Christmas Ads – Who’s been naughty or nice?

Prev Next

We’ve just got the last of the fake cobwebs out of our curtains and now the snow and Christmas jumpers are already impossible to escape on our televisions. With John Lewis causing a media storm once again and Coca Cola’s Truck Tour about to get underway, we take a look at which brands have been naughty or nice with their Christmas ads.

John Lewis

Arguably the most hotly anticipated Christmas event, retailer John Lewis has appeared to get it right every November for the past eight years. It all began when it gave us its celebrated ‘Shadows’ ad but it wasn’t until 2011 when a seemingly impatient little boy couldn’t wait to give his present rather than receive them that the nation really warmed up to John Lewis at Christmas. Let’s take a look at its Christmas hall of fame.

The Man on the Moon

I spy with my little eye something beginning with M
The Moon (@themoon2015)

This year saw the release of the Man on the Moon concept in which young Lily hopes to wish the elderly man on the moon a merry Christmas. The advert came after the department store chain heightened anticipation with a dedicated Twitter profile called simply ‘The Moon’. Its first Tweet suggested that this year’s Christmas ad might have something a little out of this world in mind.

When it first aired earlier this month, the advert caused a social storm using #ManOnTheMoon and gaining close to 25,000 Retweets. Having teamed up with Age UK, the ad goes slightly deeper than the typical ‘don’t give socks this year’norm of Christmas advertising, and helps promote the charity’s campaign to put an end to elderly loneliness this festive season.

Monty the Penguin, The Bear and the Hare, The Journey and The Long Wait

From animal animation to angelic children, John Lewis keeps a key theme of morality in its Christmas message but is the success of the ads of Christmas past haunting this year’s Man on the Moon? 2014’s Monty the Penguin turned into merchandise heaven for John Lewis. Telling the story of a boy and his make believe penguin, with the helping fin of ‘singer of the moment’ Tom Odell, John Lewis cashed in with the Monty and Mabel range and it would appear that this year is no different, with a full range of ‘moon gear’ available.

Before the penguins, John Lewis used bears and hares to make its point. Once again centering on a sentimental message, the 2013 ad focused on giving someone a Christmas they’d never forget.

The Journey showed us that even the icy cold hearts of two snow-people could ‘give a little more love this Christmas’, while one of our favourite Christmas ads of all time, 2011’s The Long Wait, showed the real meaning of the festive season.


It turned 20 this year, and the ‘Holidays Are Coming’ campaign from Coca-Cola shows no sign of slowing in its tracks just yet. Having first burst onto our screens in November 1995, the general premise of the magical Coca-Cola trucks lighting up the country at Christmas is as strong as ever with this year’s campaign seeing the trucks go on tour up and down Britain and making the magic real in no less than 46 locations. Honoured for years as the moment that kicks off Christmas, Coca-Cola is unlikely to decommission its red trucks just yet.


In 2013’s advertising push, Sainsbury’s got its customers involved and made a feature film illustrating how Britain spends Christmas Day. We’re still not sure whether the cut advert version has the same weight as the full film but, by appealing to the public, the ad certainly has that human element that has worked so well for other advertisers tapping into the emotion-focused selling point of Christmas advertising.

Last year’s Sainsbury’s advert divided the public. Some saw the Royal British Legion partnership as the supermarket chain cashing in on a sombre and sensitive event. Others admired the class in which the advert was executed and the £500,000 Sainsbury’s managed to secure for the Royal British Legion through sales of a chocolate bar similar to that of the one depicted in the ad.

Today Sainsbury’s unleashed its 2015 ad and, with the help of favourite children’s author Judith Kerr, the supermarket chain brought ‘Mog’ out of retirement. Successfully, delivering a nostalgic nod to parents and children alike while supporting child literacy with charity Save the Children, Sainsbury’s has delivered a real contender for best Christmas ad this year.

Yellow Pages

It may be 23 years since the Yellow Pages’ Mistletoe advert first aired but it’s one of the most memorable moments in festive advertising history. At only 20 seconds long the simple yet iconic ad touched the hearts of millions.


2012 was not a good year for the green and yellow supermarket chain. In fact it found itself on the naughty list with its television ad campaign investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority. After receiving 161 complaints about the ad for its apparent sexist message and animal cruelty themes, it became clear that the ‘Mum makes Christmas’ strategy utilised by Morrisons, as well as a handful of other supermarket chains that year, didn’t go down well with the British public. The ad that featured a mother battling with the tasks of Christmas single-handedly and a dog eating a ‘harmful’ Christmas pudding was written off as a disaster and it was left to Ant, Dec, and some gingerbread men to rescue their festive reputation the following year.


While not making the same ASA faux pas as Morrisons, Iceland didn’t win many fans with its 2008 ad, despite featuring ahost of ‘celebrities’. Kerry Katona and kebabs were the theme of this particular ad, and most critics agreed that it wasn’t a winning combination.

So what have we learned from all this? That making people cry is the way to go when it comes to Christmas ad magic? While, thankfully, this is not the case, there is something to be said for playing on the public’s emotions when it comes to the festive period. It is a time when emotions run high and any ad that we feel we can empathise with at this time of year is sure to at least give a brand an image that consumers can resonate with.

CALL US ON 01865 343100 CALL US