Aldi’s Christ the Carrot, Amazon’s fake kindness: The Christmas TV ads, 2021

Patrick Freyne: Disney’s ad is quite moving. M&S’s needs more existential angst

Ebanana Scrooge: the radicalised banana in Aldi’s Christmas advert. Photograph: Aldi/PA Wire

Ebanana Scrooge: the radicalised banana in Aldi’s Christmas advert. Photograph: Aldi/PA Wire

 

John Lewis

Watch the ad here
A whimsical tale soundtracked, yet again, by a classic song (this time Electric Dreams) slurred dreamily as though everyone involved is on ketamine. In this year’s ad a young boy sees a spaceship crash and rushes to the crash site. There he befriends an eerie space girl. He teaches her all about Christmas. He shows her a Christmas tree. They eat mince pies. They play pranks on neighbours. Presumably they discuss the birth and death of Christ our Lord and whether extraterrestrial intelligences were also saved by His sacrifice. She kisses him on the cheek. Then she returns to her planet, leaving him a new spin on “I have a girlfriend, but she lives in France. ”

Boots

Watch the ad here
In this ad the actor Jenna Coleman gets a Boots handbag. Much like the Tardis, which Coleman lived in when she was Doctor Who’s sidekick, this bag is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Coleman instantly begins pulling delightful things from the bag, adding mass to the universe to spite the 18th-century chemist Antoine Lavoisier (and I know he’s your favourite).

Nothing can sate Coleman’s never-ending lust for stuff. Before long she is rolling around on a bed covered in products. Then she starts gifting her bounty to family and friends, who are touched by the gesture even though it’s not difficult to give cool presents when you’re breaking the laws of physics and conjuring them from the void (Boots). “This is what Christmas feels like” is the tag line, which means, I think, “Christmas feels like the sublimation of human love into possessions.”

Coca-Cola

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A lonely mother and child move to a new flat and notice that there is no fireplace. This is a problem for present delivery. Santa, as you know, is a shill for Big Coal and wants us all to have chimneys to burn rubbish, books and evidence in. The neighbours band together to make a chimney from cardboard boxes that extends from the roof of the flat complex to every window in order to please the enchanted flue-obsessed sky-trotter. It’s snowing out, so it’s going to be a soggy mess by morning, but they don’t mind. They all have a slap-up feed together. The final box, for the record, has Coca-Cola on it. This is a low-energy flex for the Coca-Cola Company, which has, in previous ads, barrelled triumphantly through towns with huge lorries with “Coca-Cola” written on them.

Disney

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Look, I’m not saying these big corporate Christmas ads aren’t touching. Disney has an animated one in which a stepfather bonds with his new stepkids over baking and Disney characters, and it’s charming and sweet. Though I feel a bit weird about the way Disney’s output is represented here as a big leather-bound book that the family read together, rather than an all-encompassing online-content tube that feeds Disney’s proprietorial sludge into our gaping eye sockets forever. Perhaps Disney is boasting here about owning the last book. That feels more likely.

Amazon

Watch the ad here
Amazon’s ad is also quite moving. It follows a young woman through her busy life that is one of stress and anxiety until a kindly neighbour purchases her a bird feeder through Amazon, a website named after a small rainforest and owned by a trillionaire who has been to space. “Kindness is the greatest gift” runs the tagline, despite this contradicting the actual message of the ad, which is that a bird feeder purchased through Amazon is the greatest gift. It’s also worth noting that if Amazon were really concerned about anxiety among young people it would probably let them join a union.

Lidl (UK)

Watch the ad here
This year’s ad from Lidl is, on the surface, a familiar scene of Yuletide gluttony in which a family gorge on Christmas turkey and champagne. In this instance, however, the viewer time-jumps decades into a future of space ovens and laser utensils but where they still engage in the same old banter. They are apparently in this loop for eternity. It’s an interesting move by Lidl to focus its advertising message on the tedium of immortality. Supermarket chief executives are not like you and me.

Lidl (Ireland)

Watch the ad here
Inanimate objects are always coming to life in Christmas ads. In the new Lidl ad some newly animated toy elves run amok, touching stuff. If I were the owner of a large supermarket at Christmas I would worry about such admittedly “enchanting” infestations. No, you have no Christmas spirit.

Marks & Spencer

Watch the ad here
In the new M&S Christmas ad, a gelatinous fruit-flavoured Percy Pig sweet is granted sentience by an accident-prone Christmas fairy voiced by Dawn French. Percy turns out to have the voice of Tom Holland.

“What am I? What sort of life can I hope to have? I’m a monster, neither pig nor man nor chew-sweet! Why did you give me self-knowledge, Dawn French?!?!” are not the things the voice of Tom Holland screams. Instead he is audibly impressed by chocolate cakes and smoked salmon and considers eating them, unconcerned that moments ago he was destined for the same terrible fate.

This feels completely unrealistic to me. For example, when Percy/Tom Holland sees a pudding he says, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my 23 seconds of life,” and not, “Aaaaagh, kill me, Dawn French! End my tortured and meaningless existence! Are we all but a cosmic joke?”

Aldi

Watch the ad here
That weird freak Kevin the Carrot, a carrot with a face, also seems to relish the idea of being eaten. Each year that orange Yuletide weirdo gleefully attends a Christmas dinner at which he and his chums are to be consumed. Yet the following year he returns from the grave seemingly reborn. He’s the nearest to a Christ figure we’ve got in the world of Christmas advertisements.

The new ad doesn’t feature Kevin the Carrot at all. Instead it features a banana with a face who is radicalised against Christmas by Santa’s decision to leave him on an offering plate, unconsumed. It is his dream to die by Santa’s gloved hand.

Some have hypothesised that the snowman-decapitating Ebanana Scrooge – for that is his name – is a replacement for Kevin the Carrot. I doubt this. We’ve certainly not seen the end of Kevin and his life eternal. Also, everyone’s name should include the noun that best describes them. Yours sincerely, Patrick the Human.

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