The varying language of Christmas adverts
Did you catch it? The John Lewis Christmas ad, we mean – and not that pesky cold that’s been circulating the office. In the last few years, at least, the brand’s take on the build up to the festive season has become as widely-anticipated as the arrival of the Big Man himself. Almost.
And while Christmas telly ads were once relatively simple affairs (a spot of bad dancing here, and a jollily catchy theme tune there) today’s offerings are smarter (and maybe a little more sinister, even) in their attempt to woo the British shopping-buying public.
Okay, okay, so there isn’t anything truly sinister about 25 December or indeed the giddy build up to it – but we must ask this: ‘is a Christmas ad not really a Christmas ad if it doesn’t tug at the heart strings?’
John Lewis’s ad agency, in particular, has become so adept at this festive advert lark that it doesn’t even feel the need to use any dialogue – just a haunting cover of a song everyone knows the words to. In doing so, thanks to your car radio, they’re subconsciously marketing to you even while they’re not marketing to you.
So, what else has Christmas 2016 got to offer in the way of festive adverts – and just why do we keep getting pulled in by them?
Of course, here at OxfordWords, we say it’s a lot to do with the power of the written word. Even the people behind John Lewis’s Buster the Boxer ad haven’t bypassed the fact that words – whether in well-chosen pop song or catchy Christmas poem form – just work sometimes.
No-dialogue adverts aside, someone behind the department store has, in the past at least, certainly thought through its efforts on Twitter. Because that’s just it, isn’t it, TV adverts rarely start and end with the telly box itself – and thanks to social media, we can all get on board with a spot of harmless festive fun. And if it involves a pun or two, well we’re there with (jingle) bells on.
— Monty The Penguin (@MontyThePenguin) December 8, 2014
Here’s what we’ve learned so far from this year’s festive offerings:
- Emotion is good but humour’s better – Christmas is about giving, we know that. But it’s also about having a good old knees up. And maybe even a belly laugh from time to time. So, our Santa hats go off to Aldi, who yet again enjoy the last laugh thanks to their advert which cheekily pokes fun at the hysteria surrounding the John Lewis ad. “Carrot was waiting, his head in a tizz. Oh golly, oh gosh…” Kevin’s been waiting for the John Lewis ad, of course, and the ad agency uses the format/tone and language of the traditional ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ poem to great comedic effect here, proving that we all ache for a little bit of tradition sometimes. Even if it does come via a festive carrot.
- And if you’re going to tug at the heartstrings, do it with a song – let’s face it, we’re all becoming a bit immune to these overly emotional show-stopping festive TV ads, which is why we reckon retailers like Sainsbury’s have chosen to get across their heartfelt Christmas message by means of an infectious little ditty like this one. While the language isn’t overly flowery or even too poetic (‘inappropriately’ rhymed with ‘catastrophe’, anyone?) there’s something pretty charming about the supermarket’s offering this year: “I wanna find the greatest gift I can give my family…the greatest gift I can give is me”. And believe us when we say we can’t stop humming it, folks #thepowerofwordsrightthere
- There’s a serious side to Christmas too – the festive season isn’t all office parties and party dress shopping; there’s a serious side to the season too. And Lidl has chosen to tackle the subject of turkey farming head-on, using a single tweet to spark a wider conversation. There are no-frills here where the language is concerned – instead, what you see is what you get: a confused ‘customer’ who wants to know where exactly her festive fare’s coming from. ‘I imagine Lidl’s farm is like a prison for turkeys’ isn’t the most Christmassy expression you’re likely to hear this year, but it gets to the point and the corresponding ad answers the public’s questions in one-minute flat.
- Sometimes, we’re not at all Ready for Christmas – in a dialogue with herself, Ruth Jones gets to the nitty gritty of the chaotic season in the Tesco #Bringiton Christmas ad. Reminding us that while 25 December is primarily a time of fun and games, there’s also a mountain of stuff to get through. Tapping into the mindset of the over-stressed Christmas shopper, as well as one of the words that has soared in use over the past few years, Tesco uses humour in its script for this year’s ad: “…I need extra shortbread for uncle Gethin, ‘cos he got through a whole tin last Christmas. Although, fair play, he did work it off with the twerking.”
What does Christmas mean to you? And which advert has used words well to tug at the heartstrings for you this year?