggest share of TV advertising in December.

Asda has gone for the price promise of ten per cent off which I’m sure is relevant for a lot of people. But there is little else to recommend Asda versus the other options out there. 4/10

I have a soft spot for Morrisons because at GGT I had the pleasure of working with them, and very nice people they were too. Our campaign line that helped us win the business in a pitch was “More reasons to shop at Morrison’s.” it ran for a long time as it was the ideal line to link to any point. Since Ken Morrison retired I feel the brand has meandered around the park a bit. Its Christmas contribution is the Ant & Dec 60-second live action and animation production which is very well done.

I’m still not sure however what Morrison’s stands for these days and this excellent production hasn’t provided the answer. 6/10

Sainsbury has gone down the slice of life route and as at 11th December 11 they had an impressive 664,000 views on YouTube for the trailer version. I’m told the full length film is very good (all 48 minutes of it and about 800,000 hits) but I have to admit I haven’t watched it after seeing the trailer, I get the point. My score is 6/10 – because of Tesco!

Tesco has spookily gone down an almost identical route. I can imagine both sets of agency teams scratching their heads for a different idea and both deciding a slice of life is appropriate for the times. Imagine their disbelief when they saw the other’s advertising for the first time!

If one of them had done this they would be getting truck-loads of accolades, however given they are the same and I can’t distinguish one from the other sitting at home, I have to give Tesco the same as their arch rival, 6/10.

Marks & Spencer has a spectacular production on air; truly polished, beautifully executed. My problem though with this and previous advertising for the brand is the disconnect with the reality of the shopping experience in M&S. The Magic & Sparkle branded link simply isn’t what M&S is all about – other people do that job such as John Lewis and Selfridges. City rumour continues to suggest the M&S CEO’s tenure on his job hangs on their Christmas performance. 7/10

Argos has recruited aliens again for its Christmas special and very good it is too. Not been one of my personal favourites but I must bow to public opinion as the Argos campaign scored the most points in Marketing magazine’s Adwatch round up of 2013. From CHI & Partners, who seem to have the knack of producing populist advertising for their clients, just like their work for British Gas. I’ll go for 8/10.

Aldi is an interesting newcomer to the premier league of Christmas airwave competition. Its TV work is fresh and distinctive with well-observed twists that provide the portable handle from the sofa to the store. Just take a look at the champagne spot with the hunk in his pants. Very funny and memorable with the sell neatly expressed.

I know they have bargain bottles of champagne and my guess is I’ll be dropping in for the first time. Now where is my nearest Aldi store? 9/10

Last but not least is my favourite – John Lewis. Agency adam&eve/DDB seem to get bull’s eye every time. I think they really know their audience and loyal customers, via the music they select for these blockbuster campaigns. I imagine they have professional couples, 40-ish, with two young children, in their heads when they are developing their advertising. I always find their work clever, yet simple. They seem to engage children and parents in one smartly-crafted piece of communication. Also they are top class at the integration challenge; the ‘Bear and Hare’ plus the seasonal line of “Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget” is everywhere right down to their carrier bags. 9.5/10


Stephen Foster adds

A magisterial round-up, as you’d expect.

I’d give both Sainsbury and Tesco a point or so more, despite the similarity. Sainsbury and AMV/BBDO for ambition (full film from Kevin Macdonald below for those of you with stamina – but it’s good).

The Tesco ad from Wieden+Kennedy grows on you, which probably means they’ve been chucking a lot of airtime money at it. W+K seems to have captured the essence of the Tesco universe (palatable version). It’s a three bedroom semi in Enfield.

The Aldi ad by McCann Manchester just doesn’t make me laugh although everyone else seems to find it hilarious. But it’s brave to try humour.

And John Renck who directed the RKCR/Y&R M&S spot through Black Label Productions deserves an extra mince pie for a tour de force among some outstanding productions.

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