Amazon,John Lewis,Boots: the best Christmas ads of 2023

The first half of November is traditionally the time when Christmas commercials are released. Every UK supermarket chain (and beyond) is rushing to remind customers that they not only sell food, but also share the values of love, family, friendship and caring. This year, despite what is going on in it, was no exception. Ilya Goncharov has collected the most interesting videos of 2023 (and some from previous years, he explains why).

Ilya Goncharov
Ilya Goncharov

John Lewis: informal plant

The John Lewis store chain is a pioneer in Christmas advertising. It was her ad men who invented the genre about twenty years ago. But lately, their commercials are far from the most memorable. This is often the case with pioneers – they are pushed aside by more successful competitors who come later. Like the English: they invented soccer, but the Brazilians have been playing better for a long time.

What has John Lewis delighted us with this time? You won’t believe this, but once again a well-crafted inclusive video about loving even someone who’s ugly.

About two years ago they already had a Christmas video about exactly the same thing, only there the plot was about a dragon that burned everything around with its breath. However, he turned out to be a cutie at the end. This time the template is exactly the same, but instead of a dragon, it’s a voracious plant like a venus flytrap that one boy grew in a pot instead of a Christmas tree. By the law of the genre, it turns out to be not so bad at the end either.

Aldi: carrot Kevin visiting Willie Conker

For several years now, Aldi has been telling different stories about Kevin’s carrots. These clips, like the Black Mirror series, have no overall storyline and almost no connection to each other. The only thing they have in common is that Kevin falls into the worlds of different famous works. Last year, for example, he was his namesake – Kevin from the movie “Home Alone”, and four years ago he was running from the harsh Brussels sprouts in caps – in the entourage of the series “Sharp Trump”.

This year, Kevin found himself in the factory with the wizard Willie Conker and, like Charlie from the parodied movie, turned out to be the nicest, most ungrudgingly, thanks to which he successfully passed the selfishness test. In this simple way, Aldi reminded us that it too is not greedy and supports local communities.

Don’t ask why a simple carrot at Aldi is the symbol of Christmas. Probably because boiled to death glazed carrots are a traditional English New Year’s Eve side dish.

M&S Food: mittens and “foodporn.”

The thing to know about M&S Food is that for years they have consistently broadcast the same message in their advertising: we have the most delicious food. This assertion is backed up by plenty of food shots: sinfully dripping sauces, puddings burning blue flames. Sometimes the supermarket doesn’t even bother to make up stories about love and friendship. And sometimes it bothers me.

This time they tried to combine two things in one – a touching story and food porn. It came out predictably goofy. A Christmas fairy, looking like a plump Tinkerbell, lets in a pair of rubber banded mittens that have been freezing under the snow at night. The mittens tell the sad story that a little girl named Lilly lost them, and never again will she feel the warmth of their polyester. Then the fairy says, “Mmm, how interesting. But that’s all small things, let me show you what delicious things are on sale in M&S stores”.

And it shows. Goddess of empathy, by golly.

M&S Christmas Clothing & Home: what’s happening to us

This will probably be both the worst and most honest Christmas commercial of 2023. M&SChristmas Clothing & Home tried to suggest to us that we hammer things out and do what we wanted. “Thismas, not Thatmas,” the ad says.

The heroes of this video in annoyance quit gluing a cotton candy snowman, which was not finished in time. They burn Christmas cards. Turning over someone else’s board game. And one lady goes out on the roof and hits an elf doll with a stick.

I didn’t understand at first why she was hitting the elf – dolls actually look like little people. Consequently, when you hit them with a stick – it’s like you’re hitting little people. You better hit yourself on the head, stupid.

Then it was explained to me that maybe she was tired of playing the “What did the elf do?” game every day and was expressing her annoyance that way. Well, maybe.

I don’t know if that was the exact message or if it came out by accident. But it turned out to be topical – about what was happening to the planet in 2023. About anger, fatigue, irritation and dehumanization. And the call in the video is appropriate: let’s pour it all out now, otherwise we may not live till next Christmas.

Amazon UK: three ladies on a snow slide

Unobtrusive and heartwarming Christmas ad this year at Amazon: three old ladies were sitting on a bench and looking at a snow slide, and then one of them guessed to order three podpopniki (well, what else would you call them?). They were instantly delivered to her – and they rolled down the mountain on them, just like when she was a kid.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I feel sorry for the Amazon courier, who probably didn’t have time to eat breakfast in order for these three lovely ladies to get their order so quickly.

Argos: better watch the old one

Argos did something wonderfully uninteresting this time – a commercial about their characters Kony the doll and Trevor the dinosaur. It’s such a no-no that I won’t even share it. Better yet, here’s a look at their same 2019 Christmas video – about a dad and a girl playing drums. It was truly great and timeless. If you don’t shed a tear, then you have no heart.

Lidlraccoon and dog

A cute microstory about a well behaved house dog and a wild raccoon that the latter dislikes. But one day, a raccoon finds a lost toy his mom bought for Christmas and brings it home after traversing an entire town full of obstacles. As a result, the dog and the raccoon become friends.

All right. (chuckles) Almost as heartwarming as the 1982 Soviet cartoon “Once Upon a Time There Was a Dog” with a similar plot.

BootsSanta socks

It seems like there’s nothing groundbreaking new about Christmas commercials anymore. It’s been done.

Uh, no. There was no present for Santa. At least, I haven’t seen it before.

Mom and the girl decide to give a present to Santa — and for this they go to Boots, where they buy a bag of useful stuff (what we sell, we advertise, everything is fair). And then they go to the North Pole. Along the way, they pull various random things out of a bag and give them to people they meet: facial serum to a truck driver, deodorant to a resident of the far north, and so on. At the end of the story, they get to Santa’s cabin and throw his present down his chimney – Santa got a pair of compression socks. That’s nice.

Morrisons: singing gimmicks

Everyone probably has a thick oven mitt in their kitchen. But have you ever noticed that it looks like a mouth?

The Morrisons network has made a selection of different gimmicks – as they’re in various homes in Britain singing the song Nothing’sgonna stop us now.

A little absurd, and funny at the same time, and warm, and nothing superfluous. The Morrisons haven’t had any cool Christmas videos until now, so this one is a breakthrough for them. Way to go.

Sainsbury’s‘s: this time it’s just food

Like M&S Food, Sainsbury’s didn’t bother this year and just showed what Santa Claus would have on his Christmas table. There will be the expected: lots of great stuff. Montblancs of gastronomic treasures, as the Soviet writer and journalist Mikhail Koltsov would put it.

No interesting story this time around. But let’s forgive them this hackery. If only for the fact that Sainsbury’s actually made the best Christmas commercial ever – in 2014, when the world was remembering the anniversary of the start of the First World War. Yes, yes, the one about British and German soldiers singing Christmas songs together while sitting in their trenches. Then they played soccer some more.

We’ll see it — it’s even more relevant now than it was nine years ago.

Barbour: Shepherd Bitzer and Lamb Sean.

You don’t have to be Amazon or even Lidl to make interesting Christmas videos. British jacket manufacturer Barbour produces some very enjoyable cartoons every year. In the past their heroes have been Father Christmas and Paddington Bear, but this year they have new characters – Shaun the lamb (from the cartoon of the same name) and Bitzer the sheepdog, who stitches and waxes the Farmer’s jacket all night.

The Barbour brand is known for giving a lifetime warranty on its jackets, and mends and waxes at the request of wearers.

ASDA: Michael Bublé and quality control

Advertisers for supermarket chain ASDA have made a mystery ad about someone howling in the chimneys of their supermarket. At the end of the video, workers trying to figure out what’s going on discover a nicely dressed singing man somewhere in a far room who, upon seeing them, says, “Shall we get started?”

Many should immediately recognize him as Canadian singer Michael Bublé. The first video ends there – and a “sequel to follow” label appears.

It becomes a little clearer in the second video, where Michael Bublé turns out to be doing a supermarket quality control check of Christmas products. Why exactly it is and why specifically Christmas products is a mystery. But maybe there will be more videos explaining this to us. And maybe he’ll even sing Let It Snow to the audience.

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