Written by Justin Dean on 22/11/16
For my family and I, it was never officially Christmas until we saw the Coca-Cola truck advert on television. Now, many years later, we still remember those times when we see it and with a family of my own I now watch the excitement in my daughter’s eyes as she builds the same memories of Christmas as I did as a boy. Such is the emotional bond we create with these ads.
Christmas adverts have never been more powerful in driving sales for big brands during the festive season. Indeed, with all the commercial noise at this time of year, brands are spending BIG to get our attention. Their glossy adverts are now as hotly anticipated as the year’s biggest blockbusters, with creative video production companies stepping up and bringing those brands to life with cinematography to match that of Game of Thrones and CGI / animation to give Pixar a run for their money.
So, which of 2016’s offerings do we think are the best? Has John Lewis struck gold again with Buster the Boxer? Has Sainsbury’s shown that ‘The Greatest Gift’ is indeed ourselves for our family? Or has Mrs Claus charmed her way into our hearts with some good old fashioned M&S magic and sparkle?
Let’s take you through our delicious 2016 selection box of thrilling big-budget Christmas ads…
Why this is in our selection: While it might not be the famous department store’s finest festive offering (after all, they set the benchmark), it still commands attention as it has racked up more YouTube views than anyone else. A subtle change in direction sees the brand going for gentle humour and joy rather than tears this year.
Directed by: Dougal Wilson
Cast: Buster the boxer and other woodland creatures
Story: Bridget’s mum and dad have the perfect Christmas present for their daughter: a trampoline. But she’s not the only member of the family who loves to bounce up and down: meet Buster, a boxer who looks on enviously when a trio of woodland creatures sneak into the garden and try it out on Christmas Eve. But on Christmas Day, Buster bursts from the door and beats Bridget to it.
Why this is in our selection: Heart-warming and entertaining, this visually appealing stop-motion film has a down-to-earth charm that will go down a treat with the Sainsbury’s customer base.
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO & Passion Pictures
Directed by: Sam Fell
Cast: Vocals by James Corden
Story: Dave is hardworking dad devoted to his family, who finds himself dealing with everything a normal life can throw at him: long hours, the daily commute and drama at work. After getting home late after a cancelled train, he realises the best Christmas gift he can give his family is his time. It benefits from the singing skills and expert comedic timing of funny man James Cordon.
Why this is in our selection: M&S have been sparing no expense on their Christmas ads for a while now, but this year’s narrative-driven offering is a level up.
Agency: Grey London
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Cast: Janet McTeer (Oscar nominee)
Story: Mrs Claus packs Santa’s sandwiches and sees him off on Christmas Eve. Little does he know that while he’s out doing his thing, she’s out delivering gifts herself… and doing it in style. After answering the letter of a young boy struggling to show his sister that he really does care, she returns home just before her exhausted husband to look after him after a hard night’s work.
Why this is in our selection: Burberry’s history and status as a truly iconic British brand is brought to life in this lavish and incredibly glossy advert, with cinematography to rival the best seen in cinemas.
Agency: Black Label Productions
Written by: Matt Charman (Academy Award-nominated)
Directed by: Asif Kapadia (Academy Award winner)
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Dominic West, Sienna Miller & Lily James
Story: This dramatic and intensely cinematic ad takes us through the brand’s history, covering almost 160 years in a series of reimagined incidents. Depicting Thomas Burberry’s humble beginnings, it tracks his brand’s real achievements including how he developed the weatherproof textile gabardine for Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions and the original ‘trench coat’ for soldiers fighting in the First World War.
Why this is in our selection: The ad’s impressive CGI was achieved by working with robin experts to recreate their characteristic movement. It radiates the simple joy of coming home for Christmas, a powerful and emotive message for us all at this time of year.
Directed by: Sam Brown (Rogue Films)
Cast: One plucky little Scandinavian Robin
Story: It begins with a young girl leaving a mince pie out in a snowy garden, awaiting the annual return of a Scandinavian robin. Then, we follow the robin’s perilous journey, including several moments which are truly terrifying in a David Attenborough sort of way: first, the hero is dive-bombed by a stealthy sparrow hawk and nearly polished off for Christmas lunch, only to be buffeted by waves when crossing the ocean. We think it could all be over… but he’s rescued by a kindly fisherman, and finally makes it #HomeForChristmas. Tissues at the ready.
Why this is in our selection: Very’s ad combines beautiful animation with what the festive season, at its core, is all about: giving. Its motion graphics, which are reminiscent of Pixar Studios, create warmth very welcome at Christmas time.
Agency: HSE Cake
Directed by: -
Music by: Michael Sajic (Award winning composer)
Cast: Rochelle Humes
Story: This uplifting ad follows a young woman home from work at Christmas, accompanied by a winged heart hovering at her shoulder. The people she walks past suddenly find themselves holding a glowing pink present. The more she gives, the bigger her heart grows and soon, she’s soaring over the rooftops and meeting Santa Claus. It concludes on Christmas morning when her daughter gives a glowing gift of her own.
Why this is in our selection: The appearance of the low-budget supermarkets on the big-budget Christmas ad scene is noteworthy, and through this entertaining ad with a Christmas poem voiced by legend Jim Broadbent, it looks like Aldi means business.
Agency: McCann UK
Directed by: Todd Mueller / Kylie Matulick
Cast: Narrated by Jim Broadbent
Story: Kevin, a humble carrot, makes an epic journey across the dinner table negotiating the ice plains of the champagne bucket, the terror of a roast potato avalanche, a fiery encounter with a lit Christmas pudding, and a close shave with a grater… all in his quest to meet Santa Claus. After curling up beside a mince pie intended for the bearded gift guru himself, he wakes up flying over the rooftops tied to Rudolph’s antlers.
Why this is in our selection: By far the most real-world advert in our selection, Boots has chosen to celebrate the women across the UK who give up their Christmas day to help others. Its behind-the-scenes make-up studio setting is a savvy angle to address their core customer base.
Agency: Mother London
Directed by: Gary Freedman
Cast: 45 inspirational women
Story: The ad takes us behind the scenes of a special pampering session for 45 of the half a million women who give up their Christmas days to do the jobs the world simply can’t do without. From paramedics to policewomen, we see these ordinary yet inspirational women treated to the gift of beauty (hair-styling, manicures and makeup) before meeting with their nearest and dearest.
Why this is in our selection: House of Fraser is a relative latecomer to the big-budget Christmas ad party, but they’re carving out their own creative niche with a less traditional and more urbane feel. As marketing videos go, it really does capture the energy and excess of the modern Christmas season.
Agency: 18 Feet & Rising
Directed by: Emil Nava (choreography by Suzette Brissett)
Cast: Vocals by Laura Mvula
Story: Christmas is coming for you is the essence of HoF’s 2016 campaign. The advert’s dancers are transported through a series of different scenes, from exploding sprouts to a choreographed Christmas dinner, to demonstrate the whirlwind that is Christmas. In contrast to the story-led approach a lot of other brands adopt, the products feature front and centre in this high-energy, style and trend-driven ad.
Why this is in our selection: There’s nothing subtle or abstract about the 2016 Christmas ad from Argos. They’re pushing a direct message and it’s all about the speed of their delivery service, making it a noticeable departure from the stories of other big brands.
Agency: CHI & Partners
Directed by: Henry Scholfield
Cast: Five furry onesie-clad speed skaters
Story: Join a team of five fast and very furry yetis as they speed skate their way through Christmas 2016, delivering gifts in a flurry of snow. From the pink one pampering himself with a pair of hairdryers to the confused purple one discovering the latest tech, this short but sweet video leaves you in no doubt that you can be the most disorganised gift-giver ever and still rely on Argos for same-day delivery.
So there we have it: 2016’s finest Christmas adverts but which one will be your favourite this year. As a corporate video production company, these ads are a great lesson in what we’re all about at Creative Motion – Bringing Brands to Life…
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