Many of us are probably feeling a little deflated right now and longing for the Christmas that could have been. So, we thought we’d run through some of our favourite Christmas ads from 2020 in a last-ditch effort to spread a little bit of festive cheer!
This year, many brands took on a more philanthropical approach with their ads — highlighting issues such as hygiene poverty (Boots), sustainability (Barbour) and homelessness (The Body Shop). Others tugged at our heartstrings (here’s looking at you Disney and McDonald’s).
But to help us narrow down our list, we’ve decided to focus on our three favourites from the big supermarkets, which have been the one constant this year — always open come rain or shine (or nationwide lockdowns).
John Lewis & Waitrose
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the John Lewis ad (which now, of course, also includes Waitrose). This year was always going to be a challenging one, but John Lewis and Waitrose came up with the goods once again.
Rather than sticking with tradition and following one storyline, the advert depicts different ‘acts of kindness’. It focuses on giving to charity instead of giving presents — perfectly aligned with the partnership’s new purpose-led five-year strategy. Through the ad, John Lewis and Waitrose also aimed to raise £4 million for two charities: FareShare and Home-Start.
Some were critical of the decision to use different art styles, saying it felt disconnected. But this is what we loved about the ad! From animation and claymation to CGI and cinematography, we saw it as a celebration of different forms of moving art. Plus, instead of using a single production team, long-term advertising agency Adam&eveDDB selected multiple artists to support the creative industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Toned-down covers of well-loved songs have also become synonymous with the John Lewis Christmas ads. But in another step away from its usual approach, the John Lewis Partnership commissioned a new song for the first time this year. ‘A Little Love’ was written and recorded by British soul singer Celeste whose record label pledged to make a 10p donation to the campaign every time the track is downloaded. All very in keeping with the ‘acts of kindness’ message!
This Christmas, Marks & Spencer gave us not one but NINE adverts featuring a star-studded cast — including the unmistakable voices of Tom Hardy, Eddie Redmayne, Julie Walters and Gillian Anderson. But perhaps the most famous voice of them all is that of the Queen herself (well, maybe not the Queen, but The Crown’s Olivia Colman is close enough).
Shot in M&S’ signature ‘food porn’ style, the visuals and tantalising descriptions are enough to make you salivate and rush out to your nearest shop. (Hey, if we can’t all be together at Christmas, we can at least enjoy the yummy food!)
But the charity focus is really the shining light of the ads. With charity funding declining by almost 25%, 2020 was not a year for advertising Christmas fairy tales. Instead, M&S announced it would donate £2 million to good causes — including all the featured celebrities’ chosen charities and a selection of 35 other charities on behalf of customers.
Whilst some brands tried (perhaps a little too hard) to keep things jolly, Sainsbury’s trio of adverts — entitled ‘Gravy Song’, ‘Perfect Portions’ and ‘Big Sarnie’ — felt optimistic yet realistic.
Rather than trying to fake the ‘perfect’ Christmas in an anything-but-perfect year, Sainsbury’s used a mix of home-video-style footage and phone conversations to evoke more carefree years gone by. All three adverts take a personal approach that celebrates culinary memories with loved ones and festive nostalgia — reminding people that ‘food is home’ and ‘home is Christmas’.
Following its launch, the ‘Gravy Song’ faced a wave of abhorrent racist comments on social media. But in the true festive spirit, Sainsbury’s handled the backlash brilliantly and joined forces with the rest of the UK’s major supermarkets for a powerful #StandAgainstRacism ad takeover on Channel 4.
Supermarkets would usually avoid running ads so close to one another, but this first-of-its-kind commercial initiative saw adverts from all the brands aired in the same prime-time ad breaks. Proving that, sometimes, there are more important things than beating the competition. Especially after a year like this…
So, to all the supermarkets, key workers and everyone else that has kept the cogs turning this year — we take our (Santa) hats off to you. Thank you. And from all of us here at Hyped Marketing, we hope you manage to have an enjoyable Christmas. Here’s to a merrier 2021!