The start of the countdown to Christmas has now begun along with the turning on of Christmas lights in towns across the UK this weekend, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and the sparkly front covers of the December issues of magazines adorn shelves.

Today, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a TV advertisement – with the big retail players (John Lewis, M&S, Waitrose, Aldi, Tesco and Sainsbury’s) unveiling their offerings for Christmas 2016 in the last week.

In a year of unsettling political events, all the advertisements deliver comfort in ladlefuls and have a real ‘aah’ factor. But is this creativity for creativity’s sake? In my view no, and the creative teams working on each ad will have been working for many months on a piece that communicates the brand values and messages of their retail client. So, which ones have hit the mark this year?

People complain that some of the ads don’t show any product, but this is very much to do with brand heritage and positioning. Waitrose’s ad features a robin travelling on a long journey (a metaphor for the long journeys and sacrifices we all make to be with loved ones as Christmas). At the end of the commercial there is one product shot of two birds pecking at a Waitrose mince pie. This ad shows a retailer that’s comfortable in its own identity – we all know that Waitrose sells food and that the brand stands for quality, so the advert is more about communicating the retailer’s core brand values, rather than focussing on product.

In contrast, Aldi is still establishing itself as a retailer of quality food. The tongue in cheek advertisement featuring Kevin the Carrot and a voice over poem from Jim Broadbent focuses on the destination of the carrot as fuel for Rudolph to take him on his journey delivering presents. In contrast to Waitrose, Aldi’s advertisement shows a Christmas table bursting with gorgeous food, enticing the consumer to think ‘now I didn’t know Aldi did that’ and driving consumer trial. This is exactly where Aldi wants to be, as it solidifies itself as a brand to be reckoned with.

The type of consumer that each of the advertisements is attempting to target is interesting too. John Lewis – champion of Christmas advertising in my opinion – has chosen a middle class black family, suburban home and advertises ‘Gifts that Everyone Will Love’, positioning itself as a retailer with wide appeal. This is very much in tune with John Lewis’ ambitious store expansion programme and ‘never knowingly undersold’ promise. Rather than being an elite store for white middle class women, as possibly John Lewis has been in the past, it’s a store pitched very firmly at today’s aspirational middle classes.

While I’m not so keen on the foxes and badgers bouncing on the trampoline (who would let their kids on it afterwards – have you ever smelt fox poo?), the ad is bang on target for where John Lewis is today and gives a nod to its future growth.

Which brings me on to the M&S Christmas 2016 offering. In a week when the retailer has announced that it will be closing a number of stores, the first thing that sprang to mind with its James Bond theming and locations, is how much did it cost to make?!

While I love this advertisement for its visual beauty and storyline about Mrs Claus being the modern day Father Christmas, I was confused about M&S’ positioning. Is Mrs Claus representative of the Mrs M&S, the new Chief Executive Steve Rowe recently talked about “Mrs M&S is the average shopper in Marks and Spencer – obviously, she’s female, just over 50. She’s a working mum, maybe a grandmother, maybe just about to retire. She has a passion for great quality and great product, and she understands value – she’s very value savvy.” Our Mrs Claus seemed far more sophisticated than that and far sexier too (note the book ‘Fifty Shades of Red’ she is reading in the final shot). Is this the woman M&S wants to target – if so they need to get their in-store offering sorted.

And what about the family? The scenes were gorgeous and Christmassy but how many average M&S shopping families live in what looked to be a £5million house in Chiswick? All a bit detached from reality, but still it is Christmas. This advertisement out of them all, is the one which is creativity for creativity’s sake, but funnily enough it is the one I like the most – warming, Christmassy and escapist with some clever touches. After all that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it?

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