Patrick Freyne: The new true meaning of Christmas? I found it on the telly
It’s that time of year again when TV ads pull out all the stops and sentimentally bludgeon us till we cry, rage and (hopefully) go shopping
Marks & Spencer - Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus
Marks & Spencer have created a Mrs Claus for a new era and that era is the 1970s. While her husband, Santa, travels the world giving presents to all children fuelled by his wife’s sandwiches, Mrs Claus singles out a precocious floppy haired middle-class advertising cliché named “Jake” for special treatment. She dresses up like Helen Mirren in The Queen and utilises snow mobiles and helicopters to deliver a present to Jake’s sister because Jake’s thoughtless dog ate her shoes.
I have many questions. Mrs Claus seems to have a lot of time on her hands. Does she have a job? Why didn’t she keep her own name when she got married? What is her own name? Is it Bunny? (Fan hypothesis: their union must be a marriage between two great mythological dynasties and she is one of the Easter Bunnies). Is her first name Mrs? And what has Jake learned?
Jake has learned that he is the centre of the goddamned universe, which is both Marks & Spencer’s unspoken brand promise and a touchstone of modern parenting. Later, when Santa returns, Mrs Claus pretends to be asleep as though she’s been home all the time.
Reading comprehension question: if Mrs Claus is willing to lie about this, what else is she lying about?
Aldi - Kevin the Carrot
Eager to celebrate the birth of Carrot-Christ by meeting his idol, Santa (or, if you like, Mr Mrs Claus), Kevin the Carrot manoeuvres himself through a horrific killing field (Christmas dinner) to where Santa’s mince pie is waiting. Don’t be fooled by the Christmassy soundtrack and jovial narrator, this is Christmas as envisioned by David Cronenberg or Hieronymus Bosch.
Kevin must navigate the mutilated and dismembered bodies of his carrot friends (horrifically still alive and blinking) strewn around the corpse of a ginormous steaming turkey. He must cross the frozen champagne bucket wastes and escape a rockslide of delicious roast potatoes (I’ll be honest with you, this is how I want to die).
Finally he arrives at his destination and falls asleep. When he wakes he finds himself suspended as motivational bait on the antlers of a hungry reindeer. Yes, now Kevin is the eternal play thing of a despotic home invader, much like the protagonists of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream or the people of America. Instead of being horrified by his predicament, however, Kevin is thrilled with himself.
Reading comprehension question: Is Kevin Carrot-Christ?
John Lewis - Buster the Boxer
A boxer dog watches with envy as a utopian commonwealth of foxes, badgers hedgehogs and squirrels put aside their differences in order to bounce on a little girl’s trampoline. He growls to himself and vows that come the new day that trampoline shall be his. The morning arrives and he takes possession of the trampoline. Screw you little girl. To hell with you badgers, squirrels, hedgehogs and foxes. Go fu*k yourself natural order of things. My trampoline. Mine. No one else’s trampoline. Mine.
After testing poorly with sample audiences the creators removed a bloody, Cujo-inspired final scene, butI still love this ad. It shows children that you have to take what you want in life and that the strong will thrive while the weak hesitate.
Reading comprehension question: Is the time of man over?
Lidl Ireland - Homecoming
A family give a bereaved old man a magical Christmas in the old derelict homestead in which he once lived with his late wife, while a singer does her best to make us cry with the saddest and best Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It works. I haven’t cried since I was 10 and I haven’t stopped crying since watching this. I’m crying now.
This is what they want, of course, your delicious salty tears. They siphon them off and feed them to the Lidl board in their sarcophagi in Germany. And they also get a mass of blubbering shopaholics staggering around their shops trying to offset their inevitable doom with tasty treats. Those treats are like ashes in our mouths.
Reading comprehension question: why would a benevolent God create mankind only to let us die?
Three Ireland - The Girl and the Cloud
A little cartoon girl tries to cheer up her depressed and precipitating snow cloud chum and in the process also makes me cry.
Reading comprehension question: why must I feel pain?
Sainsbury - The Greatest Gift
Despite working at a toy factory and having a loving family, Dave, a lanky bean pole in spectacles is driven to a distraction by James Corden, who won’t stop jauntily singing about life’s annoyances – queues, commutes, twerking bosses (not looking at anyone in particular, arts editor). You can see Corden’s words eating away at Dave’s happiness. “Corden’s a bad influence on you, you lanky beanpole!” I shout at the screen.
“I want to find the greatest gift I can give my family,” sings Corden, who eventually convinces our harried everyman hero, inaccurately, that the greatest gift is “me”.
This is clearly untrue. The greatest gift is a Furby Connect. However, Corden has caught Dave at a vulnerable moment and radicalises him. He doesn’t orchestrate a complete restructuring of society to ensure the worker no longer needs to compensate for familial absence with yuletide spending sprees. Instead, he breaks into the toy factory and creates “clones” of himself by adding a big nose, hair and glasses to a nodding dog toy, a clockwork monkey and a remote control plane.
This is not how clones are made, but try telling that to James “post-truth” Corden. The scheme seems to succeed. The “clones” do the jobs Dave doesn’t want to do (a necessity after Brexit) and he gets to give the gift of “me” to his family who do look like they would have preferred a Furby Connect.
Now, if I were Dave, I’d be pretty depressed by the notion I could be replaced at work by a clockwork monkey (editor’s note: we’re looking into it). Luckily, our protagonist is less sensitive and what would normally be called “a severe nervous breakdown” is rendered palatable by children singing and jingle bells and the voice of James Corden echoing from his home in hell.
Reading comprehension question: Why is James Corden?
Burberry - the story of Domhnall Gleeson
A high-budget mini film about that most Christmassy Irish film star, Domhnall Gleeson, and his life-long quest to create the perfect anorak. Along the way he helps with Dominic West’s expedition to the Antarctic, is sad about the first World War, slow-motion kisses Sienna Miller and has a tantrum at his desk. An average Tuesday then for Gleeson, as you’ll know if you follow him as closely as I do. Though I had no idea he was so into anoraks.
Reading comprehension question: Why is Domhnall Gleeson called “Thomas Burberry” in this film?
Waitrose - Coming Home
A plucky robin travels across oceans avoiding storms and snow and ferrets and ennui in order to meet a co-robin over a Waitrose mince pie on a bird-feeding table in England, thus making Christmas more picturesque for a helmet-haired child who thinks everything is about her. I like this ad because it reminds me that small adorable animals have a terrifying survivalist back story and would, if they could, cut you and take your stuff.
Reading comprehension question: If my neighbours put a Waitrose mince pie out on their bird-feeding table, would it be eaten by a) a robin, b) Domhnall Gleeson or c) me?
(Before answering this question just remember how much Domhnall Gleeson loves both mince pies and trespassing).