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Smoking Gun’s Great British Christmas Ad-off


Every year we make a concerted effort to pay some respect to the art of great festive advertising by unveiling a run down of the season’s biggest and best festive commercials. So why would 2016 be any different?

Without further babble, we present all the trimmings from all the big guns, a few much welcome parodies just in case you don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, and some special mentions we felt inclined to include. Call it spreading goodwill, if you like.

The Big Four
ASDA has gone for a string of clips each dedicated to a different department, held together with a spine-tinglingly seasonal soundtrack of sleigh bells and chimes. Typically down to Earth, the commercials are heavy on sales and light on lecturing; which is good or bad depending on what you like.
Sentimentality rating: 4/10 
Tear jerkiness: 0/10 
In summary: We’re suckers for festive noises, hence awarding this campaign four Sentimentality points. Overall, though, it’s more like a nice neighbour who isn’t a good friend- lovely, but not so close to your heart you’ll miss them when they move on.
If, like most of us, your family has a habit of utilising all manner of strange spots to store the Yuletide treats and tipples, then it’s likely Morrison’s has well and truly made it with this year’s clip, setting the scene on the morning of what everyone wants their family Christmas to look like.
Sentimentality rating: 8/10
Tear jerkiness: 7/10
In summary: Memories of youth, several generations of family all together at once, the idea that everyone in the country does roughly the same thing on 25th December… we’re not crying, something just flew in our eye.

Sainsbury’s has decided to go for the ‘take some time off at this time of year’ idea, showing poor dad, Dave, who, like so many Britons, suffers from a lack of hours in the day. His realisation is that perhaps the best present he could give is undivided attention to loved ones [sniff].
Sentimentality rating: 7/10
Tear jerkiness: 6/10
In summary: The message is spot on, the animation brilliant (the work of Manchester-based company Makinnon and Saunders), and the jaunty Lighting Seeds-esque score means it’s not going to leave you an emotional wreck.

It’s difficult to know how to take Tesco’s offering. Full marks for mocking just how early mince pies went on sale this year (we found some available the day after Halloween), but by unveiling this ahead of the pack Tesco was implicit in making Christmas come early. Still, at least they’re honest.
Sentimentality rating: 5/10
Tear jerkiness: 1/10 
In summary: A down to Earth clip that still manages to pull on a few heartstrings as the leading lady’s internal monologue invokes festivities past and present. Ending on a positive blast of Noddy Holder, despite scoring low for both categories it managed to get us in the mood weeks ago.

The Luxuries
Employing the age-old mantra- ‘put a dog in it’- John Lewis wins for most fun in any advert this year, simply because loads of animals get to use a trampoline. For this reason alone it conjures a sense of magic and wonder that seems to be missing from many of 2016’s crop, which is exactly what we’re looking for.
Sentimentality rating: 9/10
Tear jerkiness: 6/10
In summary: A real gem, Buster The Boxer is already one of our favourite advertising characters because you can’t not smile when you see his face. The fact he gets his Christmas wish pushes the experience into mild-water works territory.

You can usually count on M&S to bring home the proverbial bacon in the snowy season, and 2016’s is a class act. It has Santa and Mrs Claus, a brother and sister who fight most of the year but love each other dearly, and enough advent ambience to make you wish it was Christmas Eve already.
Sentimentality rating: 10/10
Tear jerkiness: 9/10 
In summary: A definite hit, if you still feel cold after watching this we’re not sure what to say. Anyone who isn’t moved at Santa getting his own little surprise, and a young girl welling up because she’s so incredibly touched by her sibling’s gift, should have a think about things.
As Planet Earth II is currently the best singular thing in the world ever, Waitrose couldn’t be more timely with this spectacularly shot yarn about a robin red breast travelling o’er hill and through storm to reach a mince pie. The fact he then meets another of his kind to be friends with (if not more) is the icing on the cake.
Sentimentality rating: 7/10 
Tear jerkiness: 9/10
In summary: The little bird is so small, and so alone until the end, whilst the family Christmas looks like something from your ultimate idyll. You’ll either be welling up because this is what you want, or because it reminds you of how lucky you are.

The Discounters
It has been a great month for Aldi’s PR in general after announcing it will soon go full-organic, banning pesticides and the like. Adding to the goal tally is this original piece centred on Kevin The Carrot, who inadvertently assists Santa. It’s probably best not to question what will happen to Kevin once the deliveries are done, mind.
Sentimentality rating: 8/10
Tear jerkiness: 5/10
In summary: You need to be pretty soft to get bleary eyed over a carrot, but it is possible as we discovered a few minutes ago. And with the best festive music ever, and a strong Night Before Christmas theme, it’s pretty darn sentimental.
There’s mystery afoot in what Lidl has brought to the table. Clearly Grandma has sadly passed, and this is the old family home, but the reason why it hasn’t been sold since lying empty isn’t clear. Logic and reason aside we’re pretty sure we’re not the only ones to discover how much this gets to you.
Sentimentality rating: 10/10
Tear jerkiness: 9/10
In summary: With the exception of elves, Santa and reindeers, this has it all. The circle of life, death, loss, love, happiness, a family coming together for once in a blue moon, and snow. What more could you ask for?

The Spoofs 

The Poke scores pretty highly with its smart take on the John Lewis advert, warning middle class city dwellers to keep their wits about them because vermin can really ruin the big day.

Aldi has established a real tradition of poking fun at the hype surrounding John Lewis’ Christmas commercial, and although this doesn’t beat last year’s ‘Granny On The Moon’ stint, it is still pretty amusing.
Tenant’s lager managed to come up with something even more original and on point for its audience- what does happen if Scottish weather strikes and you have a trampoline in the garden?

And here’s what happened when a real life boxer dog was let loose on a trampoline. Oh, Winston!!

Notable Mentions 

Despite such mockery, dogs are clearly well into the new John Lewis clip, as these go to show.

And if you work in advertising chances are you are now terrified at the idea that an A-level student managed to fool hundreds and thousands of YouTube viewers into thinking this animation, entitled The Snowglobe, was the real 2016 John Lewis advert, leading to calls for the teen to be hired.
Finally, we’d like to show some appreciation for John Lewis, the computer scientist who is definitely not the UK retailer, but has the Twitter handle @JohnLewis. Every year he is bombarded with comments about the new advert, which kind of makes him a bit like a social media version of those people at the Post Office charged with mail for the North Pole.

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