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Christmas adverts seem like a cry for help this year

Going by this year’s Christmas adverts, Lucy Sweet says we’ll be spending the festive season in the doldrums

When I was a child, I watched a lot of Road Runner cartoons, and as a result I used to have this recurring dream that my family were picnicking on a thin, grassy outcrop of rock. But while they were happily cracking open the Scotch eggs, I was falling off the edge of the cliff, clutching at fistfuls of grass which kept coming off in my hand. Every other night I lost my grip and plummeted to the ground. Fun or what? 

If you’re ever so slightly bristling from what I can now clearly see was some kind of early psychological trauma, you’ll be in the perfect mood for Christmas 2022. Because that’s how it feels: we’re festively celebrating at the edge of a precipice, and pretending not to notice the screams. 

Nowhere is this feeling more obvious than in this year’s Christmas adverts. Most of the ads are more like a cry for help than an expression of seasonal joy. Brands too scared to overdo it on the tinsel and sentimentality due to the war in Ukraine/climate emergency/Covid/crushing cost-of-living crisis seem to have chosen one of two directions. Meaningful like John Lewis (dads who have adopted children learning to skateboard, followed by a charity appeal) or utterly deranged.

I was watching Gogglebox the other day, mostly because I enjoy wondering what kind of biscuits they might have this week, when I realised with horror that the Christmas adverts were already in full swing and I hadn’t even noticed. By the end, I’d had a crash course in every single one, and I could only conclude (as if Brexit wasn’t some sort of indication) that Britain is Not OK.

Let’s start with Aldi. Kevin the Carrot is Home Alone and through a series of comedy carrot-related errors he ends up being catapulted through the air and lands in a snowman’s crotch. The snowman even cracks a weird, sexual smile, like Bernard Bresslaw in Carry On At Your Convenience, and the clock is turned back at least 30 years. 

Asda, meanwhile, have chopped up grainy scenes from Elf and interspersed them with depressing conversations with real-life staff members in store. It all has a feeling of ‘WILL (FERRELL) THIS DO?’ It would have been more festive if Will himself appeared as an older, off-duty version of the character with holes in his tights, off to buy a pack of Amber Leaf rolling tobacco and a few Pot Noodles. Maybe he could have been reminded of the spirit of Christmas by Barbara on checkout who alerts him to the two-for-one on Glen’s vodka.   

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Sainsbury’s have really lost their minds. They’ve gone with Alison Hammond from This Morning as a Game of Thrones-style countess who doesn’t like Christmas pudding. To the tune of Teenage Dirtbag (eh?) she despatches the terrified chef and he comes back with a lumpy looking mound of Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference caramelised biscuit pudding, to which she declares: “Urrrrrgh, that’s a bit of me.” Er, not sure what the ideation process was here, other than Alison Hammond was available and there was an extremely tight deadline.

Finally, if you need further proof that we are spending Christmas in the doldrums, M&S awkwardly drops the bauble with what should be a stellar pairing of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, but ends up a mish-mash of quirky characters, cakes, vol-au-vents and god knows what. French is the Christmas fairy and Saunders a down-on-its-luck duck/dog toy with a button for an eye. Is the duck a metaphor for Britain – chewed and ragged with stuffing coming out of it? Meanwhile, in the real world, nobody can afford to put the heating on, let alone stretch to a Perfectly Matured Cherry and Orange Liqueur Wreath. All in all, it’s not exactly a vintage year for Christmas adverts, but I suppose Christmas is Christmas even if you’re staring into the abyss. So if you bring the picnic basket of mince pies, I’ll cut the grass. 

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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