Ads of Christmas past: Retailers are playing it safe by rehashing seasonal ads of yesteryear

Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer

LONDON - Like Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life, 'The Great Escape' or 'Oliver', Christmas is a time of repeats, and this year's first tranche of Christmas ads by supermarkets and retailers is no exception.

Traditionally, Christmas ads are chock-full of nostalgic images of Victorian street scenes, carol singers and the like, but this year there is nostalgia for ads themselves.

Toy ‘R' Us is re-running an ad from 20 years ago, while ‘Life on Mars' and ‘Ashes to Ashes' star Philip Glenister says in a Marks & Spencer ad that Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without ‘that girl prancing about in her underwear', followed by said woman from the M&S ad - Noemie Lenoir - appearing on cue as if in a pantomime.

The Waitrose and Boots commercials also pick up where last year's campaigns left off.

Marks & Spencer

Description: An array of celebrities - and a pair of animated stars - say what reminds them of Christmas.

Celebrity: Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Jenifer Saunders, James Nesbitt, Myleene Klass, Twiggy, Wallace & Gromit and Philip Glenister. 

Seasonal imagery: Festive food, Christmas tree, parties, ice skating, jumpers, Nativity plays.

Nostalgia: ‘That M&S model in her knickers.'

Agency: RKCR/Y&R

Price or value theme: ‘Quality worth every penny.'

Tagline: ‘Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without... Your M&S.'

Toys ‘R' Us

Description: Cartoon character Geoffrey Giraffe and his helpers stock Toys ‘R' Us with millions of toys before daybreak.

Celebrity: None - unless you count Geoffrey.

Seasonal imagery: None

Nostalgia: Nothing but. This is a re-airing of the 1989 commercial ‘Magical Place'.

Agency: Unknown.

Price or value theme: None.

Soundtrack: Unknown.


Description:  Follows on from last year's theme of journeys home for Christmas. The person the little girl is waiting for at end of last year's ad is revealed as her father. Strapline: ‘At Christmas, there's only one place to be.'

Celebrity: None.

Seasonal imagery: Festive food, gifts, lights, tree decorations, snow.

Nostalgia: Gentle.

Agency: MCBD.

Price or value theme: None.

Soundtrack: Camilla Kerslake sings a version of  'How Can I Keep From Singing',


Description: Gift exchanges at the office Christmas lunch. Women are shown to have an intuition when it comes to choosing the perfect present.

Celebrity: None.

Seasonal imagery: Holly, trees, Christmas-cracker hats, tree decorations, presents, parties.

Nostalgia: Follows on from last's year's ‘Office Secret Santa'.

Agency: Mother.

Price or value theme: ‘Great offers'.

Soundtrack: ‘Here Come The Girls' by Sugababes.


Description: Jamie Oliver travels the nation on a flat-bed truck fitted with a kitchen so that he can cook festive food for passers-by.

Celebrity: Jamie Oliver.

Seasonal imagery: Snow, Christmas trees, lights, festive food, Victorian town square.

Nostalgia: Victorian town square.

Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Price or value theme: No mention.

Soundtrack: Unknown.

John Lewis

Description: Ad shows excited children opening gifts intended for adults such as an espresso maker. In the final scene, a girl playing with a camera transforms into a woman.

Celebrity: None.

Seasonal imagery: Snow, frost, gifts.

Nostalgia: Nothing but with the strap-line: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel?'

Agency: Adam & Eve.

Price or value theme: None.

Soundtrack:  Cover of Gun N' Roses track ‘Sweet Child O' Mine' by Swedish folk band Taken by Trees.

Description: Lots of ice skating for this new online department store.

Celebrities: Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton

Seasonal imagery: Ice skating, jumpers.

Nostalgia: Modern memories.

Agency: VCCP.

Price or value theme: None.

Soundtrack: Louis Armstrong's ‘Zat You Santa Claus?'

Tagline: ‘Everyone is shopping.'


Description: Richard Hammond pushes an empty shopping trolley around, talking about food, which disrupts people from their seasonal activities.

Celebrity: Richard Hammond, Denise Van Outen.

Seasonal imagery: We challenge you to name something they have missed. Snow, brands, festive food, carols, brass band, candles, ice skating, sleigh and reindeer, Christmas trees, Father Christmas, production of ‘A Christmas Carol', Tiny Tim on crutches, jumpers, fairy lights, pantomime horse and Santa hats.

Nostalgia: So much it short-circuits.

Agency: DLKW.

Price or value theme: None.

Soundtrack: Take That's ‘Shine'.

Tagline: ‘Have a fresh Christmas.'


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