‘Tis the season for giving and good cheer. But before we have too much cheering, let’s get serious. The Christmas ads are in and counted for; everyone has had their chance to throw their hat into the ring – even Lego, by way of a Katy Perry Fireworks reprise. Before we even hit December, there were enough spots circulating – but there are some that reign supreme above the rest.
While each of these ads brings a unique flavour to the Yuletide table – a dash of daring, a touch of cameos, a big fat slab of emotional distress, for example – they all use creativity to come up with something genuinely great this year. Honourable mentions go to JD Sports for its unceasingly brilliant cameos in King of the Game, including Kano and Chunkz. Here’s the rundown on the rest.
Wieden + Kennedy: Sainsbury’s, Once Upon a Pud
Once Upon a Pud, what an ad. TV superstar Alison Hammond is a Countess who hates Christmas pudding (who can blame her). A sheepish chef is forced to think up an inventive alternative and present it to the court. Best of all? It’s soundtracked by what can only be described as a fantastic medieval version of Teenage Dirtbag.
It might sound like a lot, but Wieden + Kennedy London has kept it surprisingly simple and sweet, relying on the two most powerful cards in this ad’s arsenal: Hammond and Wheatus.
Blinkink: O2, The Snowgran
There aren’t too many animated takes on Christmas ads this year. And none do it quite as impressively as Blinkink and ad agency VCCP has for O2, where every element has been hand-drawn, knit, built and sculpted. The final spot mixes puppetry, CG animation and real world sets to create a wintery textural experience and tell the tale of a Grandma reconnecting with her family.
The ad also spotlights Virgin Media O2’s National Databank, “which is like a food bank for free data, calls and texts, in partnership with Good Things Foundation in 2021 with the aim of helping to tackle data poverty and provide free mobile data to those in need”, a press release explains.
Havas London: Asda, Have your Elf a Merry Christmas
Asda already got the fan favourite vote this year – System1 ranked it as the “most effective” Christmas spot overall using its 1-5 star scale, which apparently measures emotional response and intensity. But let’s face it, it also has Will Ferrell, and there’s a certain brazen charm to just rotoscoping scenes from Elf straight into an Asda branch.
The work of Havas London, Have your Elf a Merry Christmas isn’t trying to be anything it’s not; the Asda setting paired with a green screen feel all just gels together in a genuinely funny way. While we wonder if the familiar face of Ferrell might have impacted its System1 ranking, the praise is well-earned.
The Pharm: Boots, Joy For All
Unlike John Carpenter’s anti-capitalist They Live, the sunglasses in Boots’ Christmas spot, made by The Pharm, give the wearer the ability to see what everyone wants most for Christmas. While the ad could have gone big on product placement, The Pharm instead finds a sweet spot between nicely branded, tongue and cheek, and heartwarming.
Scenes show our protagonist discovering co-workers and family in a range of amped-up imaginary scenarios with lively palette changes and pacing. It all comes together with some La la land nods and a wonderful use of a Hall & Oates track.
Adam&EveDDB: John Lewis, The Beginner
When I say I cried at this year’s John Lewis ad, I don’t mean I shed a few soft tears and returned to my emails. I had to take myself from my desk to compose myself and felt a bit strange for the rest of the morning – which, in our books, is the only true mark of a cracking Christmas ad.
Although who could expect anything less from John Lewis and Adam&EveDDB? Telling the tale of a middle-aged man trying to learn to skateboard to the ridicule of friends and family, the agency has crafted a narrative so good we won’t spoil it here. Watch it, and if you want to relive the heartbreak once more, book tickets to December’s Nicer Tuesdays, where Adam&EveDDB will be spilling all on how it made the spot.
Wieden + Kennedy London: Once Upon a Pud (Copyright © Sainsbury’s, 2022)
Blinkink / VCCP: The Snowgran (Copyright © Virgin Media O2, 2022)
Havas London: Have your Elf a Merry Christmas (Copyright © Asda / Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products, 2022)
The Pharm: Joy For All (Copyright © Boots, 2022)
Adam&EveDDB: The Beginner (Copyright © John Lewis & Partners, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.