Aww, Christmas adverts. Snowmen and buying your loved on a woolly jumper and gorging yourself all the way to Type-II Diabetes. At a time when John Carpenter's iconic 80s sci-fi/action film They Live! is gaining traction as a meme I'm here to remind you that Christmas adverts are there to convince you to consume more, conform more, buy more - and burn the whole fucking planet in the meantime.
You know the score. No cooing from me. No gurgling at the latest John Lewis mood music. Send me the ghosts of Victor Kiam, PG Tips chimps and Barry Scott - there'll no no Christmas spirit for me where Christmas ads are concerned.
They're not harmless and they're not just a bit of fun. They're just one of the nicer-looking cogs in the system everyone apparently despises. It's one of the prevailing modern mysteries that people rail against experts, elites and the European Union while adverts for massive multinational companies get a free pass, because LOL.
I don't hate Christmas. But I'm not fond of Christmas adverts. These are the ones that caught my eye this time around: the best, the worst, the most sickeningly awful. You can vote for your favourite below.
2016 Christmas Adverts
Argos Christmas Advert
Bonus points for the soundtrack - but a load of multicoloured skating yeti? It's pretty striking I guess but, as ever with Argos adverts, it can't help but say 'expensive' and 'cheap' at the same time.
Aldi Christmas Advert
The preponderance of all-CGI adverts these days doesn't do a lot for me - they just conjure up an image of a speccy 3D animator sitting in a windowless room in front of three massive iMac screens. Good old Kevin The Carrot.
Asda Christmas Advert
Nothing encapsulates to stupid wastefulness of the modern Christmas more than the buying of crapulous Christmas jumpers to be worn for one day and then discarded. Needless to say they're not all made by elves in Lapland either: a recent report found that plenty of high-street knitwear was made by people in third-world countries who were regularly 'beaten, threatened, stripped of their rights and imprisoned on false charges'. Merry Christmas!
If your modus operandi is 'we sell cheap shit' then I guess it stands to reason your advert reeks of it.
Boots Christmas Advert
Boots have been doing Christmas adverts pretty well for a few years now, ducking the sad/happy, snow'n'food clusterfucks and focusing on real people and doing something nice for them. Set against the food-and-stuff orgies Christmas is often presented as, it can't help but come across well.
Currys PC World
Yeah, OK, I'll buy this. Unlike a not-dissimilar Littlewoods advert from a few years ago I think this is sending itself up. 'Just so you know' is a nice little pay-off too. The idea of stepping foot into a Currys PC World store at any time of the year makes me nauseous, mind.
Debenhams Christmas Advert
Jennifer Saunders, Ewan McGregor, Billie Piper, Bruno Tonioli (?) and Mel Giedroyc join forces to lend their voices to a heartening story of buying stuff. I quite like these Debenhams spots and they look and sound lovely - but the execution is just slightly off somehow. Still, it sounds so lovely by the end of it I nearly had a stalk-on.
DFS Christmas advert
Nothing says 'Christmas is over; now it's five days dreading going back to work and loathing yourself over how much you've eaten and drunk' like a trip to a slushy sofa warehouse on an industrial estate to see if there are any cheap suites. Hence this adverts, I guess, which uses some lovely Aardman animation to make something almost quite nice. But I just can't buy into it: I don't think I've ever had a delivery of anything that hasn't been a ballache and I'd list 'buying a sofa' somewhere between 'trying to claim disability allowance' and 'clearing out drains' in my list of things I'd like to do.
Ebay Christmas Advert
Jesus, just look at the shite they're advertising here. Still this ploughs a winning Inbetweeners furrow and is pleasingly cynical. The 'Christmas disco' angle is pretty oddly specific but this feels like a more honest advert that has a good chance of connecting with its target audience. No CGI animals in sight either.
House of Fraser Christmas Advert
This is fucking horrible.
John Lewis Christmas Advert Christmas Advert
John Lewis kills Santa, with help from a CGI dog ripped off from the internet.
Littlewoods Christmas Advert
Littlewoods seems to have gone out its way in recent years to make the most offensively consumerist adverts of all. It's still at it here with a montage of a family tooling up with the shit they've bought each other (on 0% credit, of course). But it's inoffensive enough - at least compared to previous efforts - and doesn't feature piano-bothering Tory harpy Myleene Klass. So it can't be all bad.
Marks & Spencer Christmas Advert
Dear Christ, how much money was spunked on this? There are porn stars who have been spunked on less than this.
Morrisons Christmas Advert
Wreath, tree, snow, presents, wooly hats, icing sugar, decorations, mince pies, turkey, Christmas dinner, board games, paper hats. CHECK. Though I do think Morrisons have got it right with everyone's favourite comforting northern voice in the shape of Paul Copley.
Not On The High Street Christmas advert
A debut effort from 'power-to-the-people' indie champions Not On The High Street here, which plays up its 'real people make this stuff' angle by casting them as elves from around the country. I also like the battered blue Ford Trannie van.
Sainsbury's Christmas advert
Well, where to start. The first thing to notice here is that James Corden is singing - singing - this quite dreadful song. It's as if Sainsbury's were so desperate to use Corden (as must all broadcasters, by law, in 2016) they crowbarred him into voicing the song, just so they could generate a few more column inches in The Daily Mail and Sun. Corden's singing is, it must be said, pretty bad - he sounds like a man doing his best after being forced into an involuntary rendition after his first three singing lessons, operating at the limits of his vocal cords. Only one who got a million quid for his efforts.
What I dislike most about this is how depressing the whole thing is. The only way the Dad in this advert can briefly escape from his miserable existence is by replacing himself with a nodding dog, proving that he is both horribly overworked and job-insecure, but also so utterly insignificant that no-one notices he isn't there.
What a troubling parable for our time: a zero-hours, anxiety-attack, gnawing-insecurity Christmas carol for Brexiting austerity Britain. Cold comfort too, no doubt, for the Sainsbury's employees who have to be at work for 6am on Boxing Day.
Tesco Christmas Advert
You can't have your cake and eat it Tesco. As ever Miller and Jones are engaging and the script rides a fine line between kitchen-sink reality and sitcom humour, but it kinda works. I can't hate it - even if I think it's got a bloody nerve.
TK Maxx Christmas Advert
There's a nice bait-and-switch here that makes sense. TK Maxx just can't compete with the big names - and probably shouldn't even be trying. So subverting expectations and disrupting the traditional Christmas snorefests isn't a bad idea. Works pretty well too, even if the lasting feeling is vague unease.
Toys R Us Christmas Advert
I think the value in the Toys R Us jingle lies in its nostalgia value: a hefty dose of 'when I was a kid' and the fuzzy animation. Update it and it loses a lot of its charm, especially when you realise it's just not a very good piece of music. 'There's millions, says Geoffrey, all under on roof'. What? I do wish they'd include the forgotten third verse, however, if only to see the baffled faced on today's kids.
"Books Boardgames and Bikes
Teddies, Puppets and Dolls
Bats, Spaceships and Trikes..."
Very.co.uk Christmas Advert
I like the sentiment - that giving is quite a nice thing to do - but I'm not convinced that a gig-economy-fuelled online shopping service is a particularly festive notion.
Waitrose Christmas Advert
When I was a child I thought I had a new affinity with robins. Because my name is Robin. Sadly this isn't true, but I do have an affinity with wildlife. I'm in the RSPB and BTO and a lot of charitable donations of mine go towards supporting wildlife. You know who doesn't support wildlife? Supermarkets. Agriculture.
If we're not careful we'll end up in a situation where the only wild birds we see are CGI efforts on Christmas adverts. It's enough to make you weep into a Waitrose mince pie.
Vote for your favourite Christmas advert
Favourites? You tell me. I'll take is as read the answer 'none of the above' will feature.
Christmas adverts of old
Refresh your memories of the best and worst Christmas adverts – sob pitifully at advertising or enrage yourself to vein-throbbing standards – of previous years.
So, here we are again. It's still six weeks before Christmas Day, but the phony war starts earlier and earlier every year now. Christmas provides a unique and irresistible opportunity for brands to give themselves a boost going into the next year - a little bit like striking the first metaphorical blow at the press conference that precedes a bout of boxing, or invading Belgium.
In light of the collapse of Western civilisation that the Big Four supermarkets losing market share apparently constitutes, brand equity and brand power is ever-more important as our beloved high-street (not to mention out-of-town industrial estate) goes through a fundamental structural correction. Communicating what makes you different, better or cheaper than your rivals - and getting people to buy into that idea - is where it's at these days and television adverts are the primary weapon.
The money that buys prime advertising space - charged at up to £250,000 per advert for the best slots in the week or so before the big day - could probably fund a medium-sized African dictator for a year, so high are the stakes.
We live in the age of the multi-platform campaign so the power of the hashtag - not to mention multi-million quid cinematic featurettes - have been deployed this year amid a massive social media push to engage the yoof with ahh! and LOL! and WTF! moments: a penguin in love; fairies delivering bribes to Twitter users; a global war in which 20 million people died...
2014's Christmas adverts are the opening salvos in a new campaign - the campaign to see who lays the most convincing claim for the ground they want to inhabit for the next few years. Fittingly - but also tastelessly - many newspapers and blogs describe this as a battle of the Christmas adverts. Fittingly because it undoubtedly it is a battle, possibly for survival for some players; tastelessly because this year Sainsbury's has decided that it will use trench warfare as its setting for its Christmas advert.
It's a little bit like bringing a live grenade to a custard pie fight - poor old Monty the Penguin looks a bit stupid when you line him up next to the hot young cast of the Sainsbury's advert, whose real-life counterparts - unlike Monty, Jools Holland or Ant & Dec - were largely mown down by machine-gun fire once the cameras stopped rolling.
Similarly, everyone else is rather left in the wake of the Sainsbury's advert, like rubber ducks in a bath bombed by the Enola Gay. As a result of Sainsbury's fearless approach to adopting mass killing as a backdrop to a Christmas advert, I look forward to the supermarkets employing the Cambodian genocide, Balkan conflict, Al Qaeda terrorist atrocities and the Aberfan disaster in their adverts over the next year.
No doubt the likes of Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, would say call this strategy 'risky' - but on the whole I can only assume he'd approve. In these days, when the only arbiter as to what is considered an appropriate advert is how well it plays on social media, when acceptance on Twitter is the only validation required, it's the logical - the only - conclusion.
I saw the Sainsbury's advert breathlessly referred to as The Advert To End All Adverts, which would be quite witty, if not for its fundamental cuntishness. And it makes me wonder - if they think this is OK, what else is around the corner?
So, Merry Christmas. In the event that you aren't blown apart by a stray advert or simply shell-shocked at the horror of it all, do let me know which is your favourite below.
Christmas Adverts 2014
Aldi's first real misstep when it comes to advertising. The German brand has made a success of its brand proposition and physical offering by explicitly not doing what the Big Four have done since the year dot. Until now, where they sign up to the 'me too' brand of supermarket Christmas advert with a battleship's weight worth of food and a crap celeb (Jools Sodding Holland). There's the Gin Granny from a very early ad, when Aldi ads were still excellent, but fundamentally this is as forgettable as every other Xmas ad out there. Truly, Aldi has arrived.
Who associates hip-hop with Christmas? This chilly, charmless and actively aggravating spot for Argos does at least have the distinction of ditching the unloved Bill Nighy and Caroline Quentin-voiced sperms. A fundamentally horrible advert all told, though.
There's always something a bit no-nonsense about Asda's advertising, which rather suits the brand. Here's an advert that basically says 'if we're shelling out a million quid then we're damn well going to actually advertise stuff'. A little like an Asda shop then: a necessity that you're glad is over the second it is.
Can't argue with this one and as members of my close family frequently find themselves working on Christmas Day - meaning that the extended fam has often celebrated on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day to facilitate the best possible experience for them - I can relate. A nice ad, well intentioned and well made.
Frankly Debenhams only enters my consciousness once a year when I'm compiling these lists, but it is the season of good cheer so they're making an appearance. Verdict: inoffensive.
Call it a concession, an admission of defeat or even a cry for help. Perhaps it's just recognition of what and where Iceland is. Profoundly not aspirational, not middle-class, not classy. Oh, what's that speeding away into the distance? It's Aldi and Lidl. Cheap, cheesy - Magaluf in supermarket form.
As exciting, predictable and emotional as a Stephen Hendry tournament win in the mid-1990s. A triumph of efficiency - and that's all.
An extension of the Lidl Differences series of ads that have been running, where poshos are surprised to find the lovely nosh they've been hoying down their gobs is from that downmarket place near the estate. Minus points for the almost-subliminal smattering of words like 'value' throughout, which reminded me of this.
Myleene Klass and Christopher Biggins as brand ambassadors. Crikey - what statement is being made there?. At face value there's nothing particularly wrong with this; look closer and Myleene is busy turning beautiful, original, interesting wares at what looks like a Persian bazar into the sort of cheap and tacky shit with which you'd associate Littlewoods. Which isn't a great message, really.
Marks and Spencer
An expensive checklist of Christmas advert staples rendered as efficiently and lovelessly as a wall in a Barratt Home is plastered.
Utterly forgettable which, given that Morrisons is by far the least visible of the Big Four, is something of a problem. Just like their stores, I don't know what's supposed to set them apart. And if you employ the original cheeky chappies of television in Ant and Dec, why isn't your ad a little irreverent, like it was last year?
A beautiful slice of exploitative, offensive supermarket propaganda.
Tesco has never done Christmas ads well - coming as it does in the midst of the supermarket's biggest crisis in decades it just serves to enhance the suspicion that it's lost sight of what it is, what its strengths are and what the core message is.
Waitrose generally bucks the trend and this sets it apart from the rest of the pack nicely. Giving, showing resolve, employee stakeholding - there's a message I can get behind at this time of year. Truly abysmal soundtrack, like, but you can't have everything.
• Refresh your memories of the best and worst Christmas adverts – sob pitifully at advertising or enrage yourself to vein-throbbing standards – of previous years