I'm finding myself watching less television - I'd be something of a hypocrite if I didn't after all, given my increasingly anguished entreaties for people to switch off the idiot box - and inevitably I'm exposed to less and less adverts. This is, arguably, something of a problem for someone who relies on crap adverts to fuel their blog but it does mean that the ones that really get my goat stand out from the crowd.
These AdWorms aren't simply the ones I think are really bad - the omnipresent and decreasing-returns shtick of the Meerkats and Go Compare would be present every month if so - but the ones that really get on my aural tits; the ones that may as well be a toddler screaming on a bus or a car alarm keeping you awake at night.
These adverts - the adworms if you will - are shoe-ins because I find myself being annoyed at them hours after they're broadcast. I find myself thinking of them when I'm sat on the train, walking home or lying in bath considering my very mortality. I find these adverts interesting because they're designed to be annoying - and because I genuinely wonder where this ends.
The current Hotels4U advert strikes me as the latest in a long line of such adverts, but perhaps the most naked attempt to infuriate innocent members of the public (incidentally I recently booked a hotel and flicked through my mental list of brand names - LateRooms, LastMinute and Trivago - Hotels4U didn't get a look in probably because they've failed to include their brand name or URL in their catchphrase, which is the whole point of these ads when you think about it).
I honestly think that, should the man who says 'Anything for you, cupcake" be identified in a bar on a Saturday night someone might go for him, in a grisly recreation of the way the Ow My Balls! guy from Idiocracy is routinely blasted in the nads. I would decry this behaviour as rank thuggery - as I hope anyone who read AdTurds would - but a tiny part of me would understand how it might happen.
If someone repeatedly flicks my ear or jabs me in the chest with an index finger for no reason it's quite possible that, eventually, on a bad day, I'd return the favour with interest. And while this sort of provocation doesn't justify a physical response in any sane world, the part of us that learned how to cope with life in the playground might find a certain empathy with a desire to repay a deliberately annoying act in turn.
I hope the guy from the Hotels4U advert goes through life unmolested - it's not his fault after all - but I'd like to think that the people responsible for these intentionally angering adverts find some sort of ironic just desserts, like the way that a philatelist would be crushed to death by a giant stamp or the cruel boss of an underpants factory would turn into a pair of Y-fronts in Tales of the Unexpected.
In the meantime here are this month's choices. I've included Hotels4U again because, y'know.
Royal Navy Life Without Limits advert
The 'you x, you y' meme has long been tired and aggravating so I don't know why they persist with it here. Even more obnoxious is how the line between honest representation and grotesque war porn fantasy has been long abandoned. The message in this ad is fairly clear - join the navy if you want to blow people away and get to play with cool toys.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised: armed forces around the world have long recognised that there's a similarity between gaming and actually killing people - and played to those audiences. The vicarious thrill of warfare is frequently referenced in this ad but, fundamentally, it's the maddening rhythm of the whole thing that makes it so fucking infuriating.
I can't find the one that's currently on, but it ends with the Cheese Thing repeating "Cheese! Cheese!" in an irritating voice. Ads like this always make me think of the voicoever artists. Did the actor in question, who once dreamed of playing The Dane, ever think he's end up voicing animated dairy products with an idiom that would be be deemed a bit much at a child's party? Did the rapper, inspired by the seminal work of KRS-ONE or Slick Rick, truly foresee lending his voice, honed on the streets of south London in brutally witty flow battles, to a smeggy twat riding around in a car made of cheese spaghetti?
I can never understand why anyone - even really stupid people - could find stuff like this funny and the idea that there are people who do depresses me enormously. I'd say that the thought of him melting might cheer me up, but whatever cheese spaghetti strings are made of I doubt they melt. Burst into flames, perhaps. Either way, get stuffed you cheddary bastard.
With reference to what I said above, every now and then there's a report that a celebrity gets beaten up while the attackers gleefully repeat the catchphrase with which they're associated (see What's The Frequency Kenneth? for more on this). Though I do hope not, it's not inconceivable that this guy joins those ranks, such is the inexorable twattiness of this advert.
Every year Andrex reveals a new advertising campaign that makes everyone who sees it feel nauseous, just like when that vast radioactive cloud wafted over from Chernobyl and infected our sheep. First there was Dawn Porter trying to make people who had no interest in discussing how they cleaned their backsides, er, discuss how they cleaned their backsides. Helpfully Dawn popped up in the AdTurds comments section explaining that the reason she did this was for 'much more then £10K' proving, as someone else pointed out, that you can put a price on self-respect.
Not satisfied with the mere threat of making people chuck up their breakfasts, Andrex was responsible for floods of vomit surging through the streets last year with its Scrunch Or Fold campaign - so much so that David Cameron has had to invest billions of pounds in flood defences around the country in preparation for the next Andrex advert. The ad was responsible for a tsunami of negative feedback, yet this has obviously not been enough for whoever is chucking Andrex's cash around. There is always, it would seem, money in shit.
Still Andrex is not satisfied - not until we're all spending money on moist toilet tissue that costs around 30 times more per square metre (I can't believe I actually worked that out) than the usual bog roll we know and love. So another quirky, slightly saucy and utterly shameless young lady has been send out to ask strangers questions about their arseholes. I feel a little more sceptical that these are real people. Or, at any rate, people who are for real. The man at the end of one, sporting a face slightly more annoying than an alarm clock waking you up with Chris Moyles, actually describes Washlets as 'a game-changer'. Which they are, I suppose, if you think of passing fecal matter out of your backside the same way as you'd treat ten minutes of Candy Crush Saga.
Lessons have clearly been learned from last time around. This group seems a lot more on board with the idea of talking about their anal cleansing habits than when Dawn tried her hand - although they do repeat two buzzwords that Dawn mentioned a lot - 'clean' and 'fresh' - beamed in, no doubt, from a focus group's list of Things People Like. What's more there's a not-at-all-scripted bit about how washlets are not going to knack your drains, a common accusation around the time of the last campaign. I couldn't really give a flying flush either way, I must say. Finally, Andrex have disallowed comments from their Youtube page - a wise move I feel.
At the forefront of all this is Arielle Free, a some-time DJ and/or presenter person, who has this to say:
Can you believe people don't even know about Andrex Washlets? I used to think there was nothing more than just loo roll but how wrong I was! So I've been out spreading the word.
Jesus Christ. In all seriousness, what on Earth are we supposed to make of this if we take it at face value? A woman has taken it upon herself to go around the country to tell people about different ways to rid their arseholes of shit? There are two ads that I've seen. In both (one in Bristol and one in Manchester) Arielle claims she has just discovered the Washlets - maybe Andrex wipes her memory as well as her arse clean after the commercials - and then runs through a checklist of things she's been told to say for money to a group or people who may or may not be actors. Incredibly some of them eat cake while others discuss how they remove shit from their rectums.
At least when Porter did it the artifice was evident; with Arielle there's a queasy middle ground between fiction and fact where we're meant to believe that someone might care enough about the issue to meet groups of people around the country, send them away with washlets and grill them a week later on what has been occurring above their toilet bowls.
So, what are we left with. To be honest, a reheated campaign that was unloved two years ago. No doubt there's lots of noise about market share and new product and innovation and conversations. As I said before, if you throw three million big ones at any sort of campaign it's probably going to pay some dividends. Give me three million quid and I bet I can make people bulk-buy chemical grenades.
Anyway, here we are again. It's one of the more perfect evocations of creating an artificial perceived need with the end result being to churn the cogs of the market a little more. This is how our whole existence works, of course, but rather like a glitch in The Matrix, it's only when something goes so obviously wrong with marketing that we perceive it. Millions of pounds are being spent on trying to make you buy something no-one could ever need. Where there's brass, there's muck.
There are a few adverts around at the moment that aren't really worth the full works. There's not actually a huge amount to say about them, beyond acknowledging how disastrously annoying they are and the clear fact that these can be reduced down to some people repeating the name of a company until you remember it.
This is, by any standards, conditioning. Pretty sinister when you think about, cupcake.
These might not be the actual worst or the most evil or inept, but they're the most annoying noises your television exposes you to currently, in my humble one. Choose your most hated.
Currently mobilising the entirety of the country in sympathy with Birmingham, which doesn't happen very often, this is from the people who gave us Gio Compario and actually features a Brummie actor. Which is as much of an alibi as creating a sitcom about comedy paedophiles and then protesting that the actors are actually paedophiles.
Youtube Likes/Dislikes: 59-100
for a laugh;
sticking a cactus,
up your arse;
while you should be hurling a brick at your TV when the Hive advert comes on at home
I blame Nizlopi. I truly hated The JCB Song, a kind of hymn for the bullied, that kicked off the speaking/singing thing by people with truly punchable voices. There's an obvious intent to these ads - an implication of something homely, trustworthy, winsome. To me it's fey, affected and thoroughly calculated.
Youtube Likes/Dislikes: 95-43
What does Voyage Prive mean to me? Smug. Wankers.
Youtube Likes/Dislikes: 19-7
NB. I've paid attention to Youtube stats for a few years now. Any advert that polls more than 5% dislikes is in trouble, so it's fairly clear none of these adverts are going down very well.
A kinda-broadsheet newspaper. A hard sell, you might think , and you'd probably be right given the parlous state of print journalism these days. The Graun is reputed to lose money at a rate unrivalled by all except the sort of people who have Ladbrokes apps on their mobile phones (a hundred grand a day at last count) so whenever there's a relaunch I always wonder whether it amounts to a last roll of the dice.
TV adverts have become fairly uncommon for daily newspapers these days, given that they're so ominpresent across the web, which is another reason to scrutinise what's going on here. I suspect that weekend newspapers offer media groups a particularly lucrative avenue these days, given that the arse has fallen out of online revenues and most of Guardian Media Group's cross-media efforts (mags; local papers; radio stations; television; Red, Green and Blue - the pornographic magazine for middle-class lentil-eating masturbators) have largely been sold off or closed.
I'd guess that a full-page ad in either paper could net up to £25K and the potential for double-whammy weekend blitz could net a million or so quid. Not bad. But the costs of good print journalism are non-negotiable. Good journos, lawyers, sales, snappers, subs, designers, printers, paper, printing presses, distribution. Not to mention the endless cocaine.
I had slight return to print recently and, while very satisfying, it didn't really stack up financially. Despite something of a rediscovered fondness for print that I detect in people, I don't think they're prepared to pay for something if they perceive a free alternative somewhere else, even if it's inferior. That should mean an increased focus on good writing and design - something I'm not convinced either The Guardian or Observer has got right in the last few years (and sadly now without the benefit of Simon Hoggart).
As a result my expectations for the medium's long-term future are realistic. On the other hand, while online wasn't quite the golden egg everyone expected it's not going anywhere. A newspaper website without a newspapers? I wouldn't put it past the Guardian, which has always liked to be a bit different and has been bulking up its online offering for years. So, is this Rusbridger's last stand?
Perhaps I'm seeing patterns where none exist, but there's a pleasing 'give-a-fuck' ambiance to this ad, highlighting the relaunched weekend edition with more cool stuff to do - at least 70 per cent of which I expect to be in London. I also expect Ottolenghi entreating readers to try some lentil doughnuts, Stuart Lee to write one of his bafflingly unfunny columns, one of the Wimmin brigade to write something gratuitously offensive to men, some appalling car reviews (seriously, Guardian, either get me in to do them or quit it with the motoring stuff) and Jacques Peretti to write another column on how he's too old to go clubbing, but that's kinda the joy of papers. There's always something else overleaf.
I like this ad. It kinda sums up everything we hope for in a newspaper. It's aspirational; it promises fun, adventure, expanded horizons; it suggests that there's more than enough for a weekend's leisure and play in there - and more besides. There's the kind of blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail that's becoming more popular in adverts and trailers and even a Breaking Bad reference in there.
I'm not sure about the suggestion that purchasing these papers might actually drive you insane, though. That's what we have The Daily Mail for isn't it?
NB. Skip the next thousand words if you're just here for the funny stuff
Four hours. That's how long, if you're an average Brit, you spend watching television every day. And, if you're not watching the BBC, that means one whole hour of adverts every day.
There's a popular misconception that you don't pay anything when you're watching ITV or one of the free satellite channels. This is bollocks since you pay what amounts to a television tax at the checkouts when you buy the products you see advertised on television. Of course, if you subscribe to Sky you're not only creating the very adverts in the first place, you're also paying for the privilege to watch adverts: a double whammy that seems to be strangely overlooked by licence-fee whingers.
So, an hour of advertising every single day that you're paying for and also paying someone else to watch. Imagine allowing a door-to-door salesman into your home for an hour a day - and you pay him for the privilege. Or standing in front of a load of billboards for an hour every day - you bought them. Or switching on a television channel for the express purpose of being brainwashed by advertisers for an hour every single day - at a fiver per half hour. 365 hours a year. 16 days. Two weeks. Half a month. Every Sunday you might as well go to the cinema for seven hours just to watch adverts and pay for the privilege. Insane.
I wrote this after a walk through Hartlepool's town centre - a north-east conurbation that has been shat on from a great height by government policy, town planning and profiteering private landlords grown fat on the benefits of the feckless, ill, terminally unemployable or luckless.
Shorn of any meaningful industry or trades much of the north-east produces virtually nothing of value these days. Jobs mainly exist to service people and in this environment the requirement to sell stuff - necessarily goods of little or no value bought by people with no money on tick - becomes even greater, because without even this meagre trade even the hellish shopping centres and retail parks would be turned into rubble-strewn £2.50-a-visit parking lots.
Pound shops, value marques, charity outlets and even food banks make up much of the town centre. A friend of a friend runs one of those shops that sells food supplements and herbs. Recently his main supplier told him that he couldn't sell to him any more as he'd become an approved supplier to Holland & Barrett, a place whose clients are nothing if not eclectic, seemingly consisting solely of doormen seeking muscle protein and arthritic pensioners buying St John's Wort. The whey-protein vendors told him that he would not be allowed to supply anyone else within a certain radius. So another independent retailer is crushed into the dirt, the town becomes a little more homogenous and what little money there is is concentrated in the pockets of multinationals and spirited out of the town.
A job for a job, you might think. But that really isn't the case. Some jobs generate less value, per capita, than others and it's the big beasts who create the least value. An indie might generate, say, £20,000 a year. A McJob might create only £15,000. So when one of these places boasts of creating 20 new jobs the chances are there's a net loss in value to the region. Remember that, next time Tesco comes a-calling.
Why is this relevant? Because this system we live in relies on buying more and stuff. Stuff that we don't need. Stuff created abroad by miserable people for buttons, of material that's designed to become obsolete within months, requiring us to replace it with more shit. That the end of the line for these 'goods' is a place like Hartlepool, full of people with no money, is particularly perverse but it's become one of the prime money generators in our utterly fucked economy. Buying shit. It's a little like the last days of Rome, but with a TOWIE onesie instead of a Bacchanalian orgy.
The fuel for this ghastly engine is, of course, advertising. It's become utterly imperative that we keep purchasing, well beyond our needs or even meaningful desires. Thusly television adverts take on a greater significance. They must make us buy things we neither want nor desire. Our out-of-control demand drives down prices, which means everyone along that chain earns a little less. In doing so we perpetuate a system that destroys jobs, money, value and choice. We're all racing to the bottom; a fevered, insane dash to pay ourselves less, rob ourselves of hard-fought rights and salve our bruised personalities with holidays, cars and cheap shit - palliatives to block out the horror of it all.
Look around you the next time you're in a shopping centre, a supermarket or fast food joint. If you're particularly unlucky you might experience a chilling moment of clarity; a horrible insight into what lies beneath the facades. The Amazon warehouse, the Asian sweatshops, the palm oil plantations, the mines that provide the previous metals for electronics, the vast mechanised slaughterhouses. We're all complicit in this; we're born complicit. But we don't have to like it.
Adverts are the devil on our shoulder, whispering that we deserve it, that it's Christmas; a can of pop, a smartphone, a 12-month subscription to Netflix will complete us. Only adverts are done whispering. Adverts will mislead, pester, guilt-trip and annoy in their efforts to encourage us to cough up, barely stopping short of a metaphorical skull-fucking in terms of the aural assaults adverts increasingly lob at us. Adverts will inveigle and batter their way past your personal spam settings. They're not simply unskippable on a DVD these days, they're unskippable in your head. As a concept I find that objectively sinister.
Advertising doesn't have to be bad. It's just that advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that bad adverts frequently work better than good adverts. Remember that old maxim about a bad meal, and how you'll tell ten times more people telling their friends about a negative experience than a good one? We're wired to remember those details: the slap in the face, the finger in the door, the hair in the soup and that bloody awful tune that we can't get out of our heads. To be in your heads in what advertisers want, cooing that you deserve a new satnav or imprinting their url on your mind like cattle being branded.
Advertising pretends to be your friend. It is not. I can't tell anymore whether it is a symptom of our slavery to the worst excesses of the market or something more sinister: something that is leading us further down to the road to our own anaesthetic stupor; a wanton shoulder-shrug, idle channel-hop and a listless wank.
Ads may sometimes be a bit of fun, they might even be amusing and cheering occasionally. But they are not benign. They are precision-guided missiles aimed directly at your sense of guilt, unhappiness, esteem, self-image and alienation. You choose to watch them for an hour a day while they try to fuck you up.
In that context, they're all bad. But these are the worst. Merry Christmas.
Women get wet while humiliating a man.
• Read the original Diet Coke AdTurd
Oh, hai rapey man with a modern-day Swatch Watch. Even though you look, sound and act like a twat I'm going to give you access to my vagina cos I like your wristphone.
Bean vendors try to convince us that the minimum-wage slaves they employ give a fuck about your Americano that you actually want milk in.
• Read the original Costa Coffee AdTurd
A bank makes stalkers live with sportspeople. Most of them seem to have some sort of alarming crush on said sportspeople now; at the beginning it was the other way round. There's some relationship dynamics right there. Expect Jessica Ennis' head to be found in a bucket soon.
• Read the original Santander AdTurd
Simply the worst advert of all time. Or, if you will, a shit ad.
NB. Andrex has, unsurprisingly, removed this ad from Youtube so I have to include a rather unfunny parody version instead here.
• Read the original Andrex AdTurd
Emotional blackmail with your sugar-flavoured gakburger, sir? Nah, you're alright.
• Read the original McDonalds AdTurd
"I'm sorry to say the tests show you have a zingy, Mr Brown. You've got six months before your eyes fall out."
• Read the original EDF AdTurd
Celebrity cunts tell lies for money.
• Read the original Sky AdTurd
The 'ordinary voice' meme is, perhaps, 2013's most aggravating. No doubt it's relatable. It's also horrible.
A rap about a Vauxhall Corsa. KRS-ONE would turn in his grave, if he were dead.
• Read the original Vauxhall AdTurd
So try-hard you can imagine an ad exec wanking in the background while this got shot.
2013's most annoying noise - another appearance for the 'ordinary voice' meme - has returned for Christmas to mop up any viewers who may have luckily escaped thus far, like a battlefield executioner dispatching wounded soldiers with a bullet to the head. Oo-wack-a-doo-what-a-loada-crap.
This carnivorous fish was vaulted a long time ago but watching these once-amusing adverts devolve into late-era Only-Fools-And-Horses drivel has been painful. The only sane response is to hope for a cobra attack on the whole troop followed by twitching deaths, like when Flower got offed in Meerkat Manor.
You might not think there's much that's particularly hateful about this, apart from its syrupy, sickly chicken-soup-for-the-soul bullshit and that awful kids' choir. But look closer - this is the Irish version of the advert and it's more notable for what it doesn't include than what it does. Compare it with the UK version below, which features a happy - and gay - couple. Seems Coke can conquer anything - apart from homophobia. And tooth decay, obviously.
• Want more? Read the lists from previous years...
Now vote for the worst of 2013
This is an ad by agency ABF Pictures, who also do the hated ads for MandM Direct that bookend Simpsons episodes and the cheapy actor-as-talking-head-member-of-public Vistaprint ones that try to convince hapless mobile hairdressers that they can have a great business if only they buy 500 bespoke business cards.
They seem to have employed the same technique here for LoveHoney.com - an online dildo vendor that's trying to, er, crack the young couples market by convincing them that there's nothing weird about shoving a rubber analogue of a penis up your foo-foo.
Not that there is of course. Each to their own - or in their own - I say. The problem here, however, is that the agency in question obviously thinks this is, ahem, a hard-sell. Why else the simpering couple-speak, pastel background, tinkly muzak and non-threatening female voiceover? It's the advert equivalent of blowing up a horse's nose and ABF said their mission was to 'normalise sex toys'. Phwoar. Here are some of the choicer quotes:
This is mentioned in every iteration of the ad at least once.
"Let's face it - loads of couples use sex toys."
SO YOU'RE NOT A PERVERT, OK?!
"I wish we'd discovered it sooner - it's done wonders for our sex life."
Feeling dead inside? Buy some bondage gear!
"What blew me away most was the customer service."
Really? The customer service, which presumably amounted to sending you something you'd paid for, 'blew you away'? When I imagine someone being blown away I imagine them being sucked into a whirling vortex of wind. But in a good way. Does that mental image tally with punching in some details into a website and then receiving a butt plug in the post three days later?
In amongst all this are shots of the actors in the advert giggling - just laughing and laughing and laughing forever - while sharing lingering looks; looks heavy with intent and meaning. Looks that say "I never knew you wanted to shove your knob up my arse," or "Now that I've pissed on you, can we ever go back to loving each other like normal human beings?"
All scoffing aside, this really is as wretched as the Vistaprint and MandM Direct adverts. We really don't do sex well in the UK and this - along with the LoveHoney website - is a prime example. It's cloyingly coy, naff, trite and about as sexy as Andrew Neil hosting an extra-long version of You And Yours.
The website, for its part, is pitched somewhere between Asda's corporate branding and a Carry On Film - the Rampant Rabbit, the one sex toy that ladies seem to feel comfortable admitting to, er, owning, is a case in point here. Could it be any less threatening? Any more absurd? In case you're wondering the two ears of the rabbit - yes, there's an actual rabbit in dildo form - are the bits that are designed to stimulate a clitoris. Just imagine men owning vibrating rubber fannies with the face of a sheep on the front - they'd be committed, or arrested, and rightly so. The Rabbit is totemic of how embarrassed we are about sex - and that's Lovehoney all over. They don't even sell proper porn for crying out loud, as if that crosses some notional taste barrier.
And while I'm going slightly off-beam here, that name. Sweet. Sickly sweet. And vaguely suggestive of some sort of sexual lubrication, surely? Honey, honeypot? Gah! What I say is this. If you're going to porn and sex toys then man up, go into a shop slap your money down on the counter and declare your intention to buy the biggest plastic cock and the filthiest porn they have and revel in the shock and awe. And if you absolutely must get your girlfriend into porn and kinky stuff don't faff about on some horrible website, grow some balls and tell her you want to bum her. What's the worst that can happen?
Finally a tip. When an ex of mine wanted to get into porn and sex toys I used a site called Blissbox. It's refreshingly straight-laced and graduates stuff by how dirty it is (on the basis that you're buying stuff for your missus who might be shy). The ex in question wasn't interested in the moderate stuff and demanded the filthiest porn there was. We both learned a lesson there.
It's hardly a novel observation to suggest that we take leave of our senses a little at Christmas. Certainly we do, but this is just the icing on the cake. We live in a system that is totally, undeniably insane. Christmas is just the slicing-off-an-ear height of the insanity, but in years gone by - and in years to come - people would and will look on in disgust at the orgy of consumption that Christmas means for us this year.
Advertising is merely the most obvious expression of this particular mania. Advertising is designed to make us consume more, in a system whose very model is ever-increasing consumption. It hardly takes a Marxist to point out that, at some point in the future, we'll run out of stuff to consume. Possibly in the next 50 years when it comes to the fossil fuels we're utterly dependent on.
Probably in terms of virtually every other natural resource - minerals, food, water and other similarly boring stuff - in a century or two, assuming that rising tide levels and natural disasters wrought by climate change, caused largely by our rapacious consumption of said fossil fuels, don't finish us off in the meantime. In the run-up to that sort of societal apocalypse we can expect to see increased, desperate competition for those resources. War, famine - fun stuff like that.
Our response to this pant-fillingly frightening realisation seems to be confined to shrugging and having a Big Mac Meal. Yawning and opening another 2-litre bottle of Coke. Scratching ourselves and ordering another DVD box-set off the internet (an act that seems increasingly close to a voluntary version of the Matrix-style cosy stupefaction of the masses in tanks filled with spermy gloop).
Consuming more stuff.
By any measure this amounts to either a gigantic shared delusion that Everything Will Be Alright or a bored acceptance that we're fucked either way and might as well go down with smiles on our fat, vacant, chocolate-smeared faces.
And the harbingers of this are Christmas adverts, ensuring that we continue accelerating towards our own doom and shovelling food and booze down our gullets all the while. I find the spectacle of what Christmas seems to have become increasingly grotesque to the point where I ask people not to buy me presents. I've been buying up stuff over the year for the few people I intend to give a gift to: art, crafts, old books I think they might enjoy. I'll make the rest - jars of jam or chutney.
I don't judge people going a bit mad at Christmas, particularly those with kids. I just wish it wasn't all so horribly, nakedly, graspingly commercial - and connected with consumption. There's a Hogarthian excess implicit in many Christmas adverts - so much so that I'm surprised the supermarkets haven't started selling emetics.
This is another factor of our mindless retail splurging. Alienation. Owning stuff doesn't make us any happier. Oh, it perhaps offers us some relief from our shit lives - like a palliative offers us brief respite from chronic pain - but it doesn't change anything. Realisation of this is the first step to making your life slightly less shit. Advertising doesn't want you thinking about that too much, because you might stop spending hundreds of pounds on stuff you don't care about for people who don't want it every single year.
I'd gladly swap every present I might receive this year for a short Winter break with a few loved ones, a low-key party with group of friends, a phonecall from some people I love and haven't seen for a while, Christmas Eve in a pub with my old muckers in the North East. Oh, sure, I'll buy the missus something nice and spend Christmas Day stuffing my face, drinking some port, watching Doctor Who and dozing off on the sofa. I might even give the cat some bacon fat. But the receiving and sending of stuff won't make me - or anyone I know - happier.
Sorry if this all comes over a bit Good Life, but I find it genuinely depressing that we've commodified everything that's precious in our lives, wrapped it up in a multi-million-quid campaign and sold it back to ourselves. We've prostituted something that's synonymous with charity, good will and togetherness. I saw a newspaper refer to this year's John Lewis advert as a festive comfort blanket. It's not, it's a sugar pill at best - and a dangerously addictive one at that.
There's nothing wrong with an X-Box, or a crate of beer or a nice DVD. But you know what's better? Friends, family, your Significant Other. Company, conversation, laughter, love. Spending time with them, breaking bread with them and huddling together around the fire to hide from the season's icy grasp.
Adverts aren't the first exciting sign that Christmas is coming; they're just the first - and best - reminder that we've fucked up everything that's good about it.
Vote for your favourite
Marks and Spencer
A couple of models, everyone's favourite batshit kooky actress, an Alice In Wonderland theme. And, quite possibly, the latest M&S messiah's last chance to save his job.
There's a point in the film Big, a film of which I'm very fond, where the juvenile-on-the-inside Tom Hanks watches a product pitch, at the toy-makers where he works, with puzzlement.
"I don't get it," he says in a way that's taken as needless, needly snark. But it's not - he genuinely doesn't understand what the toy is supposed to do.
Well, I don't get it.
I don't really know what Very.co.uk is, apart from the fact that it seems to be aimed at aspiring chavettes, given that Fearne Cotton is its representative. It's worth pointing out that Cotton, someone with no discerning talent to speak of, has nearly five million followers on Twitter. Five Million. if that's not enough to give you nightmares I don't know what will.
Anyway, this advert is kinda interesting; the music and the offbeat visuals are refreshingly different from the rest of the Christmas fare. I guess it's aimed at young women, but there's something a tad unfortunate here. It feels cold, stilted and the women in it look like they've been freeze-dried; Stepford Wifettes represented only by their domestic duties.
I think that's rather problematic. It's a chilly vision of Christmas: Jerry Hall's quote about women as "cook in the kitchen, lady in the parlor, whore in the bedroom" made real.
In last year's AdTurds run down of best and worst Xmas adverts I suggested that if they wanted my Christmas pound, UK retailers should spend their ad cash on taking a load of old folks and homeless people for a slap-up Christmas party with loads of top nosh.
Imagine my surprise when, this year, Waitrose unveiled an advert featuring an advert where they spend their Xmas ad cash on taking a load of old folks and homeless people for a slap-up Christmas party with loads of top nosh.
My invoice is in the post.
Nice to see Carol Vorderman playing up to her popular image as a filthy MILF. Still, I prefer to remember her as a shrill, foaming, utterly inept right-wing whackjob informed only by Daily Mail editorials and Tory party briefing notes who made a total arse of herself on Question Time a couple of years ago, fulminating about the kind of things that people who join UKIP are annoyed by and proving to be largely misinformed, hysterical and thick as pigshit.
I'm looking forward to the second part of this ad campaign, in which the celebrity adder-upper - and erstwhile peddler of debt consolidation companies - gets sloshed on cheap white wine and starts bawling at an East European, makes a pass at someone 30 years her junior and bursts into tears before being put to bed.
A beautiful young woman stalking through the moneyed boroughs of central London, eh? There's a novelty. Debenhams is increasingly the person at university who you befriend on your first day only for them to start dressing like you and buying CDs by your favourite band.
As a rough approximation of what the client wanted it's probably ticking all the boxes but really this is as memorable as the November 14th episode of Neighbours in 1994.
Keane made a good song once, believe it or not - it's this one sung here by Lily Allen and is called Somewhere Only We Know. A bear and a hare are having a romance, by the look of it. Wonder how that works.
This is getting ridiculous now. Forget reality shows, this is the most absurdly exploitative television gets in the 21st century. Where do we go from here? The last time I wept at anything I saw on television was about ten years ago, watching a Simon King documentary about two orphaned cheetah cubs that he'd rescued. After two years of raising them by hand King decides that they should have the chance of the life they were born for, and releases them into the wild. Shortly afterwards one of them is killed and King is distraught when he finds the body, the twin cheetah mewling in confusion. It came at a time in my life when I'd recently lost someone and I cried my eyes out for about half an hour.
Next year John Lewis will just be showing that clip, accompanied by Leonard Cohen singing I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - with a picture of a cashmere scarf at the end of it.
I wonder if the people who do John Lewis ads are starting to believe their own press. The media starts frotting itself every November when the very notion of advertising, television - Hell, art itself - is shaken to its core by another 60 seconds designed to make us sad and then spend £250 on stuff we don't need in John Lewis.
But really I don't they're that good. I could come up with something like that in 30 minutes if I had a strong cup of tea and pack of Jaffa Cakes. Animals, sadness, snow, anthropomorphism, love. Shake them up with some nice visuals and a cover of a sad song and you've got something that's as easy to put together as pound cake. And a good deal more bittersweetly nauseating.
Oh dear. What is this? An attempt to go upmarket? A response to last year's lukewarm response the festive efforts? A rebrand? Whatever it is, it's not very good.
A dreadful soundtrack, courtesy of everyone's second-favourite geriatric shagger that instantly prevents this really connecting with anyone under 40 years of age. A advert that tries to convince you that it's possible to age someone 50 years by putting a white streak in their hair. And, more fundamentally, an advert that just doesn't really mean anything.
Why 50 years? Why literally no mention of any product or brand, bar a Tesco logo at the end? I sincerely doubt anyone has an answer to these questions. Does this really align in any way with the brand, the product? I don't see how it does.
This might seem to run contrary to my opening gambit here, but really this is so naff, so unbelievable and so empty that it's just 90 seconds of nothingness.
Boots had a pretty decent ad last year, which I enjoyed because it featured real people. This year that's not the case but I do like this one. Similar to the John Lewis ad from a couple of years that baited-and-switched - leading us to believe that a young lad was waiting to open his presents on Christmas Day, only to surprise us by enthusiastically delivering a gift to his Mam and Dad - this one subverts our initial expectations rather nicely.
He's wearing a hoody! He's moody! He slammed the door! He's running away and banging on shutters! Oh, look, he's giving them a pack of smellies. He must be a good lad after all.
Still, I'd find it harm to warm to a gift of toiletries and the choice of soundtrack - Smalltown Boy, about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in the provinces - is a bit of a puzzler. It instantly made me think of an episode of Brass Eye where a gay sailor is pictured walking down a street in grainy monochrome, with his shoes highlighted in pink.
Overall, though, I think this one might be my favourite.
Asda has never seemed to quite understand the difference between inexpensive and cheap. It's always seemed a little more downmarket, low-rent when compared to the other main supermarkets and that's something that Asda has courted a little.
Brave move this year, anyway, tackling the other supermarkets head on and referencing them fairly openly with a price promise effort. Not very seasonal, charitable and not especially pleasing to be honest. A bit cheap, if anything.
As someone on Twitter put it: Why don't the asda av a fuckin scruff ma screamin the gaff down with her 5 snotty nosed kids in the Xmas tv advert be more realistic la.
Asda hasn't uploaded this one yet
Everyone's favourite cheeky chappies Ant And Dec sit down for a repaste that could feed half of Nyercastle pet. I quite like this though, and the suggestion that And Or Dec might be about to eat the singing gingerbreadman is rather droll - positioning Morrisons quite differently to the other, rather earnest, offerings.
"Go on, it's Christmas," says Ant Or Dec to Ant Or Dec, justifying this Yuletide slaughter. I'd like to see this used as an excuse in broader terms. Fraudulently embezzling the Christmas Club cash, having an extra-marital affair or developing a crack habit, for example.
Go on, it's Christmas.
NB. Incidentally, it's always possibly to tell And And Dec apart because they always sit in visual order of their names - Ant And Dec; left and right. Vaguely depressing, but true nonetheless.
Argos is still sticking with its alien sperm family thing, it would seem. This is a series that I find wholly unlovely, fairly irritating and simply rather baffling. Initially I thought it would make sense to have the family bemused by Earth traditions but accepting of the Argos back-to-front shopping experience, but this has never happened.
So, it just sort of exists. There are a few things of note here, I think. Firslty, how horrific does Santa look without a beard? Score one for sending the kids screaming from the room. Second, a joke about little people? Hmm. Lastly, a gift of a satnav. Merry Fucking Geolocationary Accurate Christmas.
Time to retire this campaign I think. If I want sperm all over my screen then I'll <edited by the Advertising Standards Authority>.
There's always a macabre fascination to see what grisly 'party food' treats Iceland comes up with next - this being the outlet that gave us King Prawn Spoons, a Baileys Dome Gateau and mini Yorkshire-pudding-with-roast-beef efforts that looked quite a lot like vaginas (see right).
I've not really caught this year's advert, but since Iceland is clearly making some sort of attempt to dodge the sort of horrors of 2010 with a Michael Buble song (albeit terrible) and a focus on one of its delivery drivers romancing a lady with ready meals, I expect it's not as ghastly as Icelands of Christmas Past.
Still, since we're here let's dream up a few. Mini Chicken Rifles? Bacardi Breezer Dipping Sauce? Langoustine Roundabouts? Pontefract Pizzas? Boummus? The possibilities are - I feel - endless.
Iceland has yet to upload this one
So, that's it for the big hitters. Make sure you vote for your favourite at the bottom of the page.
Lidl, Aldi, Matalan, Sainsbury's, TK Maxx and a couple of others have yet to release their own versions or aren't especially interesting - so I'm not including them here. The TK Maxx and Aldi ones are quite nice.
Not currently publicly available
Some of these ads have been around a while; some are new. All are fucking annoying.
They all feature some sort of aural assault - something you hear again and again designed to get on you tits, stay there and give them a tweak every few hours. As irritating as a midge bite, a screaming child behind you on public transport or Piers Morgan talking to you for any length of time whatsoever.
Tell me which is your most hated.
MandM Direct advert
SHUT THE FUCK UP!
SHUT THE FUCK UP!
An oldie and a shitty. I'm going to let a search engine term speak for me on this one: I'll wowcher you, you cunts".
I really hate the current trend of having 'normal' voices singing on adverts, no doubt in an effort to be more relatable to us lottery-ticket-buying scum. And what's that lyric? It sounds like oo-wackadoo-what-a-day. If it is I will hunt down the person responsible and make them listen to it for ten hours.
Even worse, there's actually a karaoke version in case you want to sing along to this utter toss: "I heard a story; somebody told me; the lotto's changing' this Saturday." That's the story? Jesus Christ get some better friends.
I despise everything about MacDonalds. But perhaps most of all I hate that cheerful little whistle at the end of all their adverts. It kinda sums them right up. Sickly, sweet, artificial, shit-eating and thoroughly nauseating.
• Vote for your most hated advert of October
I always loved this ad about Andy Cole and what would have happened to him if he'd not bought a pair of Reebok footie boots in 1987. Cole is either brilliantly deadpan or wonderfully wooden, depending on how you look at it, but I think it works well either way.
Compare it with a recent, similar effort with a bearded Wayne Rooney whose career has hit the skids thanks to Frank Ribery.
Thanks to Kanye Pest