Battle of the Ads

To so many of us, it is only Christmas when we see the Coca Cola commercial, but if the past few weeks are anything to go by it would seem that the iconic red lorry is trailing at the end of a convoy of festive brand adverts, not leading them.

John Lewis kicked of the season of indulgence with their Monty the penguin campaign, because everyone can identify with a young boy and his penguin. The advert has been viewed over sixteen million times since it was released on November 6th – a full seven weeks to the day before Christmas Day, and while this number is extremely high, for a commercial let’s remember, it was all very calculated. The advert alone cost £1 million to make as Monty, dare I reveal, is not a real penguin but a wonder of CGI. This is within John Lewis’ £7 million Christmas campaign budget, which allows you to not only buy merchandise of Monty, but attend in-store events. For the grinches who declined to watch the advert, which would have been no mean feat after its instant trending on Facebook and Twitter, the advert shows a young boy (Played by eight year-old Rhys Edwards) playing with a plush penguin, enter Monty.

The two watch Pingu (Instant nostalgia, check), play hide-and-seek, trampoline, take a walk in Victoria park – we were all very excited about that, and go sledging, all the while Monty looks on at couples in love. Christmas morning Monty is awoken and waddles over to an opened present in which stands a female penguin. Tom Odell’s lyrics ‘It’s real love’, resonates further when it is revealed through the boy’s on-looking mother that Monty is a scruffy, wear-and-tear childhood cuddly toy, who now has a gleaming new plush friend. They wrap the advert up with the tagline: ‘Give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of’. Slightly cliché, yes, but nonetheless simple and endearing.

Youtube // John Lewis
Youtube // John Lewis

‘Christmas is for sharing’ is the even simpler tagline used for Sainsbury’s festive advert, though it is poignantly weighted after its recreation of the Christmas truce between German and British soldiers during the First World War.

The advert has nearly ten million views on YouTube just six days after its release, impressive yet once again predetermined, released the day after November 11th. Sainsbury’s has however experienced a backlash following the campaign’s release with a large number of complaints. The Independent quotes, ‘How can Sainsbury’s do this in the centenary years of the Great War while exploiting the pathos of the Christmas Truce in 1914? Are the trenches of the western front to be memorialised as chilled food aisles?’. The advert reveals, ‘Made in Partnership with the Royal British Legion’, and certainly does not depict the trenches as a ‘chilled food aisles’, but in making big-budget, high-endorsement campaigns, companies should acknowledge that they make themselves susceptible to the contradictive and wavering nature that is the public opinion.

A penguin we love, but a respectful portrayal of historic humanity – too far.

It is as such our reactions to these adverts, our sharing and use of Hashtags, which fuel the campaigns. CITY.AM opened their article on the advert stating, ‘The film had its world premiere on Wednesday’. It is significant that Christmas adverts are no longer a thirty second background nuisance we all want to skip. They are films, with directors and cinematographers, a premiere, and the internet as their stage.

The advert sets out to exploit the centenary no more than the poppies at the tower of London. It is a celebratory form of remembrance within the opportunity that history permits, as while Sainsbury’s may be around in another one hundred years, we certainly won’t be. Personally, it is a beautifully powerful advert.

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