A Year of Christmas Creative Full of Good Cheer?

Shake off the ghosts of Christmas ads past and avoid tearful disasters for all

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The nights are drawing in (which we are all, of course, shocked by), the barely worn summer clothes have been once more put back into winter hibernation, and the big ‘C’ looms larger than ever. I am of course talking about Christmas.

Just like a kid who has indulged in too much sugar, Christmas always feels like it walks a tight-rope between full technicolor joy and a tearful disaster. And this year, the stakes seem higher than ever. On the one hand, we’re all due a double Christmas to make up for last year’s wipeout but, on the other, maybe a week-long nap would be best for everyone?

And let us all take a moment to send our thoughts to all the strategy teams up and down the land, that have been trying to predict what this festive season will look like. Will it be centered on family homes—with rooms full of happy people cooing over a delicious home-cooked turkey—or are we tearfully exchanging presents at arms’ length in cold service stations and doing last-minute dashes to the supermarket as stocks run low? While murmurs of potential lockdowns seem to have died down in the U.K., after last year’s events and down-to-the-wire changes, it would be fair to say anything could be possible.

I reckon we should all just chill out a bit. This is not the year to feel weighed down by expectations—we all need to be cut some slack.

Shelley Portet, head of social at The Brooklyn Brothers

This year we can add a few extras into the mix—increasing energy prices, Brexit supply chain issues, and a fuel crisis that seems to continue to bumble along—so that the shape of Christmas seems even more uncertain this year. Will we find ourselves saying, in the words of Margo Leadbetter from the ’70s sitcom “The Good Life,” that “Christmas is canceled” because there aren’t any HGVs to deliver it? Or will it be “The Best Christmas Ever™” as we revel in the delight of finally being able to pull a Christmas cracker with our loved ones?

I suspect a lot of brands may have pitched for the latter, which could end up looking rather incongruous and out of touch if large parts of the nation are short of vital Christmas supplies or failing to source the must-have toy desired by their children.

What would we like to see from brands this Christmas?

What’s potentially ahead? Well, first and foremost, I reckon we should all just chill out a bit.

This is not the year to feel weighed down by expectations—we all need to be cut some slack. So, I would like to see brands taking the pressure off consumers to replicate a perfect Christmas. It is possible to tap into human truths around Christmas—even in the current times of uncertainty.

I might be biased, but I think the Brooklyn Brothers Christmas ad for Bumble last year did this pretty well. After a year of what felt like ‘wasted time,’ we knew daters were feeling more pressure than ever when it came to their love lives. So, we created a film that showed we were on their side—and honestly, who wouldn’t want Helena Bonham Carter as their wise, funky aunt?

Bumble/The Brooklyn Brothers

There are other great examples from other years and agencies, such as Harvey Nichols’ “Spend it on yourself” campaign, which was brilliant as it perfectly tapped into what felt like a guilty secret.

Harvey Nichols

Taking the pressure off

But while I’m extolling the virtues of reducing expectations on people this year to conjure up a storybook family Christmas, I’d like to extend that to the advertising industry. We should take the pressure off ourselves too.

Mid-November has turned into “Christmas ad review season”—a moment when the bar for success is raised so high that unless people are clamoring to buy a cute, cuddly toy of your main character after the first ad viewing, you’ve failed. Everyone is trying to beat John Lewis —even John Lewis is trying to beat John Lewis—and it just feels more and more tiring each year.

So, let’s shake off the ghosts of Christmas ads past and just have some fun again. God knows we could all do with a bit of a laugh. Let’s embrace a culture of kindness, to our fellow advertisers as well as our fellow men and women, free from pressure and unnecessary expectation.

Advertising agencies up and down the land will have been working on festive creative for several months—and those strategy teams may well have taken different approaches. So inevitably—come December 25—some will feel more tonally attuned than others. But who would want to bet on what that will be?

So, let’s create ads that speak to some of the pressures facing people this year. Let’s entertain and give them a moment of relief.