Patrick Freyne: Be afraid, be very afraid of these Christmas ads
Psycho carrots, a reverse-ageing Elton John and Melania Trump as a Stepford wife
Kevin the Carrot: will you be rooting for him this Christmas?
Ever since that classic ESB ad trapped a young Alan Hughes into a lifetime of doing panto, we’ve known that Christmas advertisements were creepy and weird. There is a steady undercurrent of horror in all such ads, but this year’s crop have decided to make the subtext text. To quote some other publications, these ads are “guaranteed to give you feels”; however, those “feels” might be disorientation and dread.
Aldi: Kevin the Carrot returns
Kevin the Carrot first appeared two years ago traversing a dinner table that must have appeared, to his carroty eyes, like a battlefield, filled as it was with dead, wounded and groaning foodstuffs. It quickly became clear that he didn’t give a damn. That witless root vegetable is a psychopath.
Last year he mated with another carrot. This year he returns in two disturbing ads. In the first, he saves his cursed carrot progeny from the machinations of an evil parsnip. (I have no notion of how this fits into the story of Christ’s birth, to be honest with you. Sometimes it feels like Aldi’s theologians are freestyling.)
Then, in a further affront to God, Kevin drives a big lorry similar to the classic Coca-Cola lorry of Christmas advertisements past. What is he doing driving that truck? He appears to be taking a crateload of fellow carrots to their doom like some sort of carrot-trafficking Benedict Arnold. The advertisement ends with the lorry jack-knifing in the snow and teetering over a treacherous abyss . . . much like our culture.
TK Maxx: The Neverending Stocking
An ordinary woman shopping at TK Maxx finds an infinitely long sentient tube that belches and spews presents all the year around. The fact that this being happens to be candy-striped and is ostensibly a “Christmas stocking” doesn’t take away from the fact it is also an impossible eternal worm that manifests her every desire.
“What do you want with us?” you ask of this Lovecraftian abomination.
Scary Christmas Ads
“Who cares? Your greed will be rewarded by a creature from hell. Just lean into it,” the ad suggests, which is, now that I check the literature, TK Maxx’s brand promise. I was hoping the ad might end with the woman generating a horrifically infinite foot to fit into the never-ending stocking but I was disappointed. I did like the scream that soundtracked the ad. But then when it ended I realised that that was just me.
Amazon: Can You Feel It?
Self-aware Amazon packages sing the Jackson Five’s Can You Feel It? as they are delivered around the UK by their willing flesh drones (people). Nobody seems put out by their unstoppable, tax-avoidant march. Instead, office workers, hospital staff and children alike are all charmed and delighted by the sight of them. Even the Amazon warehouse workers smile (seriously) despite their insecure contracts, electronic monitors and regular searches. There are no dissenters. I mean, who wants to face a street full of people pointing at them and screaming like Donald Sutherland while inhuman silicon tendrils hijack and hack their brains? So, I suppose, I agree that it is good that Jeff Bezos has done this. We love Jeff Bezos. We are all Amazonians now, gripped with strange joy as we face the approaching singularity.
Argos: The Christmas Fool
In this advert, a small nude weirdo ruins Christmas with acts of malevolent vandalism until a delivery man from Argos steps on him. Yes, it’s basically your life as you outlined it in your memoir, What Are You Gonna Do About It? You should sue.
M&S: Christmas Favourites
“This year we travelled the country asking people what is their M&S Christmas favourite,” says the posh lady voiceover before boring people with their boring heads get in the way of footage of succulently leaking meats and puddings.
“Leave me be, I would be alone with the food,” you shout at the boring people as you tuck your napkin into your collar and unbuckle your belt, but they don’t listen. It’s all over by the time you start licking the screen.
“Here you go, you filthy pigs, gnaw on this,” seems to be the unifying sentiment of most gluttony-based brands these days. In this advert Waitrose claim that their food is so good the human race will forego procreation in order to eat it. And so here a young woman suggests a kiss beneath the mistletoe to a man called Simon before being instantly distracted by the promise of some pornographically filmed turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. I can see where she’s coming from. Simon seems like a bit of a drip and that turkey looks like excellent husband material. So, Simon is left there, his lips pursed, contemplating (probably) a life alone, Christ’s birth and how a coercively sexual plant parasite has somehow survived four waves of feminism.
The Heathrow bears are back and this time they’ve moved to Florida, where they’re just not feeling the Christmas spirit. So they shuffle adorably home to London via Heathrow to visit their family, only for it to be revealed, in the last frame, that they have transformed into elderly humans. Now, I don’t want to panic anybody, but this is big. OLD PEOPLE ARE SECRETLY BEARS. We must spend Christmas making them admit this (and not getting them to redraft their wills as I had previously planned).
John Lewis: The Boy and the Piano featuring Elton John
I’ve analysed this John Lewis ad before (https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/tv-radio-web/john-lewis-christmas-ad-stars-elton-john-and-his-sadly-normal-sitting-room-could-it-be-real-1.3698697) so let me just say that – spoiler alert – the twist is that Elton John was a child once. The ad cycles backwards through the musical millionaire’s life until we see Li’l Elton gifted a piano on Christmas morning. Then we see his sad face today as he plays Your Song on that same piano. “Life is pain, buy pianos,” as the familiar John Lewis tagline goes.
American Treasures: Melania unveils the White House decorations
This is an ad for the Trump administration, really. A caped and expressionless Melania wanders alone through her ice palace (the White House) flanked by blood red trees and baubles etched with the catchphrase “be best” (the signature issue to which this catchphrase refers is “bullying”, apparently, and not “grammar”).
Here’s the twist: she doesn’t even know that it’s Christmas. There are no calendars in Melania Trump’s endless hellscape. No, she just likes to find dead things and store them in her house. It’s her hobby. This month her “collection” happens, by yuletide coincidence, to be trees. Next month it might be swans or truck drivers or Match Attax cards.