If John Lewis didn’t make you cry, Coca-Cola might: A look at this year’s best Christmas adverts

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If John Lewis didn’t make you cry, Coca-Cola might: A look at this year’s best Christmas adverts

Christmas is full of traditions. A fight in EastEnders, that slightly off tasting chocolate you get in cheaper advent calendars (I don’t mean to sound ungrateful Grandma), and the missing safety pins for tree ornaments to name but a few.

One of my favourite traditions is the MAXX blog taking a look at the year’s Christmas adverts. This time around I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing 2020’s offering. And I do mean pleasure… I actually had an excuse to spend the morning watching videos on YouTube! It felt like the task I’d been training for all through lockdown.

I’ve even managed to sneak in some of my old favourites as well…

John Lewis - 'Give a Little Love'

Speaking of traditions! Like being gifted deodorant you’ll only use when you run out (can’t stress enough Grandma – I’m very grateful), the John Lewis advert has become a staple of the festive period. So much so that I think it’s actually put John Lewis in a difficult position. The audience has come to expect certain things from its Christmas advert – for example a heart-warming story, a slower version of a pop hit or a toy you can then buy in store. The challenge is when the advert features these elements they are accused of repeating themselves.

I really respect the fact that with this year’s advert, John Lewis has tried to do something different. Whilst there is a consistent narrative and clear theme of the importance of being kind to each other, there isn’t a character for the audience to latch on to. Unlike previous years where the emotive heart of the advert has been someone like Buster the Boxer or Moz the Monster. Instead the hook is the ever-changing animation style which switches between stop-motion plasticine, hand-drawn, CGI and more. The end result is in my opinion one of the most visually interesting and unique adverts the company has ever produced. Although I must admit I did miss that more heart-warming feeling you usually get from John Lewis. For this they have, in my opinion, never beaten 2011’s classic ‘The Long Wait’…

Coca-Cola – ‘This Christmas give something only you can give’

So if John Lewis aren’t providing it, where are we going to turn for the big emotional moments! Surprisingly I’d suggest Coca-Cola! I say surprisingly because I never thought I would be talking about a Coca-Cola Christmas advert that wasn’t this classic…

However, this year’s very sweet advert that tells the story of man’s tumultuous journey to deliver his daughter's letter to Santa has swum, hiked and climbed its way into my heart. It’s essentially a short film made on a very big budget! With some pretty stunning cinematography and set pieces including oceans and snowy mountains. As well as a very festive and touching finale. If John Lewis didn’t make you cry this year, Coca-Cola might:   

Amazon – ‘The Show Must Go On’

I really enjoy the short film approach of an advert like Coca-Cola’s, but I also get a real kick out of an advert that’s not afraid to be just that – an advert promoting a service. Amazon’s piece about a dancer whose big performance has been cancelled is a good example of this. It tells a story but it’s also not afraid to embed the service it is selling into that story:

It also does a really good job of balancing an acknowledgment of the difficult year we have all had with an inspiring tone. Although there might be a bit of bias here – I’m a massive Queen fan so the instrumental version of ‘The Show Must Go On’ was always going to work on me!

Sainsbury’s – ‘Gravy song’, ‘Perfect Portions’ and ‘Big Sarnie’

Like Amazon, I feel that Sainsbury’s has found a clever way of acknowledging the year we’ve all had in their 2020 Christmas campaign. Except with Sainsbury’s it's arguably very subtle and in the subtext.

The supermarket chain’s 3-part series features VHS-style home videos of different families, over audio of the same families talking about their Christmas experience:  

The fact that these conversations are taking place over the phone is to me a subtle nod to the change in the way we communicated with our family over the last year. This combined with the retro style home videos makes the viewer feel very nostalgic, conjuring up memories of our own Christmas days gone by.

Whilst I enjoy this year’s Sainsbury’s advert though, I will never get bored of watching their 2018 offering ‘The Big Night’. As anyone in the MAXX office will tell you, I laugh EVERY SINGLE TIME I watch this and see the boy dressed as a plug turn on the lights…

Lidl – ‘Big on a Christmas you can believe in’

Speaking of supermarkets, Lidl’s advert does a great job of playing with the concept of taking a Christmas ad to seriously, with a tongue in cheek take on the emotional music choices and cute animals/food items used by their competitors:

This advert also firmly put a focus on promoting Lidl and its Christmas prices whilst being very entertaining. Although if you want amusing musical numbers, it’s hard to beat KFC’s 2013 campaign ‘The Taste That Unites’, especially with lyrics such as “Let’s come together at Christmas time, put all our differences aside, one thing on which we all agree, the delicious taste of KFC”…

Great Ormond Street – ‘Home for Christmas’

Finally, I want to draw attention to The Great Ormond Street – ‘Home for Christmas’ piece which is beautifully animated and incredibly touching:

I don’t want to say too much because I think it’s best watched but I found the visuals very moving and the switch in film styles at the end is particularly impactful. Supporting charities has never been more important and this advert does a great job of reminding people why it’s so important to give at Christmas.

That’s this year’s adverts reviewed! There’s a chance that using phrases such as “emotive heat”, “tumultuous journey” and “stunning cinematography” in a blog with links to a 7 year old advert for KFC suggests I’ve taken the task a little too seriously. There’s a good reason for it though! And it’s not even my love of Christmas – it’s my love of video.

I’m thrilled to say that as well as watching YouTube videos in lockdown, I actually managed to do some work! We’ve created a number of video projects over the last 12 months that I’m incredibly proud of, including recent promotional films for Purley Park Trust, The Downs School and John Rankin Schools.

From talking heads to animations and promotional films, we offer a range of videos and approach every project with the passion I’ve put into over analysing Coca Cola’s Christmas advert. If you want to talk about how you can use video in 2021 feel free to email me on [email protected]