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Considering Christmas in the time of coronavirus, the million-dollar question this year wasn't which cuddly mascot John Lewis would deliver, it was - will brands swerve any mention of the pandemic from their Christmas ad spectaculars?
The truth is, for what feels like a century, its been nigh on impossible to avoid any mention of the ongoing pandemic, with daily news alerts of rising cases, potential lockdowns and vaccine developments keeping people on their toes.
As tradition dictates, Christmas ads play a crucial role in getting people in the festive spirit, so would brands refrain from dampening the mood with a realistic depiction of a Covid Christmas?
Despite tactful ads from the likes of Tesco and Amazon who commendably tackled it head-on, most brands decided to stick to good old-fashioned fantasy. From Burberry's gritty all-dancing number to Aldi's endearing Kevin the Carrot, and Argos' second chapter of the 'Book of Dreams', scroll down to see a selection of this year’s campaigns that didn't let Covid-19 be the Grinch that stole Christmas ads.
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Argos: ‘An Evening with AbracaDaisy & The Incredible Lucy’
Despite scrapping its paper catalogue in June after 47 years, Argos has brought out the second chapter in its ‘Book of Dreams’ campaign, which once again taps into the nostalgia that people feel for flicking through the pages of its Christmas gift guide.
Though the original ‘Book of Dreams’ is currently out of print, Argos has brought out a Christmas gift guide to replace it. In the spot, two girls spot a box of magic tricks on the pages of the guide, which transports them off to the furthest reaches of the imagination, to a world in which they host their own extraordinary magic show.
Aldi: ‘Kevin’s Out in the Cold’
Aldi‘s Christmas ad from McCann sees Kevin the Carrot return to screens to mark the start of the festive season, bringing with him some much-needed wonder and magic.
The country was left on tenterhooks and rooting for the plucky carrot’s safe return following his appearance earlier this week in a teaser advert. Just days ago, Kevin set the sky alight, Top Gun-style, in a fighter jet escapade with co-pilot Turkey.
He was left perilously adrift with a flaming parachute, leaving fans asking ‘where is Kevin?‘ And, ‘will he manage to get home to Katie and family in time for Christmas?‘
Joules and The Woodland Trust: ‘A Woodland Tale’
Following the launch of its new festive ‘Woodland Edit’, Joules is to plant a tree with the Woodland Trust each time a product is sold from the range during the Christmas period.
To complement the initiative, Joules has produced a Christmas animation titled ‘A Woodland Tale’ which aims to raise awareness of the charity, the need to give back to nature and to protect the endangered species that make an appearance in it, including the red squirrel, pine marten, capercaillie and door mouse.
Hendrick’s Gin: ‘Hendrick’s Gin Curiosity’
Hendrick’s Gin has aired its first-ever television advert, which aims to delight consumers this Christmas season.
The short animated film is a visual fantasy that embodies Victorian surrealism and invites gin drinkers to heed the call of their curiosity. It depicts a butler who happens to also be a hammerhead shark going about his daily tasks. Intrigued by a martini glass-shaped crack in the wall, his curiosity helps him discover the secret, magical world of Hendrick’s Gin.
Barbour: ‘Father Christmas to The Rescue’
For the second year running, Barbour has returned to the popular children’s book Father Christmas, written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs.
The film follows a young boy whose dog has chewed his father’s beloved Barbour wax jacket. The boy writes to Father Christmas to say that he doesn’t want a present this year, he just needs his help to repair his father’s jacket in time for Christmas. Father Christmas realises he can’t mend the jacket himself but has the bright idea of taking it to the Barbour factory in South Shields to see whether they can assist. The Barbour customer service team set to work repairing the jacket and give it a rewax too, so it looks as good as new.
The film is based on the true story of Dudley, the dachshund who chewed his owner’s much-adored Barbour jacket. His owner sent it back to Barbour with a note from Dudley to say he was sorry.
Burberry: ‘Singing in the Rain’
Fashion house Burberry is making a splash this Christmas with a timeless rendition of Singin’ in the Rain, infusing the Gene Kelly classic with the brand’s distinctive urban edginess.
Produced by RiffRaff Films and directed by MegaForce, the classical climatic dance-off has been choreographed by dance collective (La)Horde, amping up the thrill factor by introducing falling blocks of ice for the fleet-footed quartet to circumnavigate.
Evading a descent into tired schmaltz and cheese, the short film brings the 1950s straight into the 21st century with a hailstorm on London’s Petticoat Lane.
Keen to fashion more than just a video, Burberry is aiming to celebrate its capacity to provide social good, signified by a partnership with footballer and activist Marcus Rashford to finance a network of British youth centres.
Dobbies: ‘The Joy of Dobbies’
Dobbies has departed with Christmas tradition to launch ’The Joy of Dobbies’, which brings to life the magical experience of a trip to the retailer during the festive period.
Abstract, impactful and unexpected, it features a bauble-filled hot-tub, sledging poodle and raining mince-pies. All in all, an entertaining ode to the fact that nothing beats the feeling of a trip to a Dobbies garden centre at Christmas.
At its core is a disruptive marketing strategy from ODD that centres around short, shareable film content that will catch attention on TV as much as stand-out online. The films also feature original scores from the acclaimed Jazz musician Ola Onabulé.
Lidl: ‘A Christmas You Can Believe In’
Building on the success of Lidl’s Christmas campaign last year, this year’s advert uses an amusing parody in an animated world to support the same sentiment.
The ad nods to the unbelievable and unrealistic nature of Christmas ads while interrupting these Christmas advertising tropes,and side-stepping them for great Lidl products, at great prices.
The ad continues in this theme by making playful references to ‘emotional gravy’ and moments designed to make viewers sad.
Coca-Cola: ‘Christmas 2020’
This year’s Christmas ad from Coca-Cola is a far cry from the brand’s usual ’Holidays Are Coming’ spot.
Directed by Oscar-winner Taika Waititi, the spot follows a father who works on an oil rig and will stop at nothing to deliver a letter from his daughter to Santa.
The spot reminds us that after a troubling year, making time for the ones we love is what makes Christmas truly the most special time of year, no matter how we do it.
McDonald’s: ‘Inner Child’
McDonald’s UK has wrenched hearts (again) with an emotional Christmas spot.
The latest Christmas ad shares DNA with Pixar-favourite Inside Out and tells the simple story of a single mum trying to get her son into the Christmas spirit. But there is resistance. The mopey teen grump tries to stay true to character, but eventually cracks when his inner child wins out.
McDonald’s has favoured an animated spot for the last two years, and reindeer and carrot snacks for four years. The campaign #ReindeerReady series aims to remind parents of McDonald’s healthy carrot sticks (reindeer snacks).