Stuart Smith on festive TV campaigns

Up to 25% of UK retailers’ annual business is generated in the narrow period spanning the run-up to Christmas to the end of January. And this year retail expert Verdict reckons it’s going to be the best time to pluck the goose since 2007, if only because a massive hike in VAT will make all of us feel much poorer by the end of January.

So, why do retailers saturate television air time with so much boring, formulaic, rent-a-celeb advertising that largely fails in its objective of distinguishing one brand from another?

Tesco received a lot of stick for its feeble Amanda Holden vehicle. Admittedly the Belcher/Belle Cher gag isn’t that funny, but it’s a smidgin more memorable than Peter and Danii not putting a foot wrong over at Marks & Spencer; Heston and Delia mouthing off at Waitrose; or Coleen prancing about like a demented fairy in the Littlewoods Christmas mansion.

One or two retailers have taken the hint and steered away from celeb culture. Asda has focused on its suppliers with a well-shot cameo of Young Farmer and Farmer of the Year Adrian Ivory and his beautiful Asda-bound Charolais cattle. Pity he’s so wooden speaking to camera. Morrisons has been trying to teach kids the nutritional value of Brussels sprouts; meagre fare – good luck to them with that one.

Boots has injected a little more personality into its long-serving Here Come the Girls theme with some slice of life stuff from five comediennes. And there’s the twinkle of an idea in Argos’s “Crooner”.

But the big present at the bottom of the tree must go to John Lewis’s festive effort, which just manages to steer clear of the saccharine, while reminding its audience that Christmas is as much about giving as taking.

There’s even an oh-so-tasteful nod to celeb culture, with Brit Award winner Ellie Goulding performing a sing-along rendition of Elton John’s Your Song.

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