Here we go then. The worst adverts of 2015. If you're just here for the videos and want to give my usual Christmas Message Of Despair, skip the next 1,000 words...
Some people I know who are teachers have started to tell me recently that children don't necessarily know why we celebrate Christmas. No Jesus, manger, frankincense, little donkeys or Boney M. No Once In Royal David's City, O Little Town Of Bethlehem or God Rest Ye, Merry. Not even that version of Oliver Twist that Alistair Sim did. No, not because of immigrants or loony-left councils.
They think it's something to do with shopping. Some other people I know - people who are legally adults - got so excited by the arrival of a Coca-Cola truck in Sunderland I'm fairly sure they soiled themselves. When I pressed them further it became fairly clear they thought Saint Nick was something to do with fermented vegetable extract.
Easter? Chocolate eggs. Hallowe'en? Gaudy tat from pound shops that catches fire in any room above body temperature. Bonfire Night? Bangy things. September: Back To School. May: Barbecues, beach holidays and booze. November onwards: the Christmas Behemoth. We even have days dedicated to shopping: Black Friday; Cyber Monday; the New Year Sales. Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays - our lives are mediated by how, when and where we spend money.
Everything that we do is filtered through spending money. Shopping. Adverts. Our whole way of life is driven by acquisition - or the desire to acquire things. Forget the library, theatre, cinema, park, gallery or even pub - people go down the shops for something to do these days. They rule our lives.
Nando's is event living. Starbucks a daily gift to oneself. Maccies is a treat. We're so entranced by McDonald's, in fact, that we'd rather step over a dying man than risk getting our Happy Meal.
We show our love for another by exchanging cookery books that will never be read; box-sets forgotten and filed the second they're watched and Christmas jumpers thrown out the second the deccies come down. The system we've decided to live by is predicated on us having, eating and burning more things.
It's a manifesto for our own unhappiness and subjugation. But it's an insanity that we're happy to go along with as long as our friendly local supermarkets keep us fed, banks keep giving us money and TV provider keeps churning out good-looking trash. Advertising is the oil that greases the wheels of this ridiculous state of affairs.
And so we absorb it, assimilate it and are influenced by these little precision-guided films without even knowing it. To buy, eat, drink, travel. To tell us that we deserve it. To understand that the overriding thing in life is to have whatever you want, whenever you want it. To be the masters of our own ultimate doom.
When we've burned the last fossil fuels, chopped down the last tree, concreted the last pasture and eaten the last of the penguins we'll still have adverts telling us that we deserve more. That we should have more. Adverts are the ultimate expression of the way we enslave ourselves.
Not only that, they're really fucking annoying too. These are my selection for the worst adverts of 2015 but you can tell me which one you hated the most below. And if your most despised isn't present, feel free to add it below. In a futile way, you might just improve the human condition in some infinitesimal, unmeasurable and wholly pointless manner. But it might stave off the existential loneliness for a few minutes.
The Worst Adverts of 2015
My choices for the worst of the crop are below. Underneath that a poll. Read, weep and vote for your most-hated.
People used to quite like advert families. The Bisto Family. The Nescafe Couple. The Milky Bar Kid. We welcomed them into our homes and missed them when they were gone. But somewhere along the line things changed. Now we don't like advert families. We hate them. We've learned to distrust our Gods - the banks and supermarkets and car-makers and broadcasters. We may never stop using them. But in this set of Tesco adverts is a new paradigm. We hate these adverts - and we hate the businesses behind them.
Vax Air Cordless Lift
Like a mongoose brushes off cobra venom, I'm immune to the supposed charms of Miranda Hart. I find her whole 'whoops I'm a bit clumsy and look a bit weird' shtick a massive turn-off. In fact I'd rate my fondness for Miranda Hart as somewhere between 'acquiring wisdom teeth' and 'claiming housing benefit'. This Vax advert has all the traits that leave me colder than an Iceland party-food pack present and correct.
Only a total bell-end could have written this ghastly faux-twee affair. A proper Clem Fandango. Someone with a sleeve full of tats, a vial of expensive beard oil and a belief that Ed Sheeran, Catfish and the Fucking Bottlemen and Kodaline are the last words in amazing music. Hateful.
An exercise so fundamentally disturbing it can only have been made by actual children or psychopaths. Though it is incredibly fitting in that Haribo seems to have a phenomenal ability to reduce adults to dribbling infants.
I guess trying to make people go to a Travelodge in this day and age is a fool's errand, but breaking out the puppets just results in a mawkish, try-hard and charmless spot that suggests a polar opposite to common belief: that you'd be mad not to stay at a Travelodge.
The equivalent of buying David Attenborough and making him read out Katie Hopkins columns for the sheer Hell of it. Grisly, depressing - the utter triumph of cold, hard cash over something joyous and innocent.
A surreal, grotesque sex nightmare harder to avoid in 2015 than George Osborne's horrible smug little face. Still, there are definitely bigger and more annoying arses on television. George Osborne, for example.
The man who says 'You make me laugh Cortana' looks like he's physically choking on the words. He looks appalled and ashamed of himself. But what's bizarre is that many, many people - perhaps 100 - sat and watched and nodded and smiled while this abomination was allowed to happen. Even when the man looks like he'd rather shoot himself in the head than say those words. You can see it on screen - a man whose very soul is dying in front of our eyes. And everyone involved still said 'yep, that's the shot. Print it. We're using that one.'
In the cult sci-fi film Cube a massive, self-contained, indestructible death-trap is constructed simply because no-one involved in its creation ever questions what their tiny part in its making portends. No-one ever questions it; no-one ever stops doing their job and something inexplicably terrible just happens as a result. Just like this Clean Bandit Cortana advert. A vast, mechanised, purposeless killing machine. Only the advert is much worse.
If anything good has emerged from austerity it's that our relationship with banks has been changed forever. We finally learned to distrust big business in 2015, though we haven't quite figured out yet what to do about it. In that context Lloyds' desperate, misjudged 'we're your friends, really' advert felt as outdated as Jeremy Corbyn's wardrobe.
John Lewis finally runs out of steam with the 593rd iteration of its cover-versioned sad-sad-sad-happy routine. A tired, misfiring cry-wank of a glory-years photocopy.
Andrex seems to be on a mission to make people spew up into their TV dinners, with this the latest in a long succession of adverts apparently intent on either discussing bodily matter in great detail - or inspiring their sudden emergence.
Nothing against Vauxhall, I just hate Jake Bugg - a man with a voice like a stress headache.
Aldi graduates to the same level as the usual Big Four suspects with an ad featuring one of those singing voices that sounds like a Victorian urchin has been rescued from a gin parlour then partially educated by an aristocrat. The result is an estuary whine less loveable than cholera.
Fuck off Postman Twat.
Appalling, insulting, patronising drivel that dares to compare Paloma Faith to Billie Holiday and a lady who plays football to Emmeline Pankhurst. Women - apparently these are your Gods? Lots of bonus points for being insufferably smug and boasting an abysmal soundtrack. The last shot of the young girl glancing across to the camera physically pains me. 'Women who rock'. Dear Christ.
Vote: Worst Adverts of 2015
Vote for your worst adverts of 2015 here. But think carefully - you can only choose one...
Finally, thanks to Jon 'Holmesy' Holmes for sending in this billboard spotted in Ealing. I have absolutely no bloody idea what the Hell is going on, but felt it deserved to be mentioned here.
Aren't banks great? They give you money and all sorts - and all they ask is that they are able to make money from the cash that we bank with them. It's almost utterly altruistic on their part. God bless banks - and bank adverts.
As this advert, released in time to celebrate Lloyds' 250th anniversary, tells us, they're there through good times and bad - you know, the times when they mis-sell PPI, launder money and attract more complaints to the financial ombudsman man than any other bank. Good old Lloyds!
And the good old Lloyds bank horse - representing how the brand is, er, horselike. And, just like horses, they've been helping the British people over the last 250 years, whether they're moving stuff, jumping over stuff or stepping on landmines on a French battlefield. Just like banks, when you think about it.
In any case, the black horse is one of the more recognisable financial brands - much more than Barclays' eagle or Halifax's big H. So it kinda makes sense that they're bringing it back in this advert. Nothing like a spot of recognition of a well-known avatar, after all.
Except that's bollocks really. On a personal level I have never had any meaningful interaction with a black horse, nor Lloyds. Nor any bank. They're a necessary - if unloved - facet of the modern world, like insurance, comparison websites and the booze that helps to numb the pain of it all.
I view the prospect of going to bank for absolutely any reason to be an exercise in Computer-Says-No frustration, long queues and being vaguely patronised. Frankly, that's how everyone feels when they go into a bank - and people who work in banks tend to belong to one of the few remaining professions that seem to require a combination of curtness, uselessness and rank condescension.
I recently went to a bank to pay in two old 50 quid notes to be told - I kid you not - that I'd have to take them to the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, in person. This turned out to be as incorrect as it was absurd, but it's par for the course in terms of how unhelpful banks tend to be.
What's more, that black horse really doesn't engender much good will. Banks are about as toxic as politicians these days in the public's affections - ranked somewhere between ketamine psychosis and James Corden - so the appearance of the Lloyds horse is some magnitudes behind the likes of Tony The Tiger and the Smash robots as far as eliciting positive emotions go.
The use of the black horse here is rather like scheduling a Heroes of Comedy season on UK Gold, featuring interviews with the late Les Dawson, Rik Mayall and Peter Cook - but interspersed with monologues from George Osborne announcing benefit cuts to disabled people. It either misunderstands how virtually everyone views banks and bankers - or it simply doesn't care. It's like ISIS selling the sort of merchandise you see in a National Trust shop - erasers, jams and tea-towels - Tesco sending you its mixtape or The Conservative Party making its own pornographic DVDs.
Banks have utterly lost the public's trust, through their own horrible behaviour. They have shafted us, cheated us, lied to us again and again - and the only conclusion we can come to, since they have done it again and again, is that they're utterly unrepentant. And they offer glossy adverts in return. It's like someone stealing your life savings, writing off your car and burning down your house, then commiserating with an offer to buy you a pint with your own cash.
No doubt someone somewhere has been pointing to a Powerpoint display with the phrase 'recapturing trust' and 'restating values' next to a picture of a black horse, while Lloyds boffins nod and chew their expensive pens. And everyone involved in it - bosses, marketers, foot soldiers, consumers and regulators - know this dishonest advertising to be a massive lie on every level. It's a sticking plaster over a wound so ragged, festering and grievous - bailouts, bonuses, scandal, rigging; the things that have defined banks over the last decade - that it amounts to a colossal affront to everyone's intelligence. An appalling insult to terrible injury. The threat is barely implicit: let us do what we want, bail us out, leave us alone. If we go down we're taking you with us.
If you want a metaphor involving a horse to demonstrate the balance of power between the banks and us, don't think of a billowing, rippling steed running through Kent. Imagine waking up to a severed equine head under your duvet.