Well, we’ve reached November, and so it begins. As we all break the internet in the most British way possible, by joining a virtual queue in a fight for Christmas food shop delivery slots, our industry gets to work fanning the festive flames with cinematic masterpieces designed to yank at heartstrings, pull at purse strings and fill everyone’s stockings full of festive cheer. I think a good litmus test for an effective Christmas ad, or indeed any ad these days, is how often it gets shared on WhatsApp. So that is the criteria I have set for my High Five - would I pop it in a group chat? I’ve included a few of this year’s Christmas spots, but to mix up, there’s some others that have also passed the test in recent months...
Heathrow - 'The Gift'
Agency: St Luke’s
Director: Molly Burdett
Post: Framestore x Company 3
Sound: Jungle Studios x Eclectic
WhatsApp group - the family chat. It’s true, I’m a sucker for sentimentality and this one delivers on that front. It’s well acted - the little crack in the voice when Mum says: “The first one without the kids, you know?” is a lovely bit of barely restrained emotion that hits just right, and they’ve struck a chord with the mood this year. We all remember the Christmas we didn’t get to spend together, so something that celebrates and champions being together over Christmas still gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling I’ve been craving ever since.
Ocean Spray - 'Power Your Holidays'
Agency: Orchard Creative
Editorial: Arcade Edit
Sound: Barking Owl
WhatsApp group - the uni mates. This ad is just so wonderfully (and absurdly) ridiculous. It’s one of those that makes you wish you’d been present at the first client meeting, when a team actually had to sit with a straight face in a boardroom and explain this idea. I love it when ads like this get made. It feels brave and daring to be this bonkers, but it works. Especially for the TikTok generation, where the best trends can’t be explained, they just are. Much like that, this ad needs no explanation, it wobbles its way into your subconscious and whilst it might not compel me to actually buy tinned cranberry jelly, I might think of Ocean Spray as more than just an unreliable remedy for a UTI in the future.
Department for Opportunities - 'Stay Down'
Agency: Creature London
Production: OB Management
Director: Thomas James
WhatsApp group - the work chat. A complete change of pace here, but using horror film tropes to express the terror of the class pay gap was a stroke of genius from Creature London for the Social Mobility Foundation. The teaser is for a short film which was streamed live on YouTube, alongside a discussion around the issues that the film raised. The campaign also asked for people to share their own class horror stories on Twitter and LinkedIn, using #StayDownFilm. It’s a clever campaign that tackles an important issue in a way that makes you really stand up and take notice.
Pinterest - 'Don’t Don’t Yourself'
Post: Time Based Arts
Editorial: The Lift
WhatsApp group - the close friends chat. This is one that really speaks to my inner self-saboteur. It’s the Taylor Swift, anti-hero of advertising, and I’m here for it. I always think of Pinterest as the sunny side of social media. It manages to escape trolls, it doesn’t bombard you with photos of old school friends who are doing better than you and it’s not owned by Elon Musk. You tend to use Pinterest when you’re making plans to better your life in some way - getting married, redecorating your house, getting divorced and moving to a new house that you’d like to redecorate. This series of ads perfectly sum up what Pinterest is, what we know it offers, and introduces us to some new ways we might like to use it too. The line doesn’t blow me away, but I won’t don’t it - the ads do what Pinterest needs them to do.
CALM - 'The Last Photo'
Production: Cain & Abel
Director: Max Fisher
Editorial: Final Cut London
WhatsApp group - all of them. This is a less recent one from the summer, but one that has stuck with me. A very effective use of user-generated content to deliver a fairly haunting message. I don’t think it’s new news, we’ve seen photos like this before, but it’s something worth being reminded of. It also feels apt to be able to honour and remember real people who have taken their own lives.