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2021’s Best And Worst Christmas Adverts (According To Marketing Labs)

Date of post

17 November 2021

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15 mins

It’s that time of year again when we can’t move without seeing festive advertising. Some of the biggest brand names in the country are already fighting it out to have their Christmas adverts crowned the best, with budgets seemingly getting bigger every year. 

To save you the trouble of watching every Christmas advert so far this year (although you’re still free to do just that), we’ve given them all a watch and have voted on a scale of one to five to see which is the top ad – according to the Marketing Labs team. 

The votes are in, so here’s what we think of this year’s Christmas advert offerings from worst to best.

 

Selfridges

The votes were unanimous on this one. Unfortunately, the Selfridges ad just doesn’t deliver, especially when you hold it up next to some of this year’s really strong offerings. 

While you have to give some kudos for the fact that it is blatant about the fact that it’s selling products to you, the overall feel isn’t very festive at all. It is trying too hard, is rather forgettable, fails to be funny and gives the impression of being low budget. 

The most we can say is at least they gave it a go.

 

Very

While not a bad advert, Very’s offering is pretty forgettable and lacks anything that makes you really pay attention. The idea of using “it’s Christmas” as an excuse is pretty good as, let’s face it, we all say that, but it isn’t enough to make it stand out. 

Overall, this advert is just okay but doesn’t stand up to the big boys in the fight. 

 

Asda

With the message being “make Christmas spectacular”, you’d think the advert would be a little bit more spectacular. Yes, it crams in a lot of Christmas imagery but it doesn’t do it in a particularly new or exciting way. 

The filming is interesting but overall, it felt a bit rushed and like it lacked focus. While Asda sells more than food, focusing on the festive foodie offerings may have made the advert stronger. 

If you’re going to claim that you can help make Christmas special, you need to show exactly how this will happen.

 

M&S

What happened to the days of Marks and Spencer delivering great Christmas adverts? It seems like they hit a peak with 2016’s ‘Christmas with love from Mrs Claus’ advert and have since failed to recapture the magic. 

While this offering has some feel-good Christmas vibes, it doesn’t really hold your attention and you can be forgiven for not being able to recall what the ad was 30 seconds after it finished. While the product placement was good, it just gives the impression of trying too hard and doesn’t deliver the warm festive feeling you want. 

It’s not the worst advert of the year, but it definitely doesn’t come close to being the best. 

 

M&S Food

This advert divided us a little bit with half the team enjoying it and the other half thinking it was a bit meh, so we’ve split the difference. You’ve got to love that Percy Pig is voiced by Tom Halland (who was really excited by the role) and that the ad also features the always-recognisable Dawn French, but it seems to be missing a certain spark. 

The fact that the ad is a bit shorter than others on the list is a big plus (no one wants to sit through a 3-minutes short film), but other aspects put people off a bit. The fact that it’s a bit cheesy lost it a point, some of the team thought it tried a bit hard and seemed a bit too salesy.

We all agreed that it looks great though and is a bit of fun, which many of this year’s adverts are missing. 

 

TK Maxx

The common consensus on this advert is that we aren’t fans but we can’t pinpoint exactly why. It all feels a bit last-minute, some of the acting is a bit cringy and it misses the feel-good note it was obviously going for. 

In previous years, TK Maxx has delivered fairly cool ads, which usually set it apart. It seems to have traded in its cool factor for a tick box exercise that tries to tug at the heartstrings but fails in a spectacular and quite uncomfortable fashion. Watching this one once was definitely enough!

 

Boots

We’re moving more into the good part of the list now, although Boots’ offering this year is fairly middle of the road. One question that popped up a few times was “does it really have to be this long?” It’s a 3-minute advert that seems to drag and fail to hit the emotional note that Boots has got spot-on in previous years – like their 2018 Christmas advert

The whole idea is fun, drawing on the children’s classic Mary Poppins, but it doesn’t need such a long intro to get the point across and the length of the ad really undermines how great it could have been. Boots also should have stuck with the fun side of things rather than trying to shoehorn in an emotional moment at the end, which adds time and doesn’t really add anything. 

Sometimes editing really is the best option!

 

Argos

I can remember enjoying the Argos Christmas advert when I watched it but I can’t remember much about it now, which suggests that maybe it’s just a bit too standard. It’s a fairly fun ad with nothing too bad worth shouting about. 

The consensus was that the product placement was good, the idea of marking what you want in the Argos catalogue catches a bit of nostalgia (who didn’t do that when growing up?) but there was nothing that really captured our attention and made us go wow.

 

Sports Direct

There was a clear divide on this advert too with those who like sport mostly appreciating the ad and those who aren’t into sports not knowing who anyone in it is, which means it loses its impact. 

We first have to address the fact that the number of sports personalities alone means that this advert definitely had to be expensive. Overall the ad was nice and ok. It definitely isn’t strong if you don’t know who everyone is but Sports Direct has understood its customers well and created an ad that works for them rather than trying to cater to everyone, which means it works. 

 

Sainsbury’s

This year’s Sainsbury’s advert really divided us with half giving it five out of five and the other half not seeing what was so special about it. 

For some of the team, it fully summed up Christmas – lots of family and friends, noise, madness and great food. For the rest, it wasn’t really anything special and, from a personal perspective, some of the frozen facial expressions were a bit on the creepy side!

What we can all agree on is that the effects are done really well and it has great production quality. However, it’s missing something that gives it the heart of a Christmas advert.

 

Tesco

Tesco was very almost tied with Sainsbury’s but it managed to collect a few extra points that put it just over the edge. While e all felt that it’s another ad that is slightly longer than it needs to be, most comments were positive. 

The use of humour throughout the advert worked really well and the references to the pandemic and last Christmas were well-timed without making it into a joke. While it isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s a lot of fun, uses a great song and is fairly memorable. 

Plus, Santa is vaccinated, which was always going to be a great point.

 

John Lewis

You were probably expecting the John Lewis advert to be one of the top ones this year, but we just don’t think it is as strong as it could have been. The whole idea is very much in keeping with the brand’s past Christmas campaigns and the whole idea of not judging people who come from somewhere different to you is quite poignant, but it just seemed to be missing something really special. 

You still get that slightly warm feeling you expect from John Lewis, but in the sea of sentimental Christmas adverts, it just falls slightly short. It definitely doesn’t hit you in the feels as much as their 2012 advert but it also isn’t terrible. 

It seems like we are close to reaching the point where John Lewis is no longer the most-awaited Christmas advert of the year. 

 

Amazon

Just like Sports Direct, Amazon has shown that they understand their core demographic with this advert. It is massively relatable following the events of the last two years and has a simple but powerful message that makes you think but also gives those heartstrings a good ol’ tug. 

While the advert does seem a bit longer than it needs to be, it’s nice to see Amazon moving away from the more musical, fun adverts and delivering something that responds to the current environment. This was one of the favourite ads among our team. 

 

Homebase

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Christmas, my mind doesn’t usually go to Homebase. This advert might change that though with its short, snappy and fun festive vibes. 

Homebase hasn’t tried any big grand messages, it’s skipped out on all the emotional stuff and has just created a simple but effective Christmas advert. This really does stand out for the right reasons this year – not least because it isn’t three minutes long!

The use of Dick and Angel Strawbridge is also a great touch as they will be known among DIY enthusiasts. Overall, this ad is a surprising one to feature among the top ads on this list but it definitely earns its spot!

 

Disney

This one brought on a few tears (even if the team won’t admit it). It’s totally been created to deliver a gut punch straight to the feels and it works because this is a relatable situation that many modern families face. 

It’s entirely what you expect from Disney and the storytelling is so well done. However, it’s just so long! No one wants to have to sit through such a long advert even if it is doing well at telling a story. You can argue that this ad would have worked better if it managed to cram the same level of emotion into half the time. 

The length is the only reason this isn’t higher up the list. 

 

Celebrations

The Celebrations advert came out of left field and left us all feeling a bit surprised. It’s so fundamentally British in its humour and I think that’s why it works so well. 

Celebrations are a big part of Christmas in the UK (you get to enjoy the mountains of them in supermarkets from October) and it is a running joke that no one likes Bounties. Using that and building a campaign around it was a stroke of genius and I applaud whoever the marketing mastermind was behind it. 

Everything from the online dating to the Love Actually reference and the fact that no one like Brussels sprouts either worked really well to create a fun advert. The only downside is that it isn’t overly Christmassy so is missing a bit of that festive magic.

 

Aldi

We’re not ashamed to admit that we’re suckers for Kevin the Carrot. Aldi knows its brand and its audience, which is why the majority of its campaigns are right on the money. 

This advert was probably made better by the marketing activity that launched before it was released, which made use of the new banana character. Not only did this create some great hype around the ad, but it also provided a backstory. 

Overall, the animation is fun, it’s a different take on a Christmas Carol (which has been done to death but was still enjoyable in this format), it has a heartfelt message that doesn’t need a lot of lead up, there are great Easter eggs to find, perfect puns and it creates characters that will be used in Aldi’s Christmas products.

The lack of an original base story is the only reason this ad was pipped to the post by our top choice. 

 

McDonald’s

You may not necessarily think of McDonald’s when it comes to Christmas but they have delivered with this tear-inducing advert. Not only does this ad tell a story, but it is also relatable, features great effects, uses the perfect song and is nice and short – the brand has basically hit it out of the park. 

The passage of time is shown simply and is very easy to understand. While one person thought the imaginary friend was a bit creepy at the start, most of us were pretty much sold quite early on. The only thing that you could pick at is that the “are you reindeer ready” slogan doesn’t quite fit with the storyline and seems a bit forced. 

While I’m not likely to head to McDonald’s to buy carrots for Rudolph this year, the story of growing up but not being ready to let go of magic at Christmas time is something that I really enjoyed. 

Let us know if you agree with our choice of best and worst Christmas adverts!

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