Indulge Me: Christmas Critique

January 22, 2012

This critique will define who has made a successful Christmas campaign and who have missed their opportunity in 2011. Some people don’t even feel ‘Christmassy’ until they see the Coca Cola ads now. Ultimately that is what brands want to strive too, a ‘Christmas event’ to mark the beginning of the festive period. To get the customer to buy into their idea or product, especially around a heavy gift giving holiday. This will include looking at brands propositions and how well executed they are in my opinion (of course).

Let’s dive in with Argos’s 2011 alien Christmas advert, which features a  recently arrived family of aliens. They go shopping and are  shocked by all the hustle and bustle that Christmas shopping can bring. Argo’s brand proposition would be to showcase that they believe there is a better way to shop online. As it’s Christmas the target market is mostly parents and family’s, and there is no exception with this campaign. For a start the aliens are a typical family, you have a mother, a father an older brother and a younger sister. This would appear to be so the audience can relate to the family and even see a bit of themselves in the roles that these aliens possess. However, in my opinion I don’t think the use of aliens was necessary. I get it I really do, Argos thought, ‘how can we show an outsiders point of view on how hectic Christmas shopping on the high street is, and get customers to consider shopping online.’ Except they took the term ‘outsider’ literally and went with the notion of aliens. Apart from aliens having nothing to do with Christmas, put in puppet form they are terrifying!

The advert starts with a busy shop, and cuts to the family of aliens looking wide eyed out of the lift,  (isn’t it odd that no-one runs away screaming, ‘ALIEN INVASION’). The brother alien pipes up and says, ”This human idea of Christmas shopping, does my head in”, to which the father adds, ”It all feels a bit alien running around panicked.” What a witty pun (enter sarcasm here). Everyone knows that Christmas shopping is a major hassle, so why do Argos have to show this through aliens. Ultimately the conversation draws on to the brands proposition, ”They should just reserve their presents online with Argos”. This message is clear, but I feel that Argos could have pulled the boat out instead of the notion of aliens, to me this just doesn’t scream Christmas.

May I add how creepy and unnecessary the whole scene is where the daughter alien says that, ”this is all a big conundrum, it’s up there with Justin Bieber and Egg Nog.” I get the egg nog part because seriously who wants a drink made from egg? If that is even what it really is. However, why does the mother alien have to moan ”Mmmm Bieber”? It sounds like she wants to steal him away and lock him upstairs in her room for her own pleasure. Just sounds creepy and doesn’t add well with the free moving plastic eyes and twitchy movements of the puppets.

This competes with Iceland’s Christmas campaign because they are both directed at family’s over the Christmas period. Featuring Stacie Solomon driving home for Christmas, Iceland’s brand proposition would be to ‘Get more for your family this Christmas, from Iceland. Basically advertising Iceland’s cheap frozen wonderland full of Christmas party and dinner supplies. The ad is a modern day take of the original ‘Driving home for Christmas’ ad that was made in 1998 and features a song by Chris Rea. This firstly is where the ad goes wrong. ‘National treasure’ Stacy Solomon became famous from being on X Factor and singing, so obviously Iceland thought it would be a good idea to have Stacey cover this iconic Christmas anthem. No, no it wasn’t Iceland, you have ruined this song for me therefore you have ruined my Christmas. Bit of an overreaction but, the cover is just abrasive, it doesnt work in the same way as Chris Rea’s soft comforting gravely voice.

The ad opens with Stacey just finishing her gig, she gets in the car and cue the abrasive cover. It’s all dark and snowy just what it would be like when you are driving home for Christmas. It cuts to her family and friends in a lavishly decorated house having a Christmas party as Stacey drives towards Dagienham (where she actually lives).  All well and good so far, but she is over-ally  smiley and looks perfect considering she has been on stage performing, this doesn’t bode well for continuity and realism. She parks up and waves to a passing Iceland delivery man. Towards the end of the add it cuts back and forth between happy smiling faces and defrosted frozen food from Iceland. Just like Argos the advert has a distinct heavy family theme, causing competition between the two.  I get the emotional trigger of being ‘home for Christmas’ and this comes through somewhat well, I just feel Iceland could have pushed the boat out instead of producing a bog standard advert with a poor cover over the top.

I realize this critique is quite critical, Toys R Us doesn’t bode well for you either. What happened to the ageless jingle, ”There’s a magical place; we’re on our way  there; with toys in their millions, all under one roof”. It created a fantastical excitement in me as a child of all the toy possibilities stacked up in a massive warehouse. Now in Toys R us’s new campaign, they have featured a poorly executed American rap waffling on about coupons over poor digital animation. The brands proposition is to showcase their biggest Christmas catalogue in a fun way for families (again more competition). I feel they have gone to far in their ‘down with the kids’ theme, the visuals look similar to animated adverts (Coco Pops) which I believe will make viewers switch off . The American rapping over the top doesn’t help either. It shows a company didn’t think their strategy through well when the outcome of an ad features a rap. I mean it’s just not ‘cool’ anymore is it? It all seams a bit out of touch and outdated, especially advertising a catalogue, when Argos are advertising to buy and reserve online instead of using their catalogue .The campaign tagline ‘Where toys are a big deal’ is also weak and outdated, its short and sweet yes but I feel there could have been a better word then the use of ‘deal’, they could have just gone with ‘Where toys are for you’.

Lastly Sainsbury’s have redeemed advertising me for me this year with their Christmas ad which complies of Jamie Oliver cooking a ‘happy go lucky’ Christmas dinner for the cast of a pantomime. This is Jamie’s last advert with Sainsburys and I feel it is the best one yet. It features the original (Icelands Stacey Solomon cover competition) song by George Formby titled ‘Happy go lucky me”. The brands proposition of ”Bringing you all the ingredients for a show stopper this Christmas” and strategy is clear throughout. Jamie Olivers branding is very similar to Sainsburys and this works very well. The ad starts off with a panto horse riding a two man bike, and cuts to Jamie smashing some garlic in his ‘bish, bash bosh’ style of cooking. Both Jamie and Sainsbury’s have a ‘Happy go lucky me’ vibe with their brands visions and values, and this is even shown by the choice of song that starts to play. The ad plays out with scenes of pantomime characters drastically trying to get to this meal cooked by Jamie, and Jamie himself throwing beautiful ingredients in various pans and ovens. Eventually the kitchen pulls away like a stage and Jamie presents his beautiful meal. It has a loose Christmas theme , which is good for a change and will help the ad stand out from its competitors.  It’s  more celebrating the event of getting together with quality ingredients  for a show stopping Christmas dinner. Also their isn’t much talking from Jamie, which is brilliant because their is only so much Jamie I can hear on the television. He wishes you a happy Christmas from everybody at Sainsbury’s and thats it. One pointer I have to say is that to make the advert more an an event it would have been better for the pantomime characters to be celebrities. Just to endorse a more Christmas present idea for their advert, however it’s humerus simple and light hearted  and this works extraordinarily well in advertising.

To conclude, Argos, Iceland and Toys R us failed in my books as Christmas events, this I believe is because the brands propositions weren’t executed enough to the already high standers of competing advertisements. Sainsbury’s however are in a different league, the proposition was clear and didn’t digress with any gimmicks of aliens or rapping. Comparing Sainsbury’s to Iceland branding is like chalk and cheese. Iceland are cheap and cheerful frozen foods for when you simply cant cook or cant be bothered to, this is shown in their adverts, the poor cover of a classic Christmas song (trying to be something they are not)  and the fact that there is no preparation involved in the food except for arranging samosas on a plate . Sainsbury’s branding is about quality and beautiful food to enjoy and celebrate, and of course this is shown in the adverts. They use a top quality TV chef who has pride in quality and sustainable ingredients to cook a meal worthy of celebrating for. It’s obvious who comes out on top here.

I shall leave you with a quote from Michael Winner, “calm down dear, it’s only a commercial.”

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