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Christmas Ads: Capturing Our Hearts (and Consciences?)

14th November 2018

Cecily Rowland, Account Executive within our Consumer team, takes a look at this month's hot topic - Christmas adverts.

For a relatively new tradition, the spattered dawn of the Christmas adverts each year from the high street heavyweights has become one of the key outriders in the British festive calendar.


It is a battle of the budgets up there at the top, with retailers producing nigh on mini-epics to catch the attention of the public and persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash on their wares.


These ads need to capture our attention, our imagination and they need to build reputation; with the ever-sicklier state of the British high street and the domination of streaming sites in the viewing habits of the public putting an end to our tolerance of the measly and forgettable advertisement offerings we’re met with all year round.


It’s a tightrope retailer have to walk. Because while we, the consumer, may know that money is the end game, it’s the emotive meaning we wish to dwell on and be reminded of at a time of joy and merriment, as opposed to the consumerism and money/materialist hunger with which the once spiritual festival has become entwined.


It’s about the balance between the emotive crescendo and cathartic journey alongside the humour - not forgetting the carefully considered song choice. When done well, it’s advertising at its very best, and it can cause laughter and tears in one fell swoop.


Last year the trend was gently sentimental, the best offering Paddington Bear meets Santa and friendly giants under your bed. This year there is more of a focus on social conscience. 


Too much so for the telly bosses, it seems. Iceland has had its ad banned on TV as too political because it focuses on the evils of deforestation and palm oil production - a decision that, to many, looks absurd.


It is a clever ad - in cartoon form a child discovers a baby girl orang-utan in her bedroom and it turns out the pesky orang-utan has been displaced by the destruction of her forest home ahead of the expansion in acreage devoted to palm oil cultivation. Girl invites rang to stay, fade.


Following Iceland's pledge to end the use of palm oil in own brand products the ad steps away from charming festive quintessence of previous years. Partnering with charity Greenpeace the retailer chooses to draw attention to the effects of palm oil farming, in an effort to stand out and spread a message topical, of the moment and not at all fluffy and over-sentimental.


Everyone’s talking about the ad and the brand while views on social media of the now banished film have been soaring, so the ban isn’t necessarily a disaster for Iceland.


Maybe the trend to greater social realism is to be applauded. Despite being a time of year epitomised by warmth and good will, it shouldn’t become expected that we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the problems of the rest of the planet.


Grayling Team

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