Christmas Advert Reviews 2013

The busiest time of the year for retailers (as our Christmas Marketing Infographic explains) means intense competition for TV advertising campaigns. John Lewis blew £7 million on theirs, while Asda’s looks like they spent £70. So we thought we’d take a more in depth look at an array of eight clips that will be hitting our screens over and over and over again between now and December 25th. The gap in quality, effectiveness and ideas is astounding. From the charming to the charmless, the pompous to the plain, this is e-shot’s no holds barred critique:



Morrisons: Ant and Dec look more and more like ITV’s stylists have got hold of Merry and Pippin from Lord of the Rings with every passing yuletide. Nevertheless, this advert is actually not that bad. Yes there’s an unexplained dancing gingerbread man, the sickly Geordie duo and an annoying take on the song “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast, but the food looks amazing and tempting which is a pretty direct aim of a Christmas advert. 6/10


Coca Cola

Coca Cola: Have you ever analysed the lyrics to the choral music in this advert? “The holidays are coming, it’s always the real thing”. What does that even mean?! Anyway, I can be as pedantic as I want, but Coca-Cola have Christmas marketing sorted. To the extent that they’ve even managed to breed the urban myth that before Coca-Cola got involved Santa didn’t even wear red and white robes, and any deviations from their beloved annual clip would cause uproar.

Social media feeds are filled with slightly pathetic, nostalgic and overexcited love for the advert whenever it is first shown on TV each festive season. Though it doesn’t even seem like they have to do anything to make their Christmas campaign a success every year, if it ain’t broke… 9/10


Mark & Spencer’s

M&S: Let’s face it, M&S basically invented food porn. But since they abandoned the sexy voice talking over leisurely-poured custard or a carving knife slicing into a well-stuffed turkey in slow-motion, their adverts haven’t been as exciting. Well, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley falling into an Alice in Wonderland style fantasy world and losing her clothing for a moment is nearly there. Oh and then when the advert goes all Aladdin her clothes disappear again. Nice try, M&S.

Eventually, Helena Bonham Carter shows up, as do numerous models, things become a bit Wizard of Oz and then Huntington-Whiteley’s back in the “real” world. It’s probably too long, over-ambitious, and an odd mix of classic fantasy, fairy tales and festivity. But it shows off a wide range of the goods that M&S sell extremely well. Although it will hardly linger long in the public consciousness. 6/10



LEGO: This clip’s piano loop feels like we’re about to watch a Microsoft or Google advert, but quickly the quirky and imaginative selection of LEGO’s possible uses dispels that idea. The father and son team is really well worked to tug on the heartstrings, and the advert wins extra bonus points because it isn’t too blatantly Christmassy! No fake snow or paper-hat-filled family meal is thrust down your throat, instead relying on the simple attraction of paternal bonding. 6/10



Tesco: I’m a bit of a sucker for super 8mm-style home movie footage, not to mention Rod Stewart’s sultry tones. And to Tesco’s credit, the 1970’s footage that melts into the modern day is incredibly convincing, not really relying on clichés and making the actor’s ageing believable. The song eventually ends after a few final shots of food and fun, the Tesco logo appears with their famous “Every Little Helps” slogan, and I think it’s an incredibly effective and enjoyable campaign. 9/10


John Lewis

John Lewis: Their 2011 “For gifts you can’t wait to give” advert really seemed to connect with public sentiment. I reckon 2012’s effort was just as successful and innovative as John Lewis continued their Christmas marketing winning streak. However, this year’s ad is just plain boring. Admittedly it has nice animation – even if it is a shamelessly pale imitation of Watership Down mixed with classic Disney. The music is dreadful, as Lily Allen’s dull mockney voice dribbles out an excruciating version of an already dull song by Keane.

Anyway, there is one way John Lewis have triumphed at Christmas TV marketing in the past three years – and it probably just about justifies the £7m spent on this year’s effort – they’ve got people talking and the unveiling of each advert has become a mini event and newsworthy occurrence. But for content, festive spirit and enjoyment this only scrapes 8/10.



Debenhams: Models, luxury jewellery, more models, excited kids, Budapest, ice skating, lots of pretty lights and a romantic plot that’s slightly clearer than an arty perfume advert. This Debenhams ad takes elements of M&S and John Lewis’s campaigns – without the surreal experimentation and tear-jerking animation – there’s even the obligatory sexy underwear shot and a slow female sung backing ballad. It’s the opposite of ground-breaking, entirely unsubtle and not particularly memorable, but it presents ranges of the department store’s products in an attractive way. Boring, but nicely done. 6/10



Asda: This is awful. Just awful. Even if their marketing budget was 0.5% of the John Lewis advertising fund, it’d be no excuse. It feels as though a lazy 16 year old work experience kid was given an hour to come up with a vaguely festive concept to demonstrate how Asda are cheaper than their rivals. If their slogan was “our prices are as cheap as this advert”, then at least it would be funny. 2/10 

Caffeinated Content: Boost Your Product with Extra Energy

Are you half way through the day trying to tackle the final half? Need an energy boost during an intense sporting contest / video games session? Or are you just waking up and getting ready for the busy day? There are many reasons that people pick up an energy drink; but the most prominent of energy drinks seems to be Red Bull. You might not feel too fondly about it as it may remind you of that horrific night out in which you had one jaeger bomb too many – but love it or hate it, irrespective of your personal palate, it’s one of the if not the most popular energy drink around!

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about how it tastes, although truth be told, I’m personally a huge fan. I’m not even here to talk about how it sells 5.2 billion cans a year. Or that a toothpaste salesman called Dietrich Mateschitz introduced the blue and silver energy can in the 1980’s. I’m here to talk about their content marketing.

As James O’Brien said to Mashable; popular social media news site, “Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage”. In fact, Red Bull’s content marketing is second to none – with no one even remotely close to them.  You will find them everywhere, from short 30 second TV ads to a feature film (more on that later). But the approach of their marketing team is embodied in all their campaigns. Campaigns, which evoke astonishing curiosity, you’ll find yourself asking, “what is this?” Then once you act on that curiosity by clicking to see more, it is more often than not followed by the viewer screaming: “THAT WAS INSANE!”

e-sports: All this to watch 2 people battling it out on a computer game

E-sports: All this to watch two people battling it out on a computer game!

They also organise events that gets people involved as well as excited – such as hosting events for an array of extreme sport. Not to mention e-sport competitions that followers flock to. I’m especially fond of events that your average person/team can get involved in, such as the soap box race in which they allow people to get a chance to be featured in Red Bull’s ever-growing archive of astounding content!

The drinks company uses every form of media under the sun, but engaging content is the engine powering all their campaigns. In 2007 they started their very own media house and utilised that to catapult themselves above and beyond their competition. Undoubtedly, Red Bull’s media house has content marketing on point. But how do they do it? How do they capture our attention beyond simply the insane flips, tricks and almost humanly impossible BASE jumps?


Telling a story with content is what attracts us to a brand as readers, viewers and listeners. And they do it so well with both the cinematic photography and the professionalism of their experimental athletes they capture on film. Many have tried but never as captivatingly as Red Bull.

Time to make history!

Red Bull even made history – Remember that guy who broke the sound barrier with his face!? Now that’s a story to tell! Red Bull’s sponsoring and documenting of Felix Baumgartner’s BASE jump from a record high 39 Kilometres (24 miles) grabbing 9 million people streaming live on Youtube. This was truly unique.

In 2011 they released a documentary film that followed a group of extreme snowboarders, who put their talent to the test. The Art of Flight generated $2million and stayed at the top of the iTunes Chart for two weeks. After watching the film I was instantly hooked on snowboarding and even took it up! Having a chance to do something so crazy was made incredibly appealing to me, and I haven’t looked back. From this, I realised that they are not just selling an energy drink that costs £1.29 in my local corner shop, but a lifestyle.

Taking flight! Source:


Content marketing is used to give your followers something valuable and equally as memorable that they can take away, whilst ramping up brand awareness. And what’s more valuable than a story to share with everyone you know? As far as brand awareness goes, to them it’s effortless and it has even become automatic. Their content simply screams “Red Bull”.

And there’s a core message at the heart of all of their content – it’s in every picture, video and article that Red Bull produces. An appropriate message that relates well with Felix’s record-breaking BASE jump and all of their death defying stunts and athletes; “Red Bull gives you wings!”

Red Bull provides that extra boost to fly above and beyond the competition even when that competition is yourself.

A picture speaks a 1000 words, so with over 5,000 videos and 50,000 pictures circling the internet, Red Bull tells a lot of boundary pushing stories we love to engage with. Sometimes they reach the top of Apple’s download charts, and once in a while they’ve even made history.

As a result, scrolling through Red Bull’s multitude of beautifully taken pictures and well-crafted videos on the Internet could very well keep you up all night. Which is ironic; for once their content might be the cause of insomnia – rather than just the caffeine in their drink.