Garret Keogh of Telegraph Hill: why it’s time for a dose of reality in Christmas advertising

Ever get the feeling you’ve been mugged? After sitting through this year’s spate of Christmas ads – which you’ve all seen numerous times now – I feel like I’ve been beaten by a snowman, force fed turkey and have sparklers coming out of every orifice. I’m not going to come over like The Grinch but too many Christmas ads is making me feel more than a little queasy.

I also feel manipulated and my heartstrings pulled a little too much. The reality of Christmas for many is not this picture painted by the major retailers and their agencies. In an age of austerity, is Christmas really at the forefront of our minds? And in an increasingly tense political climate Post-Paris, maybe we all are in need of a bit of the #giftface that the Harvey Nichols ad alludes to. It’s Christmas; let’s grin and bear it!

We’re pretending to feel Christmassy yet deep down our hearts aren’t really in it. I think the ads that allude to a sense of community and a deeper spirit of Christmas are hitting the right tone, as we search for something to lift our spirits. The reaction of Paris after the recent attacks has shown us that coming together as a community will not only see us through dark times, but is also something we all crave.

Another example is Sainsbury’s Christmas Cat Extravaganza, which gets this tone right at the end. The gathering community who help the Thomas family tug those heartstrings again but does connect with a wider need for togetherness that is sorely needed in these troubling times.

Take a look too at the TK Maxx ad by Quiet Storm, perhaps my favourite of the big retailers this year. Not only do they bring a refreshing and compelling notion of buying gifts for your neighbours but the brand’s strong value proposition comes through loud and clear. It’s not about spending more money, it’s about being thoughtful. Combining the reality of an austerity climate with a deeper need for community connection seems to ring true on all levels.

Enough column inches have been used up on John Lewis’ ad. It does feel like the formula has reached the end of its shelf life now and needs refreshing for next year. No more ‘waify’ cover versions please.

And wouldn’t it have been better to invite the poor man on the moon over for dinner rather than just sending him a gift. Also what did he do in the first place to result in such a sad isolation?

And for everyone else, stop trying to mimic the John Lewis success and try to do something different. Less starry eyed children dreaming of a Christmas wonderland and an innocence long gone. Instead a deeper understanding of the audience’s real world concerns would be a good starting point. We’re not all in awe of the traditional Christmas past and many are trying to equate an expensive and old fashioned celebration with a rapidly changing (and, dare I say, multi-faith) world.

Christmas campaigns for 2016 are probably being planned now. We can’t berate the retailers and the agencies for not knowing the changes in political climate but I do feel an audience-first approach might have nailed the austerity reality a bit better.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAO4AAAAJDQ2ZDMzMDE3LTZhODAtNDc3My1hNGVmLWQzZWVhNDI2OGY5NAGarret Keogh is managing director and a founder of Telegraph Hill. The three founders have a background in television content and clients include the BBC, Sky, Betway and HP.

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