Why isn’t Christmas advertising magical?

Anna MacDonald on November 22, 2017

The Christmas ads started a few weeks ago, and as someone who grew up in England but spent nearly all my adult life here,  it’s always fun to see the difference between how Australia and the UK approach Christmas advertising;  three things jump out every year.

The first thing you notice is the sheer scale of production out of the UK with seemingly no expense spared on special effects and celebrity cameos.  John Lewis spent 7M GBP (12M AUD) on their campaign this year which included an Academy Award-winning director and a Beatles cover. The UK treat Christmas like the Americans treat the Superbowl, it’s event advertising with the anticipation, hype and budgets to match.

The second difference in approach is the reality vs fantasy creative.  This year’s Target’s, Coles and Woolworths ads are feel-good representations of real life; lots of eating and presents, whereas the UK retailers lean towards the utterly fantastical with no shop front or product in sight.  From talking carrots looking for love on a flying train (Aldi), elves on turbo-charged sleighs (Argos) to Willy Wonka style factories (Asda) and a modern-day Cinderella (Debenhams).  There’s always the exception, Tesco’s Nan passing out on the couch is pretty close to reality, but on the whole, the UK ads will have a magical view of Christmas as imagined through the eyes of an excited child on Christmas Eve as opposed to a representation of the big day.

The third, the UK advertisers aren’t adverse to leaning deep into the emotion.  Paddington Bear reforms a would-be burglar for M&S and John Lewis is synonymous with this; the man on the moon 2015 campaign was probably their peak ‘pulling at the heartstrings’ year, a campaign that supported Age UK and drove 1M GBP for the charity and has over 29 Million YouTube views.  Australian ads mostly stick with the light, breezy and getting lots of presents variety.

How women approach Christmas varies greatly by personality however one thing that is consistent is the desire to make Christmas special and memorable for her family.

So budgets aside, and as a Pom, is it that Christmas here just isn’t as magical or emotional without the dark, icy days and evenings cosied inside around the tree lights and so is not reflected in what we see on screen? Christmas here has fabulous food and families enjoying time together, but basking in the Aussie sun is such a long way from the magic of the North Pole.

My favourite ad from Australia this year is Myer, proving the exception to the rule with characters we now know, funny, charming and magical, after all, you can’t have too much tinsel in a Christmas ad.


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