Advertising agencies across the country collectively exhaled a sigh of relief this week as the barrage of Christmas supermarket adverts were released into the world for 2023.
This year, it’s a particularly starry billing. ASDA has officially defrosted Father Christmas himself, Michael Bublé, Waitrose has swiped chatshow host Graham Norton, while M&S has scored Hollywood heartthrobs Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
In recent years, the competition has heated up between the supermarkets as each big brand tries to strike the right balance between just enough sincerity and humour, with a sprinkling of sadness. Usually, the winning adverts stick to the foolproof formula that entails a furry animal somehow befriending a small child.
Remember last year’s ASDA commercial with a cameo from Buddy the Elf? Or Alison Hammond’s queen of Christmas banquet for Sainsbury’s? How can you not recall that John Lewis advert in 2010 when Ellie Goulding’s cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” had everyone weeping?
Really, Christmas adverts should be designed to make even the most hardened Scrooges among us shed a little festive tear. So, how have the big brands faired this year? Here, we have ranked 2023’s adverts from best to worst…
Lidl Christmas Advert 2023
In my personal opinion, the best Christmas adverts are the ones that forget about the humans altogether. This year, Lidl has done just that.
Our protagonist is a very adorable and furry raccoon who travels across the city to retrieve a toy monkey that a child has sadly misplaced. However, tension rises when the racoon comes face-to-face with the family dog when it arrives to return the monkey to its rightful place under the Christmas tree. All is well when the racoon safely escapes underneath a tree and watches the child reunite with his favourite cuddly toy from afar. Just perfect.
M&S Food Christmas Advert 2023
Clearly, M&S had a big budget this year. For its food advert, M&S has served up a rather sweet short film, starring Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney (owners of Wrexham FC) and Dawn French as the Christmas fairy. Reynolds and McElhenney do not appear as themselves, though, they voice a pair of knitted mittens that are stuck outside in the snow. French, in fairy form, waves her wand and brings the mittens inside, before the pair explain how they came to be left outside on their own. Long story short: their rather careless former owner, a child named Lily, had dropped her mittens. But Christmas is not all lost – French the fairy shows them M&S Food! Result.
This was quite adorable and a funny nod to the Reynolds-McElhenney shimmy into UK culture after they acquired Welsh football club Wrexham FC. Plus, a Christmas advert is always better with puppets over actual humans.
“Pop the Bublé!”: ASDA Christmas Advert 2023
It was a cold and stormy night when employees at an ASDA branch were adorning the store in sparkles and tinsel in time for the festive launch. But some peculiar sounds are coming from inside a stockroom. What could it be? A sign on the door reads: “MB inside. Do not open till 1.11.23.” Surprise: it’s Michael Bublé warming up his vocals by singing “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” in an unlit side room.
It’s an impressive feat to secure such a Christmas star in a supermarket advert. Plus, the name of the advert itself – “Pop the Bublé” – deserves some credit. But so far, ASDA has only given us part one, and just a few second glimpse at Bublé himself. What will he do next? Until then, scores will remain low.
M&S Clothing & Home Christmas Advert 2023
M&S are always a bit greedy when it comes to Christmas adverts, as they have the opportunity to win us over twice with separate campaigns for M&S Food and M&S Clothing. For the latter, though, Ted Lasso actor Hannah Waddingham is the protagonist. Alongside her are celebrity stylist and Queer Eye star Tan France, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Fresh Meat actor Zawe Ashton, whom we watch as they start rejecting festive traditions in their family homes. Ellis Bextor sinisterly blowtorches a gingerbread house, France throws a game of Monopoly into a fish tank while Waddingham gives up on making a fake snowman for her kids.
Despite the adverts’ starry billing, the storyline itself lacked a decent plot. Yes, it had some extremely relatable moments – nobody actually wants to make gingerbread houses anymore – but rejecting Christmas traditions in, well, a Christmas Advert, just doesn’t sit right somehow.
Argos Christmas Advert 2023
Here, we watch a rather creepy doll named Connie come to life and dance across a table of Argos products. An animate toy dinosaur records it all using a smartphone. Then, after this underwhelming 30 seconds, the advert is over.
There’s not much to take away from this; it’s all rather odd. Plus, there is product placement everywhere, which is not in the spirit of a festive advert. This could have been done with a meatier storyline, or any storyline at all. Next time, Argos, lose the doll.
Morrisons Christmas Advert 2023
In this short film, we see dozens of oven gloves come to life and lipsync American rock band Starship’s power ballad “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. It feels predictable; singing household appliances has been done before. Admittedly, the oven glove characters were somewhat endearing but ultimately, the advert lacks any emotion or festive sentimentality.