Tis the season to talk about Christmas advertising. And in a welcome change to the formulas of old, retailers and suppliers have gone in several new directions, with ‘sadvertising’ notably absent while humour and quirkiness has been dialled up.

The response from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive, with consumer research from System1 showing this year’s selection has been the most effective ever, topped by Aldi’s carrot. Meanwhile, as the final festive ads aired for the first time this week, the scores from our own expert panel of judges are in, with Boots first and Tesco second.

But I want to talk about the new Quality Street ad, because I think it’s a game-changer, not just for Christmas advertising but the future of advertising itself. The ad, featuring ex-footballer John Barnes, picks up on his old rapping schtick not to encourage the consumption of the Quality Street selection box (and he needs no encouragement, judging by Barnes’s bulging belly) but to recycle the new paper wrappers.

Rapping for wrapping’s sake. You can see how the minds of the creatives were whirring when presented with the challenge of promoting this new innovation from Nestlé, winner of the paper pack of the year at The Grocer’s New Product & Packaging Awards 2023 earlier this month.

But this is more than just the visualisation of a pun. It’s a gamification of recycling as an activity to promote among shoppers. That’s both new and important. And it’s also advertising that makes people feel good about themselves, empowering them to take action against a sea of Christmas waste. The creative has even tackled the tricky issue of recycling small pieces of paper by cleverly bundling up the wrappers into a large ball. Back of the net!

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As a new era of ‘greenhushing’ emerges, the ad also avoids falling foul of ‘greenwashing’ connected to the legitimacy of advertising and financial claims, its focused call to action one viewers can easily achieve and Nestlé can easily prove.

Of course, in terms of impact, the role of recycling is overstated in the minds of consumers, but Nestle can only effect what it can effect. And one hopes that other sustainability-based advances made by the industry are not only promoted in advertising in such memorable and empowering ways, but understood, recognised and ultimately valued by consumers through their actions.