Best And Worst Xmas Ads 2012

Have you ever noticed how few black people there are in Christmas adverts? Or Oriental or Asian?

I’m guessing that different racial demographics are a lot less valuable to the Christmas Cash Climax that this time of the years represents, with WASPs more likely to actually indulge in this celebration of the market economy, but once you’ve noticed it, it’s hard to un-notice.

For all that the media is reasonably heterogeneous these days it’s as if everyone closes ranks at Christmas. Look at the smiling white extended-family faces. You don’t see many people in wheelchairs, fellas kissing one another, black families pulling crackers or Muslims, well, doing whatever it is that Muslims do on Christmas Day.

Myleene – one of only three celebs in evidence this year

Not that this is a call for a token black face amid the sea of caucasians all over the airwaves – that would be almost as insulting. But a Christmas advert featuring only a black family seems unthinkable. As does the cold hard reality of what Christmas is for a lot of people – and sorry to be such a miserable fucker at this point – a lonely time.

Here’s one that would take some real fucking balls – and guarantee my loyalty for many years to come. Instead of jizzing all of that cash on some hungry celebrities I’m calling out the supermarkets: Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, Marksies. The lot of ’em.

Here’s what you do with that cash. You take over a nice hotel in 30 towns and cities around the country. You use your own produce – the nice stuff, the free-range stuff, the expensive stuff – and cook a Christmas dinner for the local Salvation Army patrons. Homeless types, kids on the street, care home people, the elderly, George Entwistle; people like that. Roast turkey, some live entertainment, loads of booze, some crakcers, a few gifts and transport there and back.

What’s the cost of that? Even if it were thirty grand a pop you’re still quids in. And imagine all that lovely publicity. That’s 2013’s advert sorted – and a smile on the faces of thousands of people who might not have much reason to crack a grin. And, perhaps more to the point, we don’t have suffer your annual smugathons that are as hard to digest as a three-day turkey-and-stuffing sarnie.

Go on, British supermarkets, do it. I challenge you. I dare you.


OK, on that bombshell I’m going to round up this Xmas ads from this year. If last year’s Xmas ads are anything to go by it won’t be pretty…

Argos

Alien sperms continue to swim around our television screens, like the smeary laptop screen of a man who knows the names of all his favourite porn stars and sends them a picture of his cock in the post every Yuletide.

I don’t know why Argos is continuing to plough this furrow – to justify the hefty wodges of cash that have been already sunk into the concept presumably – but this seems to be a stinker on all levels.

It’s annoying, it’s bemusing, I don’t see how it connects with the brand (perhaps, once, there was an idea that aliens would take to the ‘wrong-way-round’ Argos shopping experience, or something) and it feels well past its sell-by-date.

But, more to the point, it’s trying to make a virtue of something that isn’t particularly helpful. Surely the whole attraction of shopping online is that it’s then delivered to your door at no extra cost? If you have to order online, not necessarily easy in the first place, and then physically go to an Argos store anyway what’s the sodding point?

What’s more, Argos’ thing is that you have to look through a catalogue to find what you want, fill out a little form and then take it to the desk. It’s that classic thing of making a virtue out of something that, on the face of it, is actually harder than the usual system (see also: Salt And Shake crisps).

But the Argos online shopping app removes that whole exchange. So not only is the online shopping thing not especially helpful, it also invalidates the whole point of Argos.

With this ad, Argos has just ejaculated in its own face.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 30

Tesco

So far all I can find online is this effort from Tesco, which involved a Furbie and Lionel Richie (and doesn’t that sound like a great internet rumour?).

I have seen a few other Tesco ads that end with a little Christmas hat perched jauntily on the Tesco logo, so I guess this is part of a multi-ad approach that eschews any big central campaign and will offer little snippets of deals, particular products and the like.

As such it doesn’t give me a lot to get my teeth into, but I like the fact that the whole campaign isn’t resting on some cash-splashing jamboree. But it’s not especially memorable either, despite the nifty visual gag.

Tesco calls this advert ‘Christmas 2012 Clubcard Exchange advert’. Yeah, and a Happy New BOGOF to you too.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 3

Iceland

Iceland went a bit off the rails the last two years in its Christmas advertising: in 2010 suggesting some sort of chavvy David Lynch horror festival; last year assaulting us with Stacey Solomon’s ginormous face.

I think Iceland has a problem – people think it’s cheap: the food is cheap, the people who go there are poor; the brand is toxic. Just yesterday someone told me that they would ‘never go into Iceland’. They’ve only got themselves to blame – for several years the brand has aligned itself with people who scream ‘low-rent’ – and thus its brand has acquired the same image.

As someone who writes about cars for a living I can tell you at length why being thought of as cheap is dangerous. To be thought of as offering good value, on the other hand, is very different. It’s a subtle difference – ultimately a meaningless one – but one that brands get wrong time and again.

However – and this is a big however – this new ad from Iceland might just go some way to changing all that. This Xmas ad looks lovely, it puts product right at the heart of the ad and it’s got one of the most calming, sentimentally satisfying noises ever accompanying it.

Pretty much a home-run. And not a hideous celebrity in sight. If there had been one this year my money was on Tulisa – as someone who’s probably been seen by many slapping a cock across her own face she probably wouldn’t have been the worst celeb Iceland had employed.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 1.1

Debenhams

A new entry – I don’t remember seeing any Debenhams ads for a long time. As a new effort it’s not bad, but it’s very much a greatest hits of successful Xmas ad tropes. A nice train, snow, a glamourous lady running hither and thither and being delighted by what she sees…

At one point it threatens to go a bit Boots, with three women stalking rather jarringly – look at the costumes! – down a flight of stairs and the big John Lewis-style ‘awwww’ moment at the end.

Inoffensive – and a bit hard to remember who it’s for. Which is fairly appropriate as I’d struggle to tell you what sets Debenhams apart from any other department store.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 2

Waitrose

Christmas adverts go austerity. This year we’ve spent all our cash on a donation to charity, says a voiceover. As if the mink-and-ermined Waitrose customers give a stuff.

I also have a feeling that there’s something a bit disingenuous about all this – how much did it cost to buy up all the ad space to tell us you’re not spending any cash on a fancy Xmas ad, eh, Waitrose?

Still, one in the eye for all the others who’ve spunked up a load of cash on celebs and a frankly insane amount of Christmassy milieu. And it’s not far off my idea for 2013 – but this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, Waitrose. Oh, no…

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 2.5

Very

Cheap. Shit.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: ∞

Asda

There are certain groups you can’t possibly criticise these days. The Armed Forces, for example – rebranded as ‘Heroes’ in our modern parlance, seem to be utterly beyond reproach. I’ve got a lot of time for people whose chosen career paths have taken them into the army, navy or airforce, but I don’t think it especially good for society that anyone is untouchable.

But woebetide anyone who has a pop at Mums. This previously-unknown phenomenon in society – actual people who you might pass in the street or live next door to, who have little people inside them and then ‘give birth’ to those tiny creatures – is now the most exalted in every facet of life.

See how they use their reproductive organs to conceive and then gestate foetuses who grow inside them for nine months before emerging in a bloody, slimey curtain to the spontaneous applause of everyone within a mile’s radius.

The ability to fulfill one’s sexual facilities seems to be on a par with parting the red sea these days. But there’s more. Once they’ve had these wailing mucal balls extracted from them, these women actually return to work and even go shopping.

If I had my way, we would not rest until every photo posted to Facebook was of a unfocussed child frowning vaguely in the direction of a camera. Everyone who has ever brought a child into the world must be given an OBE. I demand a new Minister for Motherhood and that we replace Nelson atop his tower with a 40-tonne tribute to MumsNet.

Or we could just watch this fucking Christmassy Asda advert. For fuck’s sake.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 23

Toys R Us

I can’t tell if the people who do the adverts for Toys R Us are secretly setting us up for some sort of glorious return to the days of a smiling giraffe pointing at Connect 4, or whether they’re just complete imbeciles.

Because this sexed-up ad for Toys R Us is like asking Dappy to give the New Year’s Day message instead of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A happy-slapping in advert form. Get rid of it, for the love of Geoffrey.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 42

John Lewis

We all know the form by now. An effort that is fairly explicitly trying to make you cry. A precision-guided Cupid’s Arrow aiming to shatter your emotional aorta and cause a blockage of sludgey mawk in your left ventricle. A psychological heart attack in advert form.

In this one a snowman – bereft of a comedic genital carrot and possibly related to the Weeping Angels as no-one ever seems to see it move – fetches some gloves for his missus (also a snowperson, but with no snowtits in evidence), requiring a massive trek across, apparently, a bit of England that resembles the Alps.

Next year will be Barber’s Adagio For Strings as a series of rostrum-camera’d sepia photos of beloved personalities who have passed away (Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, the Dad’s Army cast etc) ticks over in a starlit sky above a donkey sanctuary.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 8

Marks & Spencer

Blergh. Back to middle-class women dancing around like people who are so smug even Ian Hislop thinks it’s a bit much. The ‘stalking-towards-the-camera’ meme, the dicking-about-in-jim-jams stuff, the endless smiling

There’s a half-hearted effort to make it a bit less Surrey-Commuter-Belt-ABC1s with some INXS in there, but really this is Marks and Spencer by the numbers. And those numbers are £39.99 for a scarf you know your Mam secretly dislikes.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 9

Boots

I suppose we should be grateful we’re not getting the rat-a-tat-tat of Here Come the Fucking Girls again, but Boot’s mission to align Christmas and your feelings for your loved ones with hairdryers strikes me as a tough sell.

There are some non-white faces here portrayed in a way that feels natural, so bonus points for that, but there are also a few odd things going on here.

Is the Mum who’s in bed at first suffering from some debilitating ailment – is there a suggestion of a disease in remission here? And is the girl who suggests checking into a hotel naked? I’m genuinely not sure. If so, why? If not, then why does it look like they are?

All told, though, I think this is the Christmas advert I dislike the least.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 1.08

Matalan

With a voiceover so earnest, it makes Kevin Whately talking about African children dying of dysentery sound like a Top 40 chart rundown, this Matalan ad is going for broke in pretending that it gives a fig about its customers’ enjoyment of Christmas.

Frankly, I don’t believe these massive multi-million quid corporations telling me they love me – and neither should you. So the whole ad is undermined by the transparency of the exchange between customer and vendor.

Matalan, you want my money, not my approval. Don’t pretend otherwise – we’ll get together a lot better. As it is, you’re unlikely to earn neither this festive season.

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 11

Littlewoods

First things first. Having attempted to do away with Santa in its ad last year, suggesting that a ‘lovely muvva’ was responsible for all the Christmas shopping, the very first shot is of Saint Nick pulling up on a sleigh this year.

A wise move, I’d suggest, not because I really give a toss about whether children believe in a mythical being or not (see how easy it would be to include a smug Dawkins-esque rant here?) but because the naked commercialisation of young kids was one of the most egregious things I’d ever seen.

Still, Littlewoods is at it again here. Is that a mobile phone that some kids have bought AJ’s Mum? Yes it is. How fucking lovely. A phone. I know this is a judgement call, but I don’t find anything cute about shoehorning little kids into ads; I find it obnoxious.

What’s more, Myleene Klass (it’s worth pointing out that she’s one of only three identifiable front-of-camera slebs on this year’s lot), who I have no particular beef with, seems to have acquired that skeletal hawkish look that 30-something celebs on fad diets assume with the passage of time. To be quite honest, I think it makes her look a bit frightening. Have a few goose-fat-roasted-spuds this Xmas, Myleene.

An attempt to rein in the hideousness of last year’s effort then. But there’s still something a bit grasping about the whole thing; as if the very thing veneer over the it that could be peeled back to see a call-centre, a distribution depot, a foreign factory…

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 9

Morrisons

Woah, and you thought the Asda advert was bad. It would be easy to start crying sexism at this ad – and I don’t doubt that many have already. Whether this is patronising to women or men, or whether you see this as a fairly realistic portrayal of what it is to be a woman at this time of year probably depends on your point of view.

I’m going to steer clear of all that stuff – I can see both sides – but I do think this is a bad advert. For fully 86 seconds of the 90 this Morrisons advert consists of, it’s slating Christmas. Does the pay-off haul it back over the line? I’m not that sure it does, you know.

So, then, Christmas. An utter ballache, with a side-serving of chauvinism. Sheesh, where’s that eggnog?

Times worse than my charitable Christmas advert idea: 5

The worst advert of 2011: Results

Haribo then. It had to be really, even with the incredibly strong late challenge put up by Littlewoods (undoubtedly the worst Christmas ad of the year), who couldn’t really have done any more to win the title of Worst Advert of 2011 if it had executed an old man in a Santa outfit live on air.

Haribo. It sounds like it stands for something. Ha-ve R-ubberI-sed Bo-ogers? Thinking on, that seems unlikely but it may as well as far as I’m concerned, it may as well. I hate Haribo, I think the sweets are horrible. But I hate their 2011 Supermix advert more for all the same reasons. Gooey, overly sweet, artificial and indigestible.

The Drum asked Haribo exactly what they were playing at with the Supermix advert, to which they replied with the following:

“The new advert is certainly attracting a great deal of attention. We intended that it would be a fun, memorable and catchy karaoke style sing-along, which is exactly what it is.

Let’s examine this statement. The advert, Haribo concedes, is attracting “a great deal of attention”.

That’s a fairly coy statement in relation to the torrent of hate the ad generated, including a staggering 1,849 dislikes on Youtube, dwarfing ‘likes’ by around six-to-one. The average ratio of likes to dislikes is around 20-to-one on video channels.

There’s at least three Facebook groups set up to disparage the advert. A forum called Britain’s Biggest Cunts has a section on the ad called Haribo Chewing Cunts. It certainly seems reasonable to suggest that the advert is attracting a great deal of attention.

What next? Well, agency TBC Inc says it’s a “fun, memorable and catchy karaoke style sing-along”. Memorable and catchy? Yup – in the same way that a particularly unpleasant dose of dysentery is memorable and easy to catch.

Karaoke-style singalong? Well, if it was a particularly hellish karaoke in a David Lynch nightmare, perhaps.

“Haribo is a family brand and we have a mass market audience and appeal, at the heart of everything we do is fun, whether that’s tongue in cheek or playful.”

At this point I could mention the allegations, levelled at Haribo, of using forced Jewish slave labour during the Second World War but that would be a bit crass.

Does this have mass-market appeal? It’s certainly on the radar of a lot of people, but whether putting out an advert that’s universally despised is good marketing is a moot point (and one I’ve mused on before here).

What’s more interesting is whether this is supposed to be “playful or tongue-in-cheek”. Which is it? The former, an earnest attempt to make something ‘playful’? Or the latter, a deliberate attempt to make something awful? I’m plumping for the latter as I don’t believe even the most simple-minded savant could feasibly come up with something as artless as this.

What is more interesting than the ad itself is what happened to it. All of a sudden it was missing from the schedules and the previous ad – Interrogation – was back on the telly.

Did Haribo decide, all of a sudden, that their karaoke-style singalong was not just annoying the very tits off people, those tits were orbiting the Earth at a very high level of the atmosphere, as far distant from their owners as Haribo sweets are from being delicious sugary treats? Surely not something so fun and playful? Who’s to say.

Suffice to say I thought it hideous – adverts that set out to put me in a bad mood frequently make me feel that way. It’s nauseating, bizarre, shrill and – worst of all -affected.

Yes, I think it’s the fact that this is all so arch and post-modern and deliberately inane that makes it so terrible. I thought some of this year’s worst ads were more egregious on an aesthetic level – and others more misguided – but certainly this is the most purely annoying.

Don’t take my word for it though – Haribo was streets ahead of its nearest competitor, in numerical terms, by the end of the vote despite duking it out with Littlewoods for a while.

AdTurds readers have spoken – and they have spoken of their displeasure at “Oh so smooth, love them soft” (an I didn’t even get around to those vile pornographic subtexts).

Internet justice – the most useless, fulminating, empty, unreasoning and fleetingly-satisfying justice of all – has been delivered. Fuck you, Haribo. Fuck you all the way to Hades.

Now let us never speak of it again.

Read the original Haribo AdTurd

The rest of 2011

Littlewoods gave Haribo a great run for its money, as did Gillette, which kept falling away then regaining lost ground. I suspect that little man’s voice from the latter, reverberating around living rooms, became something of a Pavlovian stimulus to many over the year.

Further down were Wonga.com – a particular dislike of mine – perennial overachievers Halifax and Marks and Spencer for its X-Factor ad. I didn’t dislike the latter that much, but I thought it a terrible idea. I’m still surprised that it registered so highly though.

Confused.com’s horrible adverts were next up – and then the BMW Lund one, which were probably the genuine worst adverts of the year for money, in terms of what I reckon they did for the brand.

All the others got a good few votes each, apart from Eurostar with a single vote.

‘Others’ – for there was the opportunity to vote for one’s own bete noir – did pretty well too, with quite a few suggestions. Go Compare fared well here, as did a late run for the Argos alien sperms – along with a couple of others such as Pepsi Max that has somehow escaped me over the year.

Still, a new year and all that. I can barely wait to be irritated by an all-new crop in 2012. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Other choices

Go Compare
Compare the Market
Head and Shoulders / Jenson Button
Cadbury Dairy Milk – The Final Countdown
Pepsi Max Office Men
Mazuma Mobile advert from March/April
Game – Babies
j20 glitter berry camp lock-in
argos
Lynx
Boots “Here Comes The Girls”
Heineken “Bassanova” Utter turd
That PlusNet fat bastard