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Ad tidings

4 December, 2020

The annual batch of Christmas adverts are often said to capture the mood of the nation. Never has that been truer than in 2020.

Stylistically, social distancing regulations led to a host of animated advertisements, which have the additional benefit of being (often) cheaper to produce for companies facing record-low profits. Charitable support was also more prevalent than ever: a recognition of the fact that this Christmas will, for many, not be a merry one.

Tonally, too, the pandemic provided some mixed reactions. With its premise that we should all stop feeling bad about not washing our hands properly and just “have a mince pie”, Tesco’s No Naughty List’ advert achieves the impressive feat of undermining two public health messages in a single one-minute clip. Kitchen roll brand Plenty, meanwhile, manages within twenty seconds to show tinsel being pulled out of a cat’s bottom and a man being vomited on – a realistic, but not particularly appetising portrayal of the festive tide that might provide a newfound appreciation of social distancing.

Others, including Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s, have gone for the classic theme of food and family, but with a lockdown spin. Whilst the strangely comforting prospect of sharing gravy with your parents did reduce some of us to tears, we were less heartened by the idea that you need a McDonald’s burger before you can enjoy a snowball fight with your mum.

Christmas ads are tricky at the best of times. In the midst of a pandemic, they’re almost impossible. Maybe it really is time to call 2020 a write-off and get back to pulling tinsel out of our cats.

By Sarah Howden

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