Patrick Freyne: Move over, John Lewis. This year’s best Christmas ads

Ad man Freyne has something for everyone, from miming peasants to a post-Brexit Santa

Buster the Boxer: our ideas will give the John Lewis Christmas ad a run for its money

Buster the Boxer: our ideas will give the John Lewis Christmas ad a run for its money


Halloween is over. The whimsical Christmas ads are about to start, and The Irish Times wants to steal a march on the season by selling some ideas to Tesco and John Lewis and the rest of them. I’ve done some forensic analysis of recent advertising trends and am pretty confident we have something to fit everyone’s needs.

Idea 1: Advertisement about the greatest gift of all – the smile of a child
A delightful tot made of circular cheeks and floppy hair frolics with a big tiger. The tiger’s eyes are rounder and more expressive than a normal tiger’s, and its lips are curled into a friendly smile. (We can do this with CGI or genetic manipulation of a real tiger, depending on what’s cheaper.)

We see the child and tiger in a number of situations, all viewed from afar by strangely indulgent adults. The duo wander around a Christmassy street, then into the type of people carrier driven by ABC1 consumers, and then to a house with a big Christmas tree and a bay window and, probably, good schools on its doorstep.

As a viewer, however, you are worried. This is a wild animal, after all, that should really be in a zoo or a pie. But just as you’re thinking this, the tiger morphs into a tiny toy tiger clutched in the infant’s hands. Why, it was a metaphor about the power of the imagination all along! Then the child morphs into a 37-year-old who still lives at home because of high rents.

Title: A Tiger’s Tail.

Idea 2: Advertisement about festive indulgence
It’s Christmas, and the camera pans over a glistening turkey, goblets of ruby-red wine, buttery green beans, moist puddings, steaming sprouts and tender unicorn flanks. A laughing family eats.

First they use utensils, but soon the Christmas spirit takes hold, and they start cramming pies into their face holes and smearing potato in their hair. Mother is drinking bread sauce from the jug. There’s crust in father’s beard and a glassy expression in his eyes. Grandad is face down in the trifle. Aunty May slides custard down her maw using her famous funnel. One of the twins is choking on succulent ostrich gizzards.

Everyone is weeping with joy. Their tears are filled with saturated fat. “God bless us, every one!” spits the surviving twin through a mouthful of cream. They sluggishly raise their glasses.

Title: Treat Yo’ Self.

Idea 3: Advertisement with dubious historical allusions
It’s Christmas 1847. A man in a top hat and olden-days clothes is travelling through the countryside while a melancholy string section plays. He spots a wretched-looking peasant at the side of the road and tells his coachman to stop the carriage by tapping the roof with his cane. (This is also, incidentally, how you stop taxis; I’ve seen you.)

He leaps forth and asks the peasant his story in mime, the universal language of Christmas ads. “What is wrong, wretched peasant?” the landlord mimes. “What is, like, your deal?”

“I am too weak to walk,” the man mimes. “Due to lack of food.”

Tears come to the rich man’s eyes. Tears of recognition. “How ironic!” he mimes. “I too cannot walk, due to my gout.” He points to his belly. “And my obesity.”

“I am also lonely,” mimes the peasant, pointing to some gravestones. “Due to the death of all my family.”

The man in the top hat is amazed. He points to a huge oil painting of his own family held aloft by footmen. “What a coincidence!” he mimes. “My family is on a grand tour of Europe, and I haven’t seen them in aaaaages.” (Production note: cast people who are really good at miming.)

The peasant puts a comforting hand on the toff’s shoulder. “Seriously,” the peasant mimes. “I don’t know whether to stow away on a famine ship or just lie down here and die.”

“I know exactly what you mean!” mimes the rich man. “I don’t know whether to take up my father’s seat in the House of Lords or pursue my artistic ambitions and become an avant-garde visual artist specialising in video installations. I’m quite talented. It’s a really difficult decision for me.”

The two men stare at each other. “We’re not so different, you and I,” their shared glance seems to say. Then they have a game of “across the divides” football, which the peasant loses because of his malnourished state.

Title: We’re Not So Different, You and I.

Idea 4: Advertisement about the “magic” of Christmas
In a Christmassy room a child is playing with her toys – an Action Man and a toy dinosaur – when she is called for tea. The gluttonous infant rushes away, and the Action Man’s eyes open, and he jumps to his feet. He shakes the dinosaur, which does likewise. Various other toys toddle, trundle and drag themselves from beneath beds and out of drawers. They all gather in a circle and begin uploading the data they’ve captured to the online marketing profile that’s been created in the child’s name. She will never be free.

Title: The Time of Man Is Over.

Idea 5: Advertisement about the ageing process
We see old flickery home-movie footage of a toddler wandering around a Christmas tree. Then it cuts to a teenager having his first kiss. Then an adult version of the teenager gives his parents a gift. Then a later version of this man hosts a Christmas dinner with elderly parents and some tiny children. Then we see him in old-person make-up, greeting the new wife of one of those now fully grown children. Then four generations of his family are sitting in white Onesies around a glowing Christmas tree. Then we see him alone, floating in a sort of rejuvenation tank, being tended by a robotic Christmas tree. Then we see him cowering in the ruins of the same sitting room while cities burn and Christmas trees roam the land, hunting the last humans. Civilisations rise and fall.

“The machine age” is followed by “the time of bees”, which is followed by “the great darkness”. The sun engulfs the inner planets. The heat death of the universe begins. “Why can’t I die?” says a voice.

Title: One Man’s Life.

Idea 6: Advertisement about the hustle and bustle of Christmas
A cockney sings a jaunty Christmas song as a harried mother shops and cooks and juggles and manages to make Christmas happen against the odds. Her sullen son says “thank you” and gives her some chocolates bought at a garage. She smiles, apparently charmed, but really she’s thinking, Someday you’re going to be some other woman’s problem.

Title: The Patriarchy.

Idea 7: Advertisement in which Santa grapples with the modern world.

In August in Lapland Santa opens an official-looking letter. “Oh dear!” he says and heads to the British embassy to sign forms and answer invasive questions. Why, as a post-Brexit EU citizen, has Santa Claus applied for a holiday visa rather than a work visa? And why can’t an English fantasy character do this work? Herne the Hunter, for example, or Frodo or Michael Gove? “But I’m Santa Claus,” booms Santa Claus. (He has a lot of male privilege.) “Jesus’s brother.” Wrong answer. The stern-faced functionary scowls and writes something down on a pink slip of paper. The visa arrives on March 12th.

Title: Santa’s Visa.

Idea 8: Advertisement featuring anthropomorphic animals/plants
Timmy the Tree lives in the forest and is obsessed with Christmas. He imagines the carols and the puddings and the fairy lights. “I want to be part of it all!” he says, dreamily. The older trees laugh fondly. Then a jolly woodsman comes along and brings Timmy to a house where adorable tots cover him with decorations.

“Aaagh!” screams Timmy the Tree. “It hurts so much. I’m in so much pain. Why did I think my obsession with the world of man was going to pay off for me? That doesn’t make sense. I’m a tree.”

Title: Timmy the Tree.

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