Boots Gift-Bombs Santa, M&S Offends a Few Folks, and Delsey's Sunrise Never Ends

Our weekly roundup of the ad scene in Europe

Everyone's working overtime on holiday spirit. We tried tackling every notable ad that’s hit us, to keep from clogging our European piping ... but like Scylla's heads, or acne, more kept coming, and we were overcome.

Our ad of the week is technically not European, given that the U.K. has abandoned our fair union. Oh, well. Created by The Pharm, "Give Joy" follows a mother and daughter on a mission from a Boots shop to the North Pole. On the way, they leave gifts with every stranger they encounter. The characters scream backstory! with their faces. Vibewise, it's different from something one might expect from, say, Sephora, which is very preoccupied with beauty. Boots is peddling something broader, a vulgarized self-care. The ad ends with the pair dropping a cheeky present down Santa's chimney. The mythic immortal is bemused, and so are we.

Did you ever watch or read The Little Prince? When he’s sad, he scrapes his chair across his tiny planet to watch an endless series of sunsets. Delsey Paris' "Eternal Sunrise" by Fred & Farid New York is sort of like that, but with a first-streaks-of-day vibe. Also, you have influencers. (We would have been fine with just the chair.)

Milka's "Giving the Greatest Gift" is brought to you by Ogilvy Germany as part of the WPP All Stars team for Mondelez. A boy becomes besties with his winking chocolate Santa bar. They do everything together. Then his sister gets sad about breaking the tree-topper, and he makes the ultimate sacrifice. This made us want to bite a candy Santa's head off, so in that sense it works.

Another day, another opportunity to correct AI biases in advertising. It turns out that, whenever the French suburbs (la banlieue) are plugged into a Midjourney prompt, the tech produces racist, classist and dystopian imagery. Heetch, a ridesharing app popular with banlieue kids, worked with BETC Paris to create postcards that depict the diversity and vitality of actual suburban life. The cards, available in Heetch cars and in kiosks throughout Paris-bordering 'burbs, were also sent to the 11 engineers who created Midjourney. They include a QR code designed to help correct the dataset.

We suspect the pitch for "Fancy a McDonald's this Christmas?," created by Leo Burnett U.K., went: "Imagine if every scene in Love Actually was shot simultaneously, but then everyone randomly walked off their sets and went to McD's." The ad even features a guy trying to pick somebody up by forcing them to read words on their doorstep, except he gets short shrift because everybody's already started their exodus toward fast food Xanadu (itself reminiscent of the proposal scene in Portugal). It's set to bits of Van Halen's "Jump."

Swedish music fest Way Out West was hurtin' for people who couldn't come. So, alongside BBDO Nordics, it made sure they could at least come. We give you "The Livebrator," a sex toy whose vibrations synced to the music being performed on-site. From Gothenburg to genitals the world over! This would make a great tourism campaign. Created in partnership with Sweden's Association of Sexual Education.

'Tis the year of Anne Hathaway blossoming into a fashion icon, and it climaxes—heh, sorry—in "Let the Festivities Begin" for Bulgari by Anomaly in Italy. The ad is apparently inspired by "Rome's architectural wonders," but Hathaway is so strangely CGI'ed that she looks like those 'toonish AI portraits everybody was using as profile pictures for awhile. In keeping with the uncanny valley vibe, she leaves this plane through a glowing golden box. Maybe she's heading to the metaverse.

People are pissed about this Marks & Spencer Clothing & Home ad by Mother London. Set to a Ray BLK cover of Meatloaf’s "I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)," it features revelers going rogue at various stages of enforced holiday frolic. Last week, the brand was excoriated by a teacher who wrote, "When our nation is on its knees … this is not the time for you to encourage people to ignore the inspirational spirit of Christmas of self-sacrifice, gratitude, giving of one's time and finances…" It goes on like that, and after awhile, we would have set a crème brûlée torch to anything within proximity. 

MediaPost reports that M&S also posted an outtake on Instagram, which included a closeup of red and green paper hats being burned. Forty people construed it as a potential attack on the Palestinian flag and complained to the U.K.'s ad watchdog group. We just can't have nice things. This is why John Lewis gives us carnivore plants.

Airports aren't just liminal spaces; you can store memories in them! With agency St. Luke's, Heathrow reminds you that it, too, can be a place where you remember Grandpa (shown in "Keepsake," below). Also see "Love," about a young couple projecting onto an older one while strolling the duty free; and "Arrival," in which a multi-generational family gets big news in a Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food restaurant.

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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