John Lewis

Total score: 23/30

RM: John Lewis has enthusiastically taken up Woolworths’ mantle as provider of the TV ad the others have to beat. This year’s effort feels more modest than hitherto (despite the CGI-fest). John Lewis trampolines look hard to assemble, which may not be the desired effect but, hey, a slow-mo bouncing badger is a positive addition to any TV ad. Endearingly daft, and via boxer dog Buzz, the Newton Abbot-based Buster imitator, the genesis of a social media sensation. 8/10

JW: John Lewis’ story of Buster the Boxer has certainly hit the right notes. Its dose of reality and humour feels appropriate for our uncertain times - no frills and bows, a simple good-time story. Heavy investment in social media content, a 360 virtual reality tour of Buster’s bounce experience in-store and a Snapchat Buster filter all ensure the John Lewis Christmas experience transcends the TV screen. It makes you smile but lacks something of old; the wonder and magic of previous instalments. 7/10

NG: The work pulls back from transporting the viewer to an otherworldly fantasy of reaching the moon, or an animated wonderland, showing there is fun and magic in the real everyday backyard world. Anyone who has lived with small children knows to plan for tears as they open their presents. The art of taking one’s turn is a fun albeit painful part of the big day that we can all relate to. 8/10


Total score: 23/30

RM: There are too few Norfolk accents on TV, perhaps because they lend themselves to caricature, but here the entirely naturalistic, deadpan delivery works a treat. I’m not sure the initial set-up tweet is genuine (it’s a bit too convenient) but the execution and the fact it’s consistent with Lidl’s ongoing Surprises campaign is excellent. I would even consider buying a Lidl turkey as a result. (‘Consider’, note, not actually buy). 9/10

JW: Lidl has really pulled at the family heartstrings, much like John Lewis did last year. The story feels inclusive and positive and Lidl’s role as provider comes through really strongly. The experience is down to earth, which is brand-appropriate, and the warmth of Christmas shines through. The tagline of ‘share more - special moments’ provides a positive link between the emotions of Christmas time and the desired sales at Lidl tills. 8/10

NG: Only the most confident brands can afford to ignore Christmas, and this latest work from Lidl plays on that assumption. Lidl has continued its ‘disproving the doubters’ campaign theme for Christmas, this time with a trip for Debbie at the free-range turkey farm. I’m sceptical of brands airing real life reactions to apparent revelations, unless it’s Whopper Freakout, but the strength of this ad lies in the performance of the farmer. His manner borders on dismissive, from his manual labour comments to sharing the Christmas meal, positioning the brand as the experts to the uneducated public. It’s not your usual Christmas fare, but very confident. 6/10


Total score: 19/30

RM: Again, the filmmaking is beautiful, with the added bonus of casting Jeremy Corbyn (have another look) as Santa and Theresa May as his wife. But the ‘story’ is so archly contrived it rather loses impact. Also Jake, the boy, is an unpleasant little bastard. Oh, and the whole ad appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with M&S.5/10

JW: The story of glamorous and dynamic Mrs Claus talks directly to the M&S heartland of mothers and grandmothers through a metaphor of having to juggle everything to make Christmas work for us all. So the ad could act as a parallel for M&S being there to take the strain. However it feels disjointed, jumping back and forth between the family storyline and Mrs Claus’ adventurous journey. At the end there is confusion about who and what is the hero of the story. 6/10

JG: M&S feels like a brand in need of confidence and this new campaign delivers it in spades. It’s often women who are responsible for the magic of Christmas, not in a hassle-but-worth-it-way, but by flipping the Santa Claus idea, as special agent Mrs Claus enjoys solving six-year-old Jake’s last-minute wish. Mrs Claus has all the confidence, style, wit, glamour and mischievousness we want from the M&S shopper. The ad makes M&S feel once again like an exciting, glamorous place of helicopters and glaciers, where amazing women achieve the impossible and still have time to read Fifty Shades of Red (nice touch). It’s work we haven’t seen since the national treasures campaign featuring Twiggy et al. 8/10


Total score: 24/30

RM: A very well made film, with an excellent vocal by James Corden (who knew?) that holds the attention for a full three and a half minutes (on the first viewing, anyway), despite the cloning sequence in the middle not making sense. Surprisingly, it’s a paean to anti-capitalism, encouraging us all to reject the commercialism of Christmas because “the greatest gift I can give is me”. If it means we can avoid Sainsbury’s for the entire festive season, then it’s a winner (for us, if not for them). 7/10

JW: Whilst animated, the ad feels in touch with the reality of trying to prioritise family life in a hectic schedule. Even the humorous nod to our aching rail system puts a wry, if slightly painful smile on the face.  It is arguably the best balance of Christmas wonder and reality. The ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ message resonates through in the individual story but also in the experience of the community at large. 9/10

NG: As the economic fears and cultural isolation of Brexit start to bite, Sainsbury’s has created a feelgood anthem celebrating what’s really valuable at Christmas: time spent with loved ones. At over three minutes 30 seconds, The Greatest Gift ad is more a short film, but the story works wonderfully to convince even those in the worst moods to embrace Christmas for what it really means. The work pushes Sainsbury’s ever further beyond a brand using food for social good into a wider societal role. Now I can almost face taking my children along for food shopping as a reason to spend time with them. 8/10


Total score: 22/30

RM: Who’d be a robin eh? Having endured one of the most miserable homeward journeys possible, all our flying friend gets is a peck on the beak and a Waitrose mince pie. But then again, perhaps Christmas is all about travel chaos and crushing disappointment, making this the most accurate among 2016’s crop of Christmas commercials. Actually, Waitrose wins us over in the end with a tantalising hint of festive family fare and a nice little bit of understated acting. And the filming is fabulous. 8/10

JW: This is a beautifully shot story; a metaphor for coming together and for the anticipation of Christmas time. The Waitrose quality and consideration message comes through strongly and it leaves a sense of care that translates well to the family setting. However, in what feels like a late consideration to the product message, the use of a mince pie feels rather forced and subsidiary. 7/10

NG: There was an excellent article by the ever eloquent Jim Carroll on the difference between habit and tradition. He explained that tradition is habit with meaning, and this new campaign from Waitrose elegantly captures both the habits of Christmas and what they mean. The ad is beautifully shot and produced, using the long journey and sentimental moment when you spot ‘your’ robin returning once again at Christmas as a metaphor for the family returning to the dining table. The campaign is sure to surround the brand with familial warmth and goodwill. It’s what we’ve come to expect of Waitrose. 7/10

Meet the panel

Rob Metcalfe, Chief executive, Richmond Towers Communications

rob metcalfe





Neil Godber, Head of planning, J Walter Thompson

neil godber





Jon White, London MD, Elmwood

jon white