The best of Christmas ads 2023
It may be a bit niche, but I love Christmas ads. As well as assaulting our eyeballs with a blinding concoction of sparkles, sentimentality, and overt product placement, the advertising agencies behind these ads set the tone for the season.
The stories and messages they impart impact the mood of the season.
The game was changed one November day back in 2011 when John Lewis released ‘The Long Wait’, a masterpiece that made John Lewis adverts a ‘thing’. Since then, supermarkets have been vying for the top spot of the season. Millions are being spent on a single 60-second clip that needs to be just right.
The year of the cameo
This year, more than ever before, brands have spent a healthy wodge of their advertising budgets on getting some famous faces to support their Christmas messages. The music has also shifted this. There’s a notable lack of twinkly, nostalgic tunes that hit us in the feels. Instead, brands are opting for something more upbeat and reminiscent of a Christmas office party.
Maybe it’s the fallout from all the doom and gloom of the past year, but there is a celebratory feel to most ads this year. And, as a lover of sparkly dresses and sipping bubbly with friends, I have to say I’m all for it.
But that’s not to say all the ads this year were stellar. As always there were some haves and have-nots and some that missed the mark by a mile.
Let’s go through this year’s most notable Christmas ads and see what we can take from the messages this year.
John Lewis: Snapper, The Perfect Tree
It would be remiss of me not to start with John Lewis. So, here we are.
The big message: Let your traditions grow
Festive feels: 5/10 – There’s snow, presents, a Christmas tree, family, etc.
Overall verdict: 3/10
This is a hard one to wrap my head around. For so long John Lewis has dominated the Christmas ad game but this year it feels lucky to get a three. I have to admit, it’s grown on me the more I’ve watched it, but I still don’t get it.
I’ve read all about how John Lewis decided to go in a new direction this year. They worked with a new agency to shake things up. And in that vein, it has created this ad about embracing new traditions. Traditions – a theme other brands have embraced this year and succeeded. This one did not.
My biggest issue with it is the lack of coherent storytelling. I can understand why the boy might be attached to this destructive plant, but why the rest of the family? To be brutally honest, the kid comes across as a bit of a brat stomping out the house on Christmas morning to be with his plant.
His family has undoubtedly worked hard to make the day memorable for him (as anyone who has hosted family at Christmas can attest to) but he doesn’t even spare them a Christmas morning hug. So why do they go out and join him and Snapper in the cold garden?
I’m at a loss – where are the John Lewis ads of the days gone by?
M&S Christmas Clothing & Home
The big message: Love Thismas, not Thatmas
Festive feels: 7/10 – snow, sparkly dresses, and sipping champers
Overall verdict: 7/10
Don’t hate me when I say I actually like this one, despite the early controversy around it.
I feel like it got the ‘traditions’ message right. Stick to the old traditions that make you happy, and don’t waste your time on the ones that don’t.
M&S really laid down the gauntlet here in terms of its Christmas cameos. We’ve got Hannah Waddingham (the official face of Christmas 2023), Sophie Ellis-Baxter, Tan France, and Zawe Ashton all saying goodbye to the traditions they hate the most. Plus, the music, a fun cover of Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’ is a perfect pair with the message.
The thing that I really like about this is how well M&S knows its audience. Maybe it’s from years of M&S Food ads, but it feels like an indulgent brand and the ‘do only what makes you happy’ is in perfect keeping with it. I’m all for protecting your peace during the holidays.
A Magical Christmas with Lidl
The big message: Gift a toy to Lidl’s Toybank and share the magic.
Festive feels: 8/10 – adorable animals, snow, fairy lights, and a little sprinkle of newfound friendships.
Overall verdict: 8/10
What can I say, this is giving me big John Lewis vibes. It’s sweet, and sentimental, and brought a tear to my eye.
My big question – why a raccoon? Not a very festive animal but oh well.
It’s a sweet story about the power that gifting a toy can have. It’s about being kind to everyone, even the stray orphaned raccoon who drops off your owner’s son’s missing toy. The music is soft and sweet, there’s a happy ending. Overall, it’s a cutie.
Waitrose: It’s Time For The Good Stuff
The big message: Is there one? If I had to give it one, it would be to feel no shame indulging this holiday season.
Festive feels: 7/10 – it’s party season
Overall verdict: 7/10
To be totally honest with you, Waitrose gets a whole extra point for the Graham Norton cameo alone. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to say on this one. There’s no poignant message or tear-jerking moment. It’s just a bunch of friends, having a good time over the holidays – and isn’t that what we really want, anyway?
The song is a certified banger – Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ – and the jokes are cheesy as hell. I love it.
Aldi: Kevin And The Christmas Factory
The big message: Share the love this Christmas
Festive feels: 4/10 – it’s got a Christmassy message in there, lots of Christmas dinner staples.
Overall verdict: 3/10
Fine, I’ll say it – I’m not a fan of Kevin The Carrot. It’s aimed at children and families, I know, but there’s something wholly unappealing about a talking carrot. Give me a talking dog any day. I also don’t like the past couple of years where they’ve simply parodied an existing movie. It feels flat. Like they couldn’t be bothered to come up with their own idea so copied whatever was on the TV that day.
Asda: Make this Christmas Incredibublé
The big message: No one loves Christmas as much as us at Asda
Festive feels: 7/10 – Michael Bublé – need I say more?
Overall verdict: 6/10
Oh, jingle my bells that’s great.
This is simply a joy to watch. A Michael Bublé cameo in a Christmas ad. Brilliant. Why hasn’t he been doing it for years?
What I like about this ad is it gives a lighthearted glimpse at the work going on behind the scenes to stock the shelves with festive fancies. Asda has Bublé discussing food trends, holiday clothes, and more. It’s a smart way of showing off its holiday products whilst recognizing the delivery drivers and warehouse staff that make grocery shopping over the season possible.
Sainsbury’s: The Big Fella’s Christmas Dinner
The big message: It’s another one that doesn’t really have a message and I think it’s a stretch to find one amongst all the overt product placements.
Festive feels: 5/10
Overall verdict: 5/10
Another ad, another cameo. This time it’s the turn of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up Singer’, Rick Astley. There’s a cheeky little pun in there about the song and that’s about as good as it gets for this one.
Tesco: Helping you #BecomeMoreChristmas
The big message: It’s Christmas, enjoy yourself.
Festive feels: 9/10 – the only thing that would make this more Christmassy is if the big man was in it himself.
Overall verdict: 9/10
What can I say except that I love it? It’s funny and happy, simply brimming with Christmas joy. Seeing that burly, grumpy-looking dad poof into a joy-filled Christmas tree was unexpected and delightful. Seeing the star pop up when he heard the glorious words “Clubcard accepted”, in perfect timing with OMC’s ‘How Bizarre’ – pure brilliance, get the director an Oscar.
Underneath it, you have a similar message to that which we’ve seen in M&S and Waitrose Food – do what makes you happy. And if that’s embracing the gaudy Christmas decorations, or taste-testing all the festive foods before the big day, who cares?
I love the contrast with the angsty teen, trying to hold back and deny his love for the holiday. He’s all eye rolls and angsty expressions until he’s given the star he made a child. Then poof. He’s a Christmas tree too.
Morrisons: The Christmas Ad
The big message: Celebrating the Christmas hosts and their oven gloves – the quiet heroes of the holidays
Festive feels: 5/10 – pigs in blankets, mince pies, and a cat outside in the snow.
Overall verdict: 6/10
I’ve never included Morrisons in my Christmas ad round-up. They never really rank, there’s not a lot of chatter about them, but this one, I really enjoy this one.
Okay, it’s not overly festive. Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ is not a renowned Christmas song. But having been running the kitchen for many Christmases now, it’s nice to get some acknowledgment of the hard work that goes into it.
Plus, I love the oven mitt that looks like a crazy cat. I want it. I need it.
The big message: The spirit of giving
Festive feels: 8/10 – Christmas tree, snow, presents, and the big man himself
Overall verdict: 8/10
This is a really sweet advert about a girl’s road trip to deliver a present to Father Christmas. Along the way, they drop off some quite tongue-in-cheek presents to the people who give them a helping hand. The music is jolly and upbeat. The feel is warm and cozy. It’s an all-around great ad. Well done, Boots.
Side note: For all our American readers, Macy’s and a very adorable similar ad this year too. Check it out.
Are you feeling festive yet?
Well, what do we learn from the ads this year, other than how great the holiday season is?
Not much, really. One thing that really comes across is that sentimentality is out. There aren’t many tear-jerkers this year, and after the past couple of years, maybe that’s a good thing.
My main takeaway from this year’s ads is the remember to take the time to treat myself. Too often we find ourselves running about trying to make everyone else’s Christmas magical that we forget about ourselves.
Maybe it’s time to update your holiday marketing with a ‘treat yo’ self’ message, to encourage your audience to indulge in that item they’ve been eyeing up.
If this year’s ads didn’t hit the mark for you, check out some of my festive faves below: