Creative Choice: Christmas edition

By AdNews | 18 December 2015

This first appeared in the AdNews print magazine. You can read it all below but if you want it as soon as it goes to press, you better subscribe here.

It's all about the work and Creative Choice is where we send in the pros to critique the latest offerings from ad land.

The Hallway's Simon Lee and The Monkeys' Siobhan Fitzgerald take on the challenge for this week's Creative Choice, putting their creative eye to work from Aldi, John Lewis, Hallmark, Myer, Sainsbury's and Woolworths.

First up - a few little words from the creatives themselves:Simon Lee Creative choice

Simon Lee: It’s the festive period - good will to all men, women, and transgender people; mistletoe; turkey, grog, crackers and Christmas ads! I evaluated these asking myself how festive does it make me feel from one to 10, and will this drive me crazy when it’s in every ad break, on a scale of one to 150.

Siobhan Fitzgerald: I’m a sucker for Christmas so I loved watching these. It almost seems unfair to pit the Aussie ones against those from the Northern Hemisphere. The budgets are vastly different and you can see how it leaves room for beautiful storytelling. Still, it’s freezing there and we get to go to the beach!

1. Now This is Christmas - Aldi

SL: This Does a decent job of empathising with everyone who is running round like headless turkeys in the run-up to the big
day and reminds us that sitting round a table with friends and family makes it all worthwhile. So much of the execution is spent on showing the not-so-great side of the festive period that it comes up a little short for me on the ‘how festive does it make me feel?’ (HFDIMMF) scale, scoring five. However, by presenting so many vignettes to discover over multiple viewings, it scores a merciful 20 when it comes to the “will this drive me crazy when it’s on in every ad break’ (WTDMC) question.

SF: Christmas is about more than giving and togetherness, it’s about more than presents and consumerism. For the most part, it’s about sheer and utter panic. The rush to get everything ready is a truth expressed humorously here. Christmas can be a pain but Aldi can help. Makes sense. Makes a good ad.

2. Man on the Moon - John Lewis

SL: Every year the great British public await the John Lewis Christmas ad with eager anticipation. And this year sees Britain’s favourite department store not only enchants us with a beautiful festive story, but also helps raise awareness of the social alienation of elderly people. The story is wonderfully told and the lyrics of Oasis’ Half the World Away makes it a masterful choice for the soundtrack. A lovely ad and a poignant brand act. Bravo! HFDIMMF:8, WTDMC:1

SF: Pluck out my heartstrings and string me up with the mistletoe because this ad kills me, and not in a good way. Like the rest of the world, I’ve enjoyed John Lewis ads in the past, but this one pushes those sentimental buttons a bit too hard. The combination of cute kid/lonely old man/bunches of balloons and Christmas is just a bit too saccharine for me. Having said that at the time of writing 16 million people had viewed it online so who am I to judge?

3. Family Portrait - Hallmark

SL: I do kind of like this ad which gives an amusing portrayal of the clash of personal agendas that plays out when setting up for the family Christmas photo. But what’s with the hashtag? I’m still trying to work out whether the “I” in #keepsakeIt is actually a capital “i” or a lower case “l” and if it’s the latter, what the heck is a “sakelt”? HFDIMMF: 6, WTDMC: 92

SF: OK, so Keepsake is a line of ornaments by Hallmark, and presumably the people of America know that. As it was, it took me a little Googling to figure it out, then a bit more to find the rest of the campaign, and then I loved it. Great real-life Christmas moments are executed beautifully (‘Perfectionist Mum’ is my pick of the bunch) with a dry sensibility that is unlike what you’d expect from Hallmark. I also love that beautiful Northern Hemisphere Christmas vibe.

4. Find Christmas - Myer

SL: Myer’s Christmas ad is an attempt at a Wizard of Oz with snow quest tale. The casting is great, giving us a camp neurotic elf, a reindeer with a lisp and an angel that sounds like she smokes forty a day. But there is no real story to latch on to and get excited by. The ad looks lovely and certainly has a nice festive vibe, but without a meaningful story, it runs the risk of being easily forgettable

SF: I like this ad. The execution feels fresh and light in a category that’s often full of sop, and the idea is solid (if a little derivative). It has a great balance of iconic Christmas imagery with a fresh Australian tone; the dialogue is cute and the animation has a lovely sense of nostalgia about it. This feels like the biggest budget – and best – of the Aussie Christmas contingency, and sets Myer up perfectly as the place to shop for Christmas. Now let’s all go there for our Chrissy shopping to keep Aussie retailers in business!

5. Mog's Christmas Calamity - Sainbury's

SL: This ad sees Mog the cat wreak Paddington-like havoc in the Thomas family household. It’s a beautifully produced ad, no doubt on a beautiful budget, and I’m sure it will have kids laughing at Mog’s kitchen wrecking antics. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the writing though: a bit more storytelling charm in the narrator’s script would have lifted the piece closer to the festive fable register that it aspires to. I also cannot help but think there might have been richer stories to illustrate . “Christmas is for sharing”. I suspect that the Paddington-like cat came first; the story later. HFDIMMF: 7, WTDMC: 30

SF: Christmas nostalgia meets a little Harry Potter and a bloody enormous budget. Based on the iconic children’s book series Mog, this is more branded entertainment than ad. It sets the right tone for my Christmasloving heart. Overall, a delightful Christmas number that has me reaching for the roasted chestnuts, even if they’re a little singed.

6. Eva's Christmas Story - Woolworths

SL: It wasn’t until I clicked through to the Woolies Christmas webpage that I realised what this campaign is about. Unfortunately, if I hadn’t been writing this, I doubt I’d have clicked. I just don’t care about Eva and Michael and their Christmas, and there was nothing that made me want to know any more about them or what they’re going to eat. HFDIMMF: 4, WTDMC: 88

SF: This is a bit wallpapery but at least it’s covered in tinsel, baubles and Santa Claus toilet seat covers. It’s Aussie Christmassy alright, but ‘real people’ isn’t enough to get it over the line without a pretty great hook. I know how hard it is to get good work up, and I’m sure the creatives were just happy they didn’t have to use Jamie Oliver as Santa riding a trolley full of Christmas hams.

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