Published: 05:00, 05 December 2021
It says an awful lot about the consumerist society we have evolved into that the unleashing of a shop's Christmas TV advert can generate headline news.
Yet it is the sign of the changing seasons that from early November the breaks in our programming become rammed with a blend of superstar Hollywood A-listers in embarrassingly 'try-too-hard' ads to flog us expensive perfumes or aftershaves (I'm looking at you Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman) and a host of John Lewis-a-like adverts.
You know the ones - take a song from yesteryear, slow it down and have it sung sweetly over a melody where all the oomph of the original track is surgically removed, and run it as the soundtrack of some over-obvious attempt to pull on our heart-strings.
But, sometimes, just sometimes, it works.
We take a, sometimes Scrooge-like, look at some of the most prominent festive ads doing the rounds this year. And don't worry if you haven't seen them yet...we've got them all here for you too to make up your own mind.
See if you agree with our ratings.
When a carrot called Kevin is your star selling mechanism, you may wish to ponder where things went wrong. But budget supermarket giant Aldi has a lot to be thankful for to its advertising creatives for coming up with a talking vegetable which has, remarkably, captured many an imagination.
Kevin's latest venture is a pun-heavy romp through the tried and tested backdrop of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol.
If you think having Scrooge played by a banana (he is, natch, called Ebanana Scrooge) is hilarious then you will like this advert - complete with Marcus Radishford (see what they did there?).
The cost of this ad presumably flowed out of the Aldi bank account quicker than their cashiers shove your shopping through the tills, and when the final pay-off line 'if you want to be happy this year, you have to be kind' is delivered, well, either you'll melt or you'll reach for the sick bag.
What can you say about John Lewis' Christmas ads that hasn't been said before? Not much given the amount of coverage and analysis they receive the moment they air.
Suffice to say, this year's offering is like a potted ET as boy meets alien and, despite their intergalatic differences, grow close. All while 1980s power pop hit Together in Electric Dreams is turned from upbeat, feel good hit, into melancholic dirge.
Arguably, this would have worked well last year, when we spent our yuletides wishing our nearest and dearest festive good cheer via Zoom (often on connections which made them look, and sound, as if they were on Mars) and everyone felt far, far away.
John Lewis may feel it's more the statement than the hard sell it's going for these days, which is probably handy, because you'd struggle to think it was flogging you anything other than some sickly Disney-esque movie. Bah, humbug.
Supermarket giant Tesco isn't particularly known for its quality ads but this year's offering captures the zeitgeist of this pandemic era rather well.
Set to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now, it manages to include references to travel restrictions, self isolation, stock shortages and last year's festive 'no-go zone' when it came to family and friends (not your normal go-to options for a cheery Christmas ad) in a 90-second clip which is both entertaining, amusing and, remarkably, emotionally quite effective.
From the passengers in the stop-go aircraft responding to changing green and red list countries to Santa showing his Covid passport it tops it off with a mum being able to spend the big day with her grown up daughter. A simple pleasure, but one which was denied to us 12 months ago.
Simple but effective, and very clever, the Sainsbury's offering takes us on a slow-mo fly-over of a Christmas table weighed down with more festive fare than you could shake a Nectar card at, while we wallow in the dulcet tones of Etta James' version of the classic At Last.
If you ever wanted to fly through the bubbles of a bottle of prosecco then your dream comes true as it takes us past diners, desperate dogs wanting in on the turkey action and an oddball kid who is strangely immune to the 'time-freeze' everyone else is experiencing under the table. But we all know one of those, don't we?
It doesn't try too hard, it's filmed well and it's got a nice message of gathering together again being "a long time coming" through Stephen Fry's sign off. Not bad at all.
I don't know how much it would cost to do all your festive entertaining shopping at Waitrose, but I'm going to hazard a guess it's not cheap. But then that's never been the brand's selling point has it? You go to Waitrose for quality and to underline your middle class credentials.
And while its sister brand John Lewis goes all conceptual for its ad, Waitrose is simply a hard sell with some celebs thrown in for good measure. Fronted by Ashley Jensen - she of Extras fame - and featuring a bit part for Heston Blumenthal (so famous his range at the supermarket simply bears his first name, à la Kylie) the ad goes all M&S over its food descriptions.
It's nice enough, with a bit of smile humour thrown in, but lacks anything resembling real emotion. Close, Waitrose, but no fat, after the Queen's speech cigar for you.
Straight out of the John Lewis ABC guide on how to do a Christmas ad (child's relationship with weird thing? Tick. Old song turned super melancholic (although Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time isn't a party starter in the first place)? Tick. Not entirely sure what the advert is about for ages? Tick), this ad throws in some additional emotional clout by adding a pinch of Toy Story heart-string pulling to the equation.
In short, it charts the growing up of a little girl who turns her back on her imaginary 'monster' friend (and, rather uncharitably lock him in her cupboard) only to remember him while she spots a small child over a mound of McNuggets and fries.
It does, of course, leave you scratching your head as to what any of this really has to do with a Big Mac, but, arguably, this carries the biggest emotional punch as it bundles up our childhood days of excitement and imagination and the inevitable passing of the years, in a rather neat little bundle. In fact, the only weak bit is the trip to the fast food chain to remind us what this ad is actually selling us. But I suppose that would defeat its purpose. I hesitate to say this, but good job McDonald's.
M&S' fortunes have been heavily reliant on its food in recent years - although hope has returned to its bread and butter clothing range over the last year (and the Christmas ad for that is like an old school department store ad - half musical, half showcase).
But we're used to not just any old ad with M&S Food. We want one with sultry tones purring over organically smoked cornflakes or rich, indulgent custard creams.
Instead, we get Spiderman star Tom Holland voicing Percy Pig and Dawn French waxing lyrical as the butter-fingered fairy who brings him to life for a quick stroll around the store. We get to see a swanky Christams pud, 'mild and delicate' smoked salmon and the obligatory gift for when you're visiting someone and forgotten to buy them anything - a panettone.
It's slick, but is it slick enough? Probably not, unless, that is, you like Percy Pig (who, I have say, had passed me by until this advert).
The good news, is that gormless bloke they used to have on their adverts appears to have been shown his P45. The bad news is that while its advert-on-ice is certainly a clever little film, it will struggle to stand out against many of its rivals. Which is a bit like Asda really.
We run through the clichés of a kids' school production, the photocopying of backsides (at least that's what I assume it is) at an office party and then home to where everyone is stuffing themselves silly with 10,000 calories worth of Asda grub. All while everyone spins and weaves on skates.
Although perhaps the real message is, given the supply chain problems this year, you need to get your skates on if you want to bag a turkey this year. So, in retrospect, well done Asda.