Christmas Ads: The Ultimate Guide to Best and Worst of 2016

Mid-November, the time when British supermarkets and department stores let fire their big guns: The Christmas Commercial. In recent years Christmas commercials have become a cultural talking point. We all have our personal favourites; some of us like sentiment, some favour humour and some want pure spectacle. Here they are: this year’s runners and riders ready for your enjoyment and awaiting your judgement!

John Lewis

£7,000 000. It’s tough at the top and it was always going to be hard to follow last year’s enormous success but the 2016 John Lewis Christmas advert has left us Juicers bemused.  Some love the bouncing dog, others just don’t quite get the message. Buster (real name Biff) is adorable but somehow it doesn’t have the same emotional gravitas as last year’s Man on the Moon. It’s good fun but there’s no great emotional pull… or have we missed something?


M&S have got it spot on with both great story and sentiment all wrapped up in a high-end, slick, blockbuster-like production.

Big respect to M&S who are very on-brand with the beautifully dressed, smart and sassy Mrs Claus as the central character. This is in contrast to many other brands, who sometimes go so heavy on sentiment or production values that they forget about their target audience and even their own products.

The fantasy of the high tech North Pole is juxtaposed with the reality of the (very relatable) bickering siblings. A heart-warming story of love and mince pies – with plenty of outfit changes!

How much did it cost? It wouldn’t be fun if we knew all Mrs Claus’s secrets!


You can’t help but admire the 3D printed and animated Sainsbury’s commercial.  Not only that, the proceeds from sales of ‘Gingerbread Dave’ go to Great Ormond Street Hospital.  The catchy tune has lovely lyrical touches (for example, ‘queues for queues’) and is written by the Muppets’ ‘Muppet or a Man’ Oscar-winner Bret McKenzie and performed by James Corden.

Christmas comes easily to the super-organised multi-taskers, but most of us can all relate to the stress of shopping lists, tight work schedules, and trying to find time to get everything done in time to make Christmas perfect for our families.  Of course the greatest gift is spending time with our loved ones, but as we can’t clone ourselves like 3D Dave, we’re left thinking ‘what are we supposed to do?’ Forget the shopping, give up work…?  10/10 for entertainment, but the message is frustrating.


The 2016 Boots commercial isn’t very entertaining but the message is a very worthy one: making sure the carers get cared for.  Hospital workers, ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors, and fire fighters are among the half a million women who work on Christmas Day. These real women are invited to a special event at Boots for a full makeover and party.

‘Let’s feel good’ is the tagline.  Does it make you feel good?  Yes. Would you rather they spent their Christmas advertising budget pampering women who deserve it, rather than filming helicopters, or animating 100 3D characters? Also yes. Nice one, Boots.


Tesco cleverly released their Christmas advert early and made a feature of it (“Bring it on”) and therefore avoided the glut of adverts in late November and December.

It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t have high-end production values, in fact it’s very simple and very effective.  But is it memorable?  It may get lost in the pomp and ceremony of Tesco’s competitors.


Waitrose’s advert follows the journey of a robin trying to find his way home for Christmas.  The robin is welcomed home by his/her partner and a mince pie that has been left out by a child from the 1980s.

What a beautiful little robin and don’t we live on an amazing planet?  But would I spend £2.50 on 4 mince pies, just to feed a robin?  Call me heartless, but no.


There’s always one strange Christmas advert and this year Argos win the weird award. I’m not sure what to think about these brightly coloured yeti’s who skate down the road delivering Christmas shopping.  I’d love to have been in the meeting where someone pitched the idea. Kooky?  Fun?  Rebellious?  Or just odd?


Very have released a very ambitious, and no doubt pricey, Christmas advert starring a woman who looks uncannily like Ana from Disney’s Frozen. It looks amazing and is sure to have every child in the household under the age of 10 mesmerised.

She flies around on a heart, spreading festive cheer by giving packages of love to strangers. Is it love, or is a material gift?  I must admit I don’t entirely understand it.  If Very are encouraging us to be more generous in spirit, then that’s a decent Christmas message, or are we supposed to buy gifts for the security man and people at the bus stop and even Father Christmas?  I don’t think the commercial makes it clear. Presumably they want us to spend lots of money at Very to show our love?  I’m sorry to say I think the message missed the mark.

TK Maxx

Weird but very wonderful. This bonkers left-field Christmas sing-along is a masterpiece in sound design. Don’t ask me what the message is, but 10/10 for entertainment and 10/10 for being memorable and creative.  I want to go to their house for Christmas.


Best of the bunch for heart-warming sentimentality with great subtleties in direction and storytelling. When the Grandad spotted the empty chair before his granddaughter sat down, I nearly cried. Family and people – not stuff. Thank you Lidl for reminding us what the Christmas season is all about.


Littlewoods have commissioned a nice piece of observational comedy: the post dinner Christmas walk.  Jumpers are paraded,  scooters ridden and earphones trialled as the newly given gifts are taken for a strut around the block. Is it just me, though, or are you slightly depressed about owning Christmas and the cost of it?  I almost wish it didn’t have such a back-to-earth packshot that reminds us who we might be paying for Christmas all year.  Just leave us with the fantasy, Littlewoods.


Celebrity-filled, yet without a famous face in sight. Ewan McGregor, Billie Piper and Jennifer Saunders are among those who provide the voices for Debenhams’ suggested wish list.

Rather than lusting after the featured gifts, however, instead I found myself trying to play guess-that-voice.


House of Fraser

House of Fraser have gone all out with this theatrical pop video of an advert.  It’s certainly a different Christmas vibe; far from the warm and snuggly run-of-the-mill Christmas scenes, it’s frantic and frenetic with choppy cuts, beautiful clothes and highly styled sets. But you only see some dancers for half a second and it leaves me feeling irritated and stressed.  And why are they banging on the dinner table?  If Christmas was like this at my house I’d run a mile.

Aldi UK

Aww, it’s a cute carrot.  Before you even watch the advert you know you’re about to see a winner. In this warm and snuggly tale you find yourself rooting (sorry for the pun) for the little carrot as he escapes the tumbling roasties, only to fall asleep on Rudolf’s plate. “Oh no!” We are left to assume that he’s eventually going to be eaten, but it’s still 10/10 for entertaining, even if it it does end a little too abruptly.  Aldi have created a whole campaign around the little carrot.  Clever.

 Toys R Us

What to say?  Christmassy?  Yes. Imaginative and creative?  Sadly not at all.  It’s the same old Toys R Us song.

Burberry Festive Film

Burberry have opted for another Festive Film rather than a Christmas commercial. Following last year’s Billy Elliot celebration staring the Beckham kid, this year’s film is just as extravagant. It feels like a movie trailer, with a huge budget, impressive cast (Domhnall Gleeson, Sienna Miller), mounting tension and in-your-face sound effects.  In actual fact it’s the life story of Tom Burberry and the historical events that have shaped Burberry as a brand. Some might say it’s a load of pretentious nonsense, but it’s well directed (award-winning Asif Kapadia) and if you have a luxury brand like Burberry, you can certainly afford to indulge.


Short and to the point. Plenty of food for everyone. It’ll add to the festive atmosphere in your sitting room, but it certainly won’t win any prizes for originality.


Coming soon: The best and worst of Christmas commercials 2016 from around the world.