Christmas adverts come but once a year. And that’s a relief, as all that snow-dusted sentiment can bring a grouch down (even one who likes to grumble and then enjoys himself in the end).
Firstly, here is my mumbled apology for alighting on this topic: yes, it’s too early, but at least it’s not Brexit.
Although, now you mention it, sprinkle some snow on Mrs Maybe and you might have a seasonal advert. Lonely, events-tattered woman stumbles out into a deserted street, starts to say words she doesn’t seem to believe, the snow begins to fall. Lonely woman turns back to that famous front door, leaving a trail of footprints. An emotive swell of music accompanies the shutting of that door.
Then an argument ensues, someone drops the snow-dome and everything smashes into less than festive shards.
Anyway, these adverts are quite a thing. Every year there is a story about them, usually the John Lewis one. Two years ago, a student made a fake John Lewis ad for a project, put it online before the real thing, and it went viral. Some people swore they couldn’t tell the difference.
Four years ago, Sainsbury’s made a First World War advert inspired the temporary truce and football match in the trenches. That one divided people, being beautifully made and yet for all that, weirdly exploitative: a spot of teary-eyed remembrance to remind you to stock up on carrots and claret at Sainsbury’s.
This year’s story concerns the Iceland advert, featuring a cartoon orangutan that has fled the destruction of the rain forest to hide in a girl’s bedroom. The anti-palm oil message of the advert is based on research by Greenpeace.
Whether or not this advert has been banned is debatable, as the Independent online reports that the ‘ban’ was merely advice from the advertising industry’s advisory body, Clearcast.
The advert is freely available online, and I showed it to students the other day, running it alongside the Sainsbury’s wartime advert. “Why was one banned and not the other?” I asked the students. Later, I saw that someone had written an opinion piece for the Newstatesman asking just that question.
Here, I might have added, is a perfect example of why your lecturer is not much cop at being a freelance journalist; don’t just have ideas, sell them…
While that student’s fake John Lewis advert pushed all the usual buttons, this year’s offering is different, being a mini Sir Elton John movie. The singer is shown at home sitting at an old piano, playing a couple of notes from his early hit, Your Song. We then see Elton’s life told through that song. Archive footage shows him performing the song, sometimes clad in sparkles, sometimes standing on top of a piano.
Sometimes he is going bald, and yet the old Elton has a full head of hair, an expensive type of miracle. As Elton gets younger, one scene shows his mother sitting with a tear in her eye at a school concert.
The advert ends with Elton as a little boy at home in the 1950s, unwrapping his first piano, bought for him by his doting mother and grandmother. He plays a couple of notes. Then it’s back to old Elton sitting at the same piano; he plays the same two notes and closes the piano lid.
“Some gifts are more than just a gift,” runs the caption. You know, the buying stuff bit, and John Lewis, like other stores could do with a good Christmas, as times are tough, with the lowest staff bonus yet being paid, reportedly, and yet still with £7m to spent on the Elton ad.
I shall try not to mention Christmas again for a while.