MPC’s Bill McNamara: the best international Christmas ads

Christmas ads have become a unique standalone genre in the UK. John Lewis has arguably reached a culturally hallowed status with its festive concoctions, usually only reserved for Royals and members of the national football team.

Brands are masters of pulling on your heartstrings so you loosen your purse strings and have spent the year tirelessly toiling like Santa’s trusty elves, crafting every frame of their blockbuster Christmas ads.

In the UK, it seems that we have almost perfected a winning Christmas campaign formula. With heart-warming storylines and melancholic cover songs, audiences find themselves aww-ing even after the fifth viewing.

But driven by a healthy mixture of curiosity and Christmas cheer, I’ve decided to leave the UK Christmas bubble and explore some of 2017’s best Christmas ads from around the globe, to see how other cultures approach this special season of advertising and to find out what the UK can learn from further afield.

Top international Christmas ads

Edeka – Germany – ‘Christmas 2117’

German supermarket Edeka is developing a reputation for crafting some seriously creative Christmas ads – you may remember its 2015 commercial causing some controversy as it revolved around an elderly father who fakes his own death in order to gather together his globe-trotting family for Christmas.

In Edeka’s 2017 iteration, audiences gaze 100 years forward into a dystopian vision of a world where humanity has been usurped by robots. The advert follows the story of one robot and his quest to have a human Christmas.

At MPC we had the pleasure of working on the VFX for this campaign. It was a brilliantly rewarding challenge to design a robotic character that audiences could find endearing, establish a connection with and reflect the human warmth of spending Christmas with those you love.

Myer – Australia – ‘Elf’s Journey’

Although the sizzling Australian Christmas climate is a world apart from the frosty festivities we enjoy in the northern hemisphere, people and families tend to be the same. Myer taps into the flipside of quality time with your dearest relatives in their Christmas ad, in which a particularly stressed Christmas decoration leaves his Christmas accessory companions in search of “decorations that take Christmas seriously.”

This ad does a good job of showing how Christmas means different things to different people, and while no family is perfect, Christmas is always best spent with etc, etc..

Cost Plus World Market – Australia – ‘The Performance’

At MPC we’re obsessed with all kinds of creatures (my favourite of all time being our Samsung Ostrich) so you’ll have to forgive me of any bias for picking an advert featuring llamas.

If the setting of a warm, rural landscape is a little untraditional, the rest of the advert makes up for this with a heart-warming story of a boy getting an instrument for Christmas and practicing in front of an audience of Llamas, until he is ready to perform at his school’s Christmas play. Parents – proceed with caution – this one is out to get you.

Microsoft – US – ‘3D Holiday’

Microsoft’s “3D Holiday” follows a woman and her ‘Gabe the Yeti’ doll as they enter an outer space experience via a poster in her room. Unlike the traditional UK Christmas ads, which involve human families, this ad focuses on mythological creatures gathered together on an asteroid for a festive bash.

While the work promotes Microsoft’s Surface Book and the characters mirror those available on the Microsoft Remix 3D library, it remains original, creative and ultimately pushes for something we need more than ever in the closing words: “create a better world.”

Aldi – Australia – ‘Dig in Doug’

Barbeques. Beaches. Cricket. An Aussie Christmas party gets a touch out of hand as defiant batsman Doug defends his beach bin from a 40-year bowling onslaught. You’re not in John Lewis anymore, son.

Bill McNamara is creative director of VFX company MPC.

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