"Release the hounds": UK Christmas ads arrive, en masse

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Towards the end of September we arrived back from a holiday in Greece, full of the joys of summer. It had been 28-degrees every day whilst away, and a taxi ride from Manchester airport left us under no false illusions as to how warm the weather was here in North West England.
So imagine our dismay to then walk into Unnamed Local Supermarket to find Christmas products lining the impulse purchase shelves. As experienced media professionals our seasonal brainstorming had actually already begun- monthly magazines often work several issues in advance, meaning the media waits for no man and many of the calendar’s lighter evenings are spent preparing for Yuletide.
But even then, work is work, free time free time, and as such it will always feel obtuse to be offered Santa related swag when wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Unless, of course, you’re in a much, much warmer country during the holidays. Of course that was then and this is definitely now. The thought of leaving the office without a thick coat currently sends a chill to the bone, and over the last week or so we’ve seen an abundance of Xmas adverts unveiled before the all-seeing, ever-critical British TV audience.
Marks & Spencer is hoping Helena Bonham Carter, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and David Gandy can turn around the company’s much-broadcast slide in revenue. Whether or not this will be matched by an increase in marketing spend elsewhere- for instance to build exposure in high-end fashion magazines- is another question altogether. We’d say that would be a good idea, considering the retailer’s clothing arm seems to have slipped from the list of regulars appearing in the most influential online and print titles.
Nevertheless, the clip in question is pretty impressive, or at least well made, despite the fact its confusing combination of reference points- Alice In WonderlandWizard of Oz, and Hansel & Gretel– has already been branded “quite bizarre and slightly scary“. John Lewis is another big player in this game, but we’re still waiting for the final reveal of this year’s offering, which is set to take place imminently. Back in October the press were rabid with excitement about the prospect of a Lilly Allen soundtrack, so take from that what you will.
ASDA either doesn’t get Christmas advertising anymore, or is far cleverer than many critics seem to realise. Last year its underlying message- that mums will indeed be doing everything whilst dads slob around in a three-beer-before-dinner haze- was branded as sexist, whereas 2013’s edition, with a focus on competitive pricing against rival supermarkets, does leave a bit of an odd taste in the mouth. Perhaps it would be a better option to emphasise the positive aspects of the impending season. Then again, with living expenses at an all time high, tapping in to the public’s need to count pennies might be just the forthright honesty people will respond to, albeit Morrisons and Tesco both tried that last year to rather lukewarm receptions.
As The Guardian reported on Saturday, this time round the Christmas advertising wars in the UK will be fought on three fronts, with resources more evenly split than ever before. Online and TV will still account for the most cash spent, but social media marketing is also set to see a significant spike in investment. M&S is allowing people to vote via Twitter to name that ridiculously cute dog in its new campaign (pictured). Meanwhile, The Co-Op has come up with a theme of ‘relax, Christmas is just around the corner’, and is asking for Twitter advice on how to make the holidays run smoothly, tagged with #relaxmas. Whether you like it or not then, silly season is here, bringing with it the annual battle for marketplace dominance. As such all bets are on as to who will come out on top.