My Deep, Deep Love for Holiday Adverts
Let me preface this piece by saying, as a Muslim woman, I'm absolutely smitten with all things Christmas and holiday season related—I put up my lights Nov. 1 this year and I have zero regrets. Warmth, love, lights, togetherness and a sprinkle of good old fashioned kitsch? Truly, what's not to love?
My career in advertising has always taken a decidedly British bend. As a career strategist, I've worked alongside and for some of the best and brightest the U.K. has to offer in strategy land. As a result, I have a deep reverence for the art and craft of storytelling and building brands, thanks to our account planning greats—in addition to a great appreciation for British music and related pop culture.
I was also left with an incredible love for British holiday adverts (yes, I said adverts with my now decidedly Californian accent). For me, this is the Super Bowl (no offense to the Super Bowl). As a Canadian who never quite understood sports ball to begin with, my center of gravity around Super Bowl Sunday has always been a bit askew. But Christmas?! Be there with (literal) bells on. Come the first week of November, I'm eagerly anticipating the first peeps from John Lewis…
So why do I think they're the best? Well, let me count the ways.
A love for craft and cinematic glory.
This isn't about all our everyday marketing that lives in every channel and pulls specific marketing mechanisms. We've become so skillful and just plain good at the machine that is marketing effectiveness, and I am so very happy for that. The sense and logic that it has brought to advertising is immense and powerful. However, I believe that this is a very different moment—just like the Super Bowl. It's a space for a pinch of magic.
This is about creating the sweeping love for a brand that stands up through the test of time. The difference between a Super Bowl moment and a British holiday moment is our very different cultures—humor (or humour), music, even nuances in production are huge. There is no right or wrong, as it's wholly subjective, but for me the subtlety of emotion and pacing in a great holiday advert far outweighs the big-budget Michael Bay moments we see at the "Big Game."
For me, Sainsbury and Coca-Cola (despite a bit of a predictable ending, but I fully empathize with the need for a good old-fashioned "pop/fizz/sip" moment!) really did deliver.
Yes, there are tropes. Yes, there are big sweeping soundtracks—often a remake of a classic—that stop you in your tracks. There's often an imaginary friend (thanks, Monty), the kid growing up and not believing, and our sad wide-eyed friend being left alone. Or it's simply a story of "giving" being better than "getting." But the question remains: Does it actually need to be more complicated than that?
Joy, and I daresay fun. I've spoken a bit about this recently. Our industry, particularly in America, has lost a bit of its sense of joy and fun—which is a primary reason so many of us got into this in the first place. We're very serious about results and being the latest and greatest in Web3, the metaverse, NFTs and beyond—which is mission critical to the future of our businesses and culture at large. But I also say, a wink is OK. A smile is also OK. Joy is perfectly and wonderfully acceptable.
Give me some whimsy, and you'll have this fan for life. This year, Boots had a joyful little romp of a film—I tell you the bubble/bauble moment had me weirdly weepy this year. Maybe it's just me.
... and I could not write this without telling you my (very personal) favorite of all time.
John Lewis from 2017 with Moz. Maybe I love it because my very good friend is called "Maz" but it also could have something to do with gorgeous storytelling, Michel Gondry directing, and one of my favorite songs of all time from Elbow. So wonderful. Hope it makes you smile.
Happy Christmas, everyone.