Ahhh, you can tell it’s almost Christmas because none of your clothes have sun-cream stains on them and you spend a good twenty minutes frantically wondering where on earth you put your gloves last February. But mostly, you can tell it’s almost Christmas because there you are, not thinking about Christmas in the slightest, and your eyeballs are suddenly assailed by a Christmas advert on your television from one of our esteemed retailing giants, who have spent an inordinate amount of cash on less than two minutes of air time in an attempt to hypnotise you into wandering into one of their venerable establishments and emptying your purse or wallet into their tills.
Christmas adverts. I do love a Christmas advert. And when I say love, I mean despise enough to want to run down to my local supermarket and buy a family-size pack of mince pies just so I can hurl them at the TV the next time one appears. In turns mawkish, overly-cheery or just downright desperate, the Christmas ad is just one more thing to endure before we reach December the 25th, breathless, sobbing quietly to ourselves and ever-so-slightly deranged.
First up is John Lewis. In essence, an animated story of The Bear and the Hare, a couple of old muckers from Forestville. It opens with Hare – a mange-free and ridiculously cute, long-eared specimen – looking sad, because Bear is about to naff off for several months to hibernate, leaving Billy-No-Bear Hare looking like the last one left at a swingers party after all the car keys have been taken. But, this is where it gets interesting. Hare, obviously miffed about being stood up every flipping year as all the other forest residents are getting into the Yuletide groove, plots his revenge. He skitters over to Bear’s cave to drop off a present with an evil glint in his eye. We then see Bear lumbering over the hill, not full of the joys of Spring (mainly due to the fact that it is still bloody December) to hunt down Hare. Cut to the cave, where the discarded present lies: an alarm clock. Now there is a snarky present worthy of giving to a truculent teenager who refuses to get out of bed before noon. Hare, the evil little lepus, has awoken Bear with the aforementioned alarm clock, and Bear is now forlornly staring at a whopping great Christmas tree with an expression that clearly says: “Really? You woke me up for this?” Actually, I am beginning to quite like these Christmas ads, you know.
Next up is good old Marks and Spencer. They seem to have finally found an answer to the tricky question of which celebrities they should feature in their ads to really appeal to their target audience. In previous years, they obviously did not have a clue, instead opting to cram as many of the blighters into ninety seconds as they possibly could, resulting in some weird celebs-dressed-in-High-Street-clothes-they-would-never-been-seen-dead-in-usually-fest. This year, they have gone for an easy-on-the-eye bloke and two birds, one of whom was the mad haired one from Harry Potter (you may have noticed ‘celebrities’ is not my specialist subject). It is a curious affair, this ad. The rather attractive protagonist, let’s call her Alice, chasing her wayward puppy (to clarify: that is not a euphemism), falls down an open drain. Really, she should immediately sit down and pen a stiffly worded letter to the local council, but instead, embarks on a surreal adventure. She is seated at a Christmas dinner table, an affair hosted by a Mad Hatter with chiselled chin and smouldering eyes (someone should really throw a damp tea towel over them, they could be a fire hazard), surrounded by pinched-faced older women with way too much make up on. Not dissimilar to most people’s Christmas dinner experience, give or take a male model. Then suddenly she is running though a forest until: ‘Ooh, whoopsie daisy, most of my clothes seem to have fallen off. Never mind, I shall soldier bravely on in just my knickers and bra’. As we would all do, in that situation. To save you from all the guff in between, the upshot is she is reunited with her puppy. Also not an euphemism, but then who knows what will happen when the cameras are switched off. So she found her pet. Hurrah. Christmas is saved. Pass the sick bucket.
And finally, the Cooperative. Let’s leave aside the fact that the woman in their ad, having left the Co-op, meanders like a rambler on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon back to her abode. No one, repeat no one, walks that slowly in the run up to Christmas. Their strap-line? Christmas is just around the corner. Which just conjures images of Christmas, waiting to pounce, in a black, tinsel-trimmed cape, wielding a sparkly silver scythe with a flashing Santa on the top, laughing manically, just round the corner, waiting to chop you down in your prime and dance on your bauble-bedecked gravestone. You have been warned.
A version of this article first appeared in the rather spiffing Epping-based magazine Magascene. (www.magascene.net).