I realise the title of this post will probably draw in the anti-consumerism crowd, which is misleading since I love Christmas and (as a gadget reviewer) have a vested interest in its commercialisation. However, by mentioning it I’ve already skewed the Google ranking, so while I’m at it: Free iPad Air, Star Wars Episode VII leaked trailer, Miley Cyrus and cute cat videos. Anyway, my enjoyment of Christmas does not blind me to just how bizarre the elaborate seasonal adverts put out by high-street shops each year have become.
The two biggest culprits are Coca-Cola and John Lewis, the former of which digs out its fondly remembered “Holidays are coming!” promo like a dusty mismatched Christmas tree decoration whose origin is a half-remembered anecdote. But just in case the sight of HGVs delivering high-fructose corn syrup through dangerous driving conditions doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, they’ve tried to capture the same feeling in more co-ordinated adverts like your ill-fated annual attempts to give your Christmas tree a consistent decor.
John Lewis, on the other hand, are reportedly so much the masters of tugging the national heart and purse strings that people are moved to weep at their festive chefs-d’oeuvre. This year, they’ve coerced the Animals of Farthing Wood into a long-awaited reunion to celebrate Christmas together – which Tesco tried with the Spice Girls a few years back.
Sadly, the reports of the bear’s struggles with alcoholism since the group originally split are vindicated and he buggers off to nurse a hangover. Meanwhile, the rabbit (whose career has consisted of one unsuccessful solo attempt and panto) is determined not to let a chance to reboot his fame go to waste. So he gives the bear one of those irritating bell alarm clocks, set to go off under layers of wrapping paper. The bear is rudely awoken and goes to meet the others, where it sinisterly pans away to imply that a grim mauling took place.
Meanwhile, T.K. Maxx – the John Lewis of people with less money than taste – has shot lower than the £7m it took to draw hungover animals in the woods, instead pinning their yuletide hopes on a montage of eerie slow-motion reaction shots. I think it’s meant to be their faces upon receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful gift, but this is T.K. Maxx we’re talking about so it could just as easily be their response to an elderly flasher.
But if you’re more of a festive foodie then Ant and Dec, the face(s) of ITV presenter purgatory, are enjoying a colon-cramming feast on behalf of Morrisons. Since Cat Deeley is still dazed from her hair-swishing antics, fleshy Bert and Ernie are instead joined by a dancing ginger-bread man whose stature means the chewing duo must be shot from an unfortunate low-angle that makes Dec look like he’s storing the table’s contents for hibernation. Once again, this ad takes a dark turn when Ant encourages his squirrely colleague to trap their dancing third-wheel alive in the slobbering hell of his lateral cheek pouches.
But if Ant and Dec want to usurp Santa as the face(s) of Christmas, then they’ve already lost to Myleene Klass, who infiltrated the North Pole workforce with her highly efficient present-wrapping finger of death with the intent of usurping Father Christmas and taking his job. The now-exiled Saint Nick has been forced to work as a DFS delivery man and developed a coke habit, judging by the trails he leaves as he walks. Well, at least he’s got the right truck.
So 2013 has given us another stockingful of Christmas ads jingle-bells deep in mutilation, addiction and backstabbing. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t like Christmas or have any real problem with these adverts, when the complete opposite is true. This is not humbug, this is just teasing at how bizarre these festive mini-movies are, which barely (if at all) reference the actual products these shops sell. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry – which probably includes taking the piss.