Total score: 20/30

aldi christmas ad

NG: Aldi is brimming with confidence. Even though Christmas is the most public time of year for your home, turning up the heat on caterers to get it right on the day, there’s nothing apologetic or selling too hard about the new campaign. It treats viewers to a high-gloss traditional tour through everyone’s festive favourites, from ice skaters to gingerbread houses, offering reassurance, through the production values alone, that you’re not cutting corners by shopping at Aldi. While Lidl has taken its brand into exploring the realities of Christmas, Aldi has put itself into the heart of traditional Christmas magic and sparkle to tempt sceptical shoppers into the store. 8/10

SG: A few of my favourite things. Christmassy, tick. Good track, tick. Appealing product shots and nice production values, tick. Normal kids, tick. But apart from the gingerbread house telling me this ad is from one of the German supermarkets, there’s not much differentiation here, except that they do goose and a five-bird roast - but don’t they all? 6/10

SR: We’re in a magical world of Christmas in Aldi’s ad. There’s still plenty of product in here, but an awful lot of it is doing things you might not normally expect it to. Tiny skaters double axel on top of Christmas cakes, while toy trains and gingerbread houses get all out of scale. They’ve also gone to town with the song, which I suspect will earworm us all the way to Christmas. 6/10


Total score: 22/30

asda christmas ad

NG: Brands seem to choose between celebrating Christmas for what it is, putting their own spin on it, or, if you are a luxury brand, ignoring it completely and letting Christmas come to you. Asda definitely belongs in the first camp, doing a great job of capturing the inescapability and reality of the Christmas season. Rather than turn to celebrities, Asda has successfully used its big blocky in-your-face typography, an upbeat repetitive track and vignette style to remind you that Christmas is something everyone gets caught up in and enjoys in their own way. I’m sure this will strike a chord with its consumers, from the customised vans to the office parties everywhere. 7/10

SG: This is quite jolly - the song (Sax by Fleur East) sounds like a mash-up of Uptown Funk and a Wham! song, which can’t be bad at this time of year. The superimposed words like ‘antlers on dog’ seem unnecessary apart from the last one - ‘do it all again’. I like the way they have reverted to what was ‘unique’ in their marketing comms - the tapped bottoms ker-ching-ing only this time with festive cheer. 7/10

SR: Asda are the only zaggers amid a Christmas of very straightforward zigging so far. They’re making a virtue of being an outlier and going big on hashtag-inspiring fun. It’s a loud, lively and in-your-face celebration of some honest Christmas nonsense, rather than the idealised version our more upmarket supermarkets are trying to peddle. We’re all going to be humming along in the next few weeks, whether we want to or not. 8/10


Total score: 19/30

lidl christmas advert

NG: Lidl has spent the year becoming a brand on the side of the British shopper by surprising them with identical performance without the expensive personality of brands. The Lidl School of Christmas marks a confident next move to focus solely on Lidl, offering a series of life lessons to help Brits make Christmas as enjoyable as possible. The idea is clear and humorous and, backed with more thorough lessons online, will further cement Lidl as a choice Brits should not be ashamed of. However, given the pressures of Christmas to get things right on the day and Lidl’s historic communications, it feels distant to the actual strengths of the brand. Proving product performance, especially at Christmas, could have been a stronger way to convince more shoppers into store. 7/10

SG: School of… feels clunky and disjointed. Trying too hard. The Lidl Surprises isn’t a concept that can be repeated ad nauseam but it would have been interesting to see a Christmas ad that reinforced their point of difference. Or could we just swap the logo with Aldi’s and not give a toss once we know we can get Prosecco for a fiver? 5/10

SR: Lidl are going big on content this year, with a host of Lidl School of Christmas films online. As a result, their main ad is a portmanteau: full of (funny) bits from other films accessible on YouTube. An extension of their strategy to build their snowman on the big four’s lawn, it doesn’t really work hard enough for me. And ‘Every Lidl thing for Christmas’ is a Lidl too close to ‘Every Little Helps’ as an endline. 7/10


Total score: 23/30

M&S Christmas 2015

NG: M&S has continued its excellent “art of…” campaign for Christmas, this time treating viewers to an incessant visual rollercoaster, pulling the viewer through a series of ‘how to master’ the art of making an entrance, deliver surprise, host a feast and even grab a quick snooze. In contrast to previous years when M&S hinted at a warm yesteryear spirit, this ad only looks forwards, injecting the brand with needed excitement and momentum during a key trading period. 8/10

SR: Marks and Sparks bring us the ‘art of Christmas’ complete with fireworks and a big banging soundtrack. It’s technically perfect, with every cut perfectly timed, every product perfectly placed and every piece of research feedback perfectly analysed. But it lacks heart. It will certainly stand out from the crowd, but silver doesn’t generate much warmth as a colour. And where’s the comfort and joy? 7/10

SG:M&S seems to have rediscovered its form. Eschewing the single spectacular advertising of Christmas Past in favour of the Christmas box set, they’ve sensibly focused on milestones through the Christmas season with a series of seven ads taking us from party invites to the family lunch. Food porn is back. Puddings oozing gold chocolate. Yes! Give me more. And the ‘Shop the ad’ online feature makes it easy for me to solve my ’what to wear to the Christmas party’ dilemma, taking this ad into a Christmas Future, in which our TV’s will offer up a more personalised and useful experience. This can’t have been cheap, but it should work. Good job. 8/10


Total Score: 18.5/30


SG: Handmade specially for Christmas. This message comes across loud and clear. They make their stollen from scratch, unlike the German lot, we assume. The three bird Christmas roast is prepared by hand in store – to look like a meaty brussell sprout. Unique, I guess. And they manage to squeeze in some family love with a little girl ‘getting a little help’ – they do that too you see – to put her own message on a massive biscuit for Mum. I like the sentiment. It should appeal to existing Morrison’s shoppers and perhaps stop them going elsewhere, but it feels too average to convert anyone new. Better without Ant & Dec though. 6/10

SR: These kindly Yorkshire folk have decided to go back to their roots and use kindly Yorkshire folk to tell us what they think makes the perfect Christmas. You can probably guess that’s quite a lot of stuff you can only buy at Morrisons. It’s all very honest and product packed, but it feels a little bit defensive at times, and frankly just a little bit less ambitious than the competition. 5/10

NG: In contrast to previous years where Morrisons have been too reliant on the cheek of Ant and Dec, the retailer has shunned the use of celebrities in a return to its authentic Bradford roots – giving it a very strong point of difference from its competitor set.

In doing this, Morrisons has cleverly recognised the huge value its staff can give to Christmas shoppers as they prepare for the big day, both in ensuring the high quality of their food and giving customers exactly what they want to make Christmas special.

Morrisons’ rediscovery of its core strengths, colleagues and beyond, will serve the brand very well in a category which can at times look increasingly homogenised. 7.5/10


Total score: 27/30

sainsburys mog



NG: Christmas is a time when people take comfort in rewatching their favourites, Bond, Potter, Poppins, or Downton, ideally with a slight festive spin and some Quality Street. This year, Sainsbury’s has shed the weight of WW1 for something much easier to digest in the children’s favourite Mog the Cat. The ad is more of a short film, and is brilliantly executed in a genuine extravaganza of slapstick humour and jeopardy, building to a chaotic crescendo and feel good ending. The work fits into the wider Christmas culture of helping those around us, from distant elderly people to Sainsbury’s embracing the thought of a community rallying round a distressed family by bringing their food to share. It should be a Christmas favourite. 9/10

SG: Mog wreaks havoc (circa 1976), but neighbourly love ensures the family featured in this year’s outing from Sainsbury, don’t miss out on the celebrations. This is a Christmas ad with a difference – old fashioned charm (Emma Thompson’s v/o is perfectly cast too) without being schmaltzy it transported me to the time when I read Mog stories to my kids. The only jar is the ending ‘supporting child literacy’….and without reading up further, viewers would be unaware of its role in the campaign. A noble cause and one that might have existing Sainsbury’s shoppers buying more in store to support the good cause. 8/10

SR: We asked how Sainsbury’s would follow WW1. Here’s the answer: Mog the cat. They’ve taken the Christmas high ground with a feelgood epic - even featuring a new story from Judith Kerr. Charity tie-in with Save the Children ensures no one will accuse them of kidnapping a children’s favourite. And now they’ll have pester power on their hands too. They got Judith Kerr to revive Mog, but will this revive Sainsbury’s? 10/10


Total score: 14/30

tesco christmas ad

NG: Tesco has continued its transition away from corporate powerhouse back to the realities of the customer and how it can deliver little helps in its Christmas campaign. Rather than adopt the one-off blockbuster ad, which could have further distanced the brand, the slice of shopping series get us closer to Dotty and the humour we enjoy. This is a campaign that should connect more and more with customers over time and Christmas is the time when Tesco’s promise can really make a difference. 7/10

SR: Tesco have decided what we need this Christmas are the ‘hilarious’ family we’ve already seen being a little bit silly in recent ads. Here a teenage boy makes a fool of himself by trying to impress a Nigella type with his sophisticated ways, while Tesco tell us how good its ‘Finest’ range is through the boy’s selections. The normally hilarious Ben Miller and Ruth Jones supply the punchline in what is, frankly, not in the ‘Finest’ range of Christmas ads. Agency and client will tell us this ad is part of an overarching brand recovery strategy. But they’re a very long way from ‘Every Little Helps’… 4/10

SG: This tries to be hardworking by focusing on range and giving us a reason to go in store. Ben Miller’s great, but the terrible script, hammy acting and bad directing doesn’t make me laugh and fails to make the products desirable. Four humour-led executions rather than a single schmaltzy showstopper had the potential to deliver, but so far, this series falls horribly short. I’ll be going to Waitrose for my fizz. 3/10


Total score: 20/30

waitrose christmas ad

NG: A wistful epic story, à la the John Lewis Man on the Moon ad, might have further pushed Waitrose into the arms of the middle class. Instead, it has looked to broaden its appeal using an upbeat approach to welcoming everyone. The ad loosely uses the idea of food as a universal currency of Christmas, something people take time over, and can come together to enjoy. This intuitively feels like the right approach but the ad could have worked a little harder to show good food for everyone. 6/10

SG: At last! An original and non-cheesy Christmas song (a Cab Calloway jazz classic) to accompany Waitrose’s take on Christmas. Great food shots, cute kids who look normal, Heston’s finishing touches. Particularly liked the toddler with the Brussels sprouts. I’m glad my nappy changing days are done. 8/10

SR: Waitrose is trying to tell us that ‘whatever makes your Christmas, make it with Waitrose’. That sounds uncomfortably as if their brief was to sell everything to everybody. Lots of lovely provenance cues, and a close-up of Heston Blumenthal as well as all the standard fare (flaming Christmas pud, mince pies, Christmas tree). Still, there’s a lovely shot of a classic white Mini in the ad and a beautiful moment where a student son makes the right decision to come back to his mum’s house for dinner and not his girlfriend’s mum’s. 6/10

John Lewis

Total score 23/30

John Lewis Christmas 2015 ad

NG: The John Lewis ad is a touching metaphor for our ability to bring some human contact into the lives of those often forgotten at Christmas, in this case, the elderly who are often distant, but shouldn’t be forgotten. The work is also linked to Age UK, which further adds credibility to the idea and feels a strong fit with John Lewis and their audience, who are increasingly looking after the older generation. If anything, John Lewis is a victim of its own success. We expect the world from their Christmas ad, much like Bond, it needs many elements of the same recipe with just enough surprise to keep us refreshed and if I had one gripe, it would be whether they have managed to keep the campaign sufficiently refreshed. 9/10

SG: The usual formula – not a dry eye in the house, this week’s water cooler moment in the office. Does Noel Gallagher count as an old man? Because he’s certainly going to have a good Christmas. I’m disappointed they didn’t plump for REM’s ‘Man on the Moon’. A predictable winner with the worthy charity Age UK benefitting from sales of merchandise (not miniature old people though). John Lewis needs an overhaul of this predictable formula for 2016. 7/10

SR: John Lewis has set the standard for yuletide tv ads in recent years, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house down their way this Christmas. My two daughters both saw this ad through tears the first time, and still find it hard to watch. This epic charity tie-in garnered a hundred front pages and has already spawned numerous odd mash-ups online and what might be called a meme in Private Eye too. The latest slice of misery under the mistletoe is very good, but it’s hardly Mog. 7/10

Our experts

Neil Godber (NG), head of planning, 
J Walter Thompson

neil godber

Sarah Green (SG), CEO GreyShopper EMEA

sarah green

Simon Robinson (SR), freelance creative director

simon robinson