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Campaign Spotlight: Christmas Special

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It’s oft-said in Adland that the one thing more eagerly anticipated than the John Lewis advert over the Christmas period is ALF & BRAD’s Christmas ad poll. That is a lie, but it’s good fun nonetheless. With Christmas ads seeming to gain importance year in, year out, advertisers and their agencies are always feeling the pressure to deliver stand-out campaigns. 2016 didn’t disappoint (referring exclusively to Christmas ads here), with memorable campaigns coming from all the usual suspects and from some less obvious quarters too. Take a look at our pick of what we believe are eight of the season’s best, and have your say in who wins. Just like last year, the lucky winner will be awarded something money can’t buy; our respect.


John Lewis #BusterTheBoxer / adam&eveDDB



This year John Lewis eschewed the sentiment-laden approach that has worked wonders in the past, opting for more humour this time around. The end product is as compelling as any of the retailer’s previous Christmas ads, starring a Boxer called Buster who just wants to bounce. Gazing wistfully at his owner jumping on her bed, Buster clearly has dreams of being airborne; dreams that come true on Christmas morning. Despite the change in tack, the soundtrack and style ensure the ad retains an intrinsically John Lewis feel, and with almost 100,000 likes on YouTube at the time of writing, it looks like adam&eveDDB has pulled off another cracker.


Marks & Spencer ‘Christmas with love from Mrs Claus’ / Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R




It might be her husband who makes the headlines, but this year’s Christmas ad from M&S stars Mrs Claus as the heroine as she acts on a little boy’s plea to make things right with his sister. After seeing off Santa on his annual present run with his tea and sandwiches, Mrs Claus opens a last-minute letter from a young boy who wants to get his sister a present to make up for his past year of mischief. Since Santa’s taken the sleigh, Mrs Claus fires up her helicopter and works her magic in time for Christmas.


Sainsbury’s ‘The Greatest Gift’ / Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO



On the back of the success of last year’s festive ad starring Mog the Cat, Sainsbury’s and agency partner AMV BBDO chose an animated campaign again for 2016. This year’s ad is a jaunty musical number sung by none other than James Corden, who found time away from his successful career on US TV screens to lend Sainsbury’s his dulcet tones. The ad focuses on a time-poor parent struggling to find time to find presents for his family, ultimately realising that the greatest gift he can give his family is himself. The more cynically-minded children across the land may be concerned at the message the ad will be sending to parents, but with an excellent soundtrack and a message that taps into the true spirit of Christmas, Sainsbury’s and AMV BBDO end their relationship on a high.


Amazon Prime ‘Vicar and Imam meet for a cup of tea’ / Joint London



Amazon’s ad for its Prime delivery service this year focuses on what brings us together, after a year characterised by separation and division. The 80-second film shows a Muslim imam visiting his friend, a Christian vicar, for a cup of tea. As they catch-up they each realise they share pain in their knees, and as the imam heads home they each have the same idea to help the other out. It’s heart-warming and understated, showing that great ideas don’t need executing as blockbusters to hit home their message, even at Christmas.


Waitrose #HomeForChristmas / adam&eveDDB




adam&eveDDB’s otherChristmas ad for the John Lewis family tells the story of a robin coming home for Christmas. The 90-second spot follows the robin’s incredible journey as it flies across land and sea, battling horrendous weather and evading the claws of predators before arriving home to the delight of a young girl who has been eagerly awaiting his return. Highlighting the lengths to which we would all go to getting home for Christmas and with stunning scenes of wintery landscapes, #HomeForChristmas feels like the quintessential Christmas ad.


Alzheimer’s Research UK ‘Santa Forgot’ / Freuds




In the build-up to Christmas it’s the big retailers whose ads typically drum up the most anticipation, but this year’s festive campaign from Alzheimer’s Research UK undoubtedly deserves a place on this list. Ingenious and heart-breaking, the two-minute ad is set in a world where Santa no longer delivers presents to children because he has Alzheimer’s. Stephen Fry’s narration tells us how Santa found himself getting confused before his condition deteriorated to the point where he wasn’t able to do his job anymore. When a little girl named Freya hears about this, she heads to the North Pole to task Santa’s elves with finding a way to help Santa through research.


H&M ‘Come Together’ / adam&eveDDB




Christmas advert powerhouse adam&eveDDB make the list not once, not twice, but thrice this year, although it’s filmmaker Wes Anderson’s direction that makes H&M’s 2016 ad stand out from the crowd. Feeling just like any and all of Anderson’s uniquely shot and stylised films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom, H&M’s ad stars Adrien Brody – a regular in Anderson films – as Ralph, a train conductor who improvises when weather conditions force a lengthy delay on he and his passengers, threatening to ruin everyone’s Christmas. Despite a paucity of resources, Ralph manages to give everyone – especially the train’s only child passenger – a special Christmas nevertheless.


Pret A Manger ‘Opening Doors’ / Rumble




Rather than flaunt their famous Christmas sandwiches, Pret A Manger are raising awareness of the work of The Pret Foundation Trust in helping the homeless into work in their online Christmas ad this year. The film takes a look at some of the people the foundation has helped into work as they tell their stories of how they became homeless and how Pret’s Apprenticeship scheme helped them get into work and begin to get their lives back on track. No glitz, no CGI, just five minutes of pure Christmas spirit.


There have been some outstanding Christmas campaigns this year, but which deserves ALF & BRAD’s coveted Christmas crown? Vote in our poll and help us pick a winner.