From lone granny to happy families, a busy farmer to worker fairies, from uber reality to pure escapism, this year’s crop of Christmas TV ads ranges widely. Our experts give their verdict…

our experts

Sarah Green (SG): managing director of shopper marketing agency GreyShopper

Andrew Marsden (AM): chairman of brand consultancy Andrew Marsden Consulting

Robert Metcalfe (RMR): managing director of Richmond Towers Comms

Richard Morgan (RMG): senior creative at Geometry Global London


Total score: 20/40

SG: Aldi is for everyone - this ad says so. We’ve got old, young, civilians, military, minorities, and even Jools Holland. It’s a disappointing effort, particularly when Aldi’s Like Brands campaign has hit the right note and established humour in their creative output. We know Aldi’s not just for the down-at-heel but this ad tries too hard to satisfy too many and doesn’t provide a compelling reason to want to shop there. 6/10

AM: This year’s ad is a bizarre offering: a series of vignettes including a lone granny, traditional roast spuds being eaten in the heat on a Caribbean beach, and a spaceman - all to the sound of ‘Merry Christmas to you’. It’s nicely shot, with some good food photography and obviously expensive sets, but it’s a weird script. The ad ends by stating: ‘Everyone’s coming to us this Christmas’. They wish. 6/10

RMR: The idea of linking from festive scene to scene in different parts of the world through clever cutting of dialogue and visuals is a good one but it’s obviously difficult because they give up on it about halfway through the ad. Added to this creative failure is some appallingly insipid music, later revealed to be a crime against rock and roll by Jools Holland no less. ‘Everyone’s coming to us this Christmas’ puns the tagline, seemingly oblivious to an ad that has just shown exactly the opposite (unless the Aldi empire now extends to battleships, tropical islands and outer space). Shoddy. 3/10

RMG: I like the simplicity of the idea but I find it boastful and it doesn’t really answer ‘why Aldi?’ The execution is nice - a long tracking shot that cuts to key parts of the script connecting each of the household’s stories. But the humour feels forced and not as genuine as previous campaigns. I don’t think Jools Holland needed to say anything at all, either. 5/10


Total score: 18/40

SG: The theme here is smiles. It describes a happy family situation, highlighting the range on offer at Asda. But kids tucking into Venison Wellington? Is that what Asda shoppers eat? Nothing here to differentiate Asda from its competitors. 5/10

AM: This is a series of domestic scenes. Each is so obtuse it requires a headline explaining the type of smile: ‘The size does matter smile’, or the ‘Venison Wellington smile’. The scenes are contrived and the play at humour is low grade. 5/10

RMR: If Asda does generate ‘Lots of reasons to smile’ this ad isn’t one of them. It’s a generic romp through a family Christmas. Any ad that promotes novelty knits as a good thing should be cast into the outer darkness. Clichéd, dull and destined to be ignored. And a terrible waste of a Rebecca Front voiceover. 4/10

RMG: The idea behind the Asda ad works on paper - a story of different ‘Christmas smiles’ - but in the execution I’m really not feeling this ad. The voice-over should have been funny observations but feel more like random mic-ramblings. 4/10


Total score: 23/40

SG: Here’s a retailer that knows its audience. The joke’s wearing thin, but Peter Andre delivers it with such aplomb and conviction, I almost believe he shops at Iceland. They showcase product and pricing, and the notion of bumping into Peter among the frozen gateaux will have them flocking to the aisles. 8/10

AM: With unsophisticated production values, the script uses some low-level innuendo in the exchanges between shoppers and Andre to raise a half-smile, and offers decent hero shots of the products. Simple, clear and cheap - it works. 6/10

RMR: A breath of fresh air - an ad that knows its own limitations. With its single-minded focus this might actually sell some Iceland products this Christmas. It perhaps overestimates the pulling power of Peter Andre and is cornily acted throughout, but remains more charming than much of the festive schlock on offer. 7/10

RMG: Simply another Iceland ad with Peter Andre, but with Christmas food ideas thrown in. Simple, shows point of difference? Tick. Funny, engaging or memorable? Not really. 2/10

Lidl Christmas ad 2014


Total score: 32.5/40

SG: Lucky people of Hertford­shire get to celebrate a big old Christmas lunch, served by… oooooh who could it be? Surprise surprise. It’s not Waitrose. It’s not M&S. Have you guessed yet? Brave for name-checking premium rivals but not earth-shattering. 7.5/10

AM: This shows a crowd being treated to a full-on Christmas dinner. We watch as they consume lobster, turkey and all the trimmings with lots of vox pop comments on the amazing quality of the food. Well observed, beautifully shot, very clever, very strategic. A winner. 9/10

RMR: Presumably there is a limit to how many times Lidl can surprise viewers in its ads but, while it still works, this is a masterpiece of meeting the brief (“People think our food is crap - convince them otherwise.”). Beautifully shot and disarmingly well-performed: the ‘I’m so happy’ here is worth a million Asda smiles. Brave, too - name-checking M&S and Waitrose would frighten less confident retailers. 9/10

RMG: Try the food and see if people can guess which supermarket it’s from. It’s an idea we’ve seen before but executed a little differently. It works well. The cynic in me questions whether the comments are genuine or whether it’s what people think they should say. Maybe they are, and maybe it’s enough to make me try it. 7/10

Marks & Spencer

Total score: 25.5/40

SG: Great production values and true escapism shows you don’t need celebs to make a good Christmas ad. They’ve rekindled some of the magic and sparkle I missed last year, helped by a brilliant music choice. Great to see the idea of ‘spreading happiness’ is being used beyond TV to engage with customers and hopefully have the tills-a-tingling. 8/10

AM: The execution, although clearly expensively produced, is a rather dull exposition of a series of model-like ladies turning up for work to a factory where it becomes clear they are fairies. When their shift starts they fly off to add some ‘sparkle’ to Christmas. Unfortunately the fairies look bored throughout, the CGI effects are dreadful and it’s difficult to see the relevance to the M&S offer. Oh dear. 5/10

RMR: This is weird and rather creepy. Two inept M&S fairies will be watching over us this festive season dispensing bras and party frocks while uniting lost cats with their owners and singletons with each other. Why this extraordinarily selective M&S offering should hold any appeal to shoppers is a mystery. This has about as much magic and sparkle as a magicians’ strike in a blackout. 4/10

RMG: I like the cheekiness of this year’s ad - Christmas is better with Magic & Sparkle - and I love that this name takes form in the Christmas fairies. I thought it was well put together using brilliant silent-film storytelling, no need for dialogue getting in the way. Lovely. 8.5/10


Total score: 27/40

SG: Morrisons’ effort is Christmas wallpaper. Not one compelling reason for someone to change their shopping habits. Take away Ant and Dec and this could be a Christmas ad for anyone. Trying too hard to cram everything in, there’s nothing original in this ad. 5/10

AM: We open on a farm breaking a fresh sprout off the stalk and are melodically transported through scenes redolent of a traditional festive season but focusing on Morrisons’ food and drink. A feel-good execution that sells the promise of quality foods. A proper Christmas advert that gets the balance of saccharine and sanity about right. 10/10

RMR: This is so cloyingly twee I think I’m going to throw up. And there is nothing (apart perhaps from the fleeting appearances of Ant and Dec) that distinguishes it from any other of the multiples. So why bother making an ad at all. 5/10

RMG: The first shot of this ad, a field of sprouts, led me to think we would see a story of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make Christmas special. Alas, it cut to a series of standard Christmas shots. But the singing idea is OK and production values good - and I liked the bit when they sing together at the end and then carry on about their business. 7/10


Total score: 18/40

SG: A supermarket that’s losing share taking advantage of one of the most evocative incidents of WW1. Cynical exploitation, all in the name of charity. Maybe we could put an end to the supermarket wars and call a truce on future Christmas TV ads. Put the money where the shopper wants it most - in their wallets. Bah humbug. 0/10

AM: Exquisitely shot and it was hugely brave of Sainsbury’s to commission it. However, despite the fact this film deserved to be made and the old-fashioned chocolate bar will be on sale for the benefit of the British Legion, I feel uncomfortable this momentous event should be the subject of trivial retail advertising. What right do Sainsbury’s have to ‘own’ this? 6/10

RMR: It’s different, but not in a good way. In fact this isn’t an ad at all, it’s a sentimentalised short film for the British Legion that appears to have been sponsored (irrelevantly as the Sainsbury’s/Legion relationship isn’t explained) by a supermarket. Good CSR, and potentially a decent charity fundraiser, but plonking ‘Christmas is for sharing’ and Sainsbury’s captions on the end frames leaves me queasy about its motives. 2/10

RMG: Nothing short of brilliant. Remembrance Sunday was only a few days ago and this helps bring to life that most poignant story we know from the Christmas battlefield. Strategically, this ad is brilliant, focusing on a real sentiment behind Christmas, delivered masterfully in great storytelling. That Sainsbury’s were the ones brave enough to do it in partnership with The Royal British Legion is a gift in itself and creates the right kind of brand halo. A Christmas ad that truly celebrates the occasion.10/10


Total score: 23/40

SG: Is this ad really going to give Tesco the ‘little help’ they so desperately need? Let’s kick it off with a plastic crate, eerie reflections on baubles and a family stomping around a beautifully stocked but empty store. So far so uncheery. Even the ill-advised music choice doesn’t fill me with festive fuzz. More importantly, it doesn’t tell me why I need to go to Tesco. 6/10

AM: To the building strains of ‘What a Feeling’ the ad culminates in a full-on lights show at a store in front of an audience of appreciative shoppers. It builds a genuine sense of anticipation reminiscent of the classic Coke Christmas trucks ad. Well conceived, observed and executed, the ad effectively fixes the Tesco brand promise of being ‘here to help every step of the way’. 8/10

RMR: Though nicely edited, this ad seems pretty irrelevant to Tesco (apart from some shoehorned-in brand references). Meanwhile the ‘we’re here to help’ message sounds patronising and is likely to get pretty tedious through repetition. The sad thing is that the ‘making of the ad’ film is fantastic. 5/10

RMG: In this ad (inferred by visuals, but not actually discussed) is footage of Tesco’s response to a customer who asked why their local store didn’t have a Christmas hat on their Tesco sign. Tesco then created a big light show to reveal it. I find the concept and the separate film of it more interesting than this generic TV ad. 4/10