Christmas ads 2020 — A very different kind of traditional

After a very different 2020, this year’s crop of Christmas ads deliver some much-needed cheer of a very traditional kind. Instead of the usual review, we thought we’d break down what it is exactly they get right.

Memorable Christmas ads are something of a modern yuletide tradition, along with ugly jumpers and cheesy no.1 singles — although the latter thankfully seems to be dying out. So it’s no surprise then, that in a year filled with so much “different”, it falls upon the industry’s good and great to remind us about the important things that still remain.

What would have ordinarily been a sweeping campaign for brand-allegiance — cleaving opinions and converting non-believers — has softened into something far more poignant but no less fierce in its conviction. No longer just about presents or party favours, this year’s crop of ads are fighting in remembrance of what matters most: Togetherness. Compassion. And the notion that even amidst the upheaval, Christmas will forever be Christmas as long as we hold onto the values that best define it for each and every one of us.

So rather than pit this year’s roster against one another, we thought we’d highlight a few of our favourites doing their bit to keep festive spirits soaring.

Coca-Cola & Aldi: Hardships and hope

What better way to kick-off proceedings than with Coca-Cola? The iconic ‘Holidays Are Coming’ trucks have for many years signalled the arrival of the festive season. This year, however, the soft drinks giant has gone down a slightly different route, taking us on an aptly tumultuous journey, as we follow a determined father’s attempt to deliver his daughter’s letter to Santa.

Directed by Oscar-winner Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in The Shadows, Jojo Rabbit), the spot features all the sweeping hallmarks of a Marvel blockbuster, scattered with quieter, tender moments reminiscent of his more personal films.

Given the kind of year we’ve had, it’s not difficult to see why Coca-Cola would choose to focus on hardships and hope. For them, clearly, it’s because of the hope — the reprieve of a Christmas we get to share with the people we care about — that makes the hardships worth it.

Meanwhile, Kevin the Carrot is forced to make a similar journey of his own in Aldi’s latest offering — battling the elements in a desperate bid to get home to his family in time for Christmas. First introduced to audiences back in 2016, Kevin has become something of a Christmas mainstay in recent years (although maybe ‘staple’ would be a better way to describe a vegetable).

Disney, McDonald’s & Sainsbury’s: Memories of Christmases past

If Coca-Cola’s message this year is all about the bigger picture, then Disney’s contribution is a far more intimate affair. Told through the relationship between two generations of the same family — a grandmother, Lola, and her granddaughter — the short animation explores themes of tradition and togetherness, with all the polish and charm of a Pixar classic.

According to sources, the ad was inspired by consumer insight that stated traditions, family and nostalgia were the most important things to them in the run-up to Christmas. Disney has always used nostalgic marketing, but in a year that has seen all of these upended, the message hits home on a whole new level.

It’s definitely worth noting that many other brands have taken a similar approach this year. McDonald’s and Sainsbury’s have both run campaigns harking back to less complicated times; the former evoking the simplicity of childhood, while the latter celebrates culinary memories with loved ones over Christmases past.

John Lewis, Boots & Tesco: Only Good and kindness

Whilst Christmas is the season for giving, it’s easy to overlook some of the more charitable aspects that are so important at this time of year. After a pretty dismal 2020 for everybody, both John Lewis and Boots have taken upon themselves to remind us of this — celebrating acts of kindness and how the world can be a better place if we all gave a little more.

In addition to announcing £1 million worth of hygiene products to The Hygiene Bank, Boots is also inviting asking customers to also give whatever they can spare to those in needs this Christmas. At the same time, John Lewis, alongside Waitrose & Partners, is raising awareness and funds for its chosen charities (in addition to other charities in local areas).

Finally, Tesco steps up to the plate and in acknowledgement of everything we’ve been through in 2020 has decided there is no naughty list — everybody deserves the best Christmas, whatever that may look like this year. And if that’s not enough, they’ve even got the big man himself to give an official final word on the matter.

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