Jayne Dawson: The adverts have arrived so it really must be Christmas

SELLING IT: The Christmas adverts have arrived.
SELLING IT: The Christmas adverts have arrived.
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I’ll level with you. I don’t know what to think any more.

It’s the Christmas adverts, isn’t it? Once it was simple enough - Christmas adverts meant nothing.

They were part of the unimportant background jingle-jangle of this time of year, like supermarket music.

And I say this time of year, but really I don’t mean that. Because adverts for all matters festive once began in December, not early-ish November.

And they were usually nothing to write home about - just a man shouting that his prices were the lowest. And then there would be a picture of some stuff, encircled by tinsel.

These were boring commercials, and the only time they ever became interesting was if you ever accidentally recorded one while taping the Christmas showing of Mary Poppins, and then watched it ten years later, by yourself because your teenage child was no longer interested in Julie Andrews.


Then, and only then, those adverts became fascinating, with their extravagant praise for gadgets that had long been obsolete. Well that was my experience anyway.

But then life changed and Christmas adverts became a “thing”. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon, and at first I resisted.

Because an advert is only ever about selling, and I want Christmas to be about other things, because I’m an old romantic. I want it to be about everybody being nice to each other, and about gathering holly, and about piling into each other’s houses with cheeks rosy from the cold to drink mulled wine and eat mince pies.

So a Christmas ad was never going to mean anything to me. I didn’t care how much of a “story” those stores created, how tender and sweet they were. I wasn’t buying it.

But somehow they have got to me. My views have begun to soften. I still think Christmas should be about people, not presents, but I have warmed to the idea that festive commercials are all part of the ritual of a modern Christmas.

Except for that Sainsbury’s advert last year. It was apparently the most successful, the most watched out of all of them.

But the idea of all those frightened young men being slaughtered in the mud and blood-soaked trenches of World War One, and then a hundred years later their experience becoming part of a commercial to sell groceries, still makes me feel a bit sick. I will never be able to warm to that particular Christmas advert. It will always fill me with outrage.

But this year there is none of that. John Lewis, always the star on top of the festive advert Christmas tree, has gone for a story about a little girl sending a present to the lonely old man on the moon.

It lasts two minutes, cost a million pounds to make and is intended to beat last year’s mini-drama about a lonely penguin, and first signs are that it will since it created a storm on social media within moments of being released.

Loneliness is a bit of a John Lewis theme at Christmas, but other stores are taking a different angle. Boots have hired a pop video director to produce something upbeat and fun; Asda is celebrating homeliness with a little vignette of a family decorating their house and car; while Currys has gone full-on comedic with an offering starring Jeff Goldblum and tips on how to overcome the awkward moments of Christmas.

So you could say the commercialisation of Christmas is complete. We are all talking about the adverts designed to make us spend more money.

But here’s the saving grace, the thing that makes Christmas adverts alright - they don’t necessarily make us do that.

There is in fact a theory that the more interesting the advert, the less likely we consumers are, in the end, to remember the name of the brand.

So maybe we should think of the Christmas ads as less about pressure to spend and more as a little gift to us from ..actually, I can’t remember their names.