Christmas ads 2021: adland reviews Aldi, O2, McDonald's, Amazon and Tesco

Clockwise from top left: Aldi, Sainsbury's, O2 and Tesco
Clockwise from top left: Aldi, Sainsbury's, O2 and Tesco

Guillermo Vega from Saatchi & Saatchi and Saffron Renzullo from The Brooklyn Brothers share their opinion on a selection of this year's Christmas spots.

As the end of the Christmas showdown draws near, creatives from adland share their thoughts on the latest bundle of ads. 

Campaign asked Guillermo Vega, chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Saffron Renzullo, creative at The Brooklyn Brothers, to review Aldi's "A Christmas carrot" by McCann UK, O2 "We're better, connected" by VCCP, McDonald's "Imaginary Iggy" by Leo Burnett, Amazon's "Kindness, the greatest gift" by Lucky Generals, and Tesco's "Nothing's stopping us" by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. 

Guillermo Vega 

You can tell from these spots that we didn’t get much of a Christmas last year. If last year was a festive write-off, this year's ads have gone pedal to the metal on Christmas craziness.  

A vaxxed-up Santa taking on the Christmas shop and leaving an army of angry anti-vaxxers in his wake. New friends being discovered through the joy of imagination, dystopian robots delivering festive cheer and a sweet tale of neighbourly support for those struggling with life getting back to normal. Even a fruity version of Ebenezer Scrooge makes an appearance to remind us of the joys of Christmas. 

There is a really high bar to win at Christmas and some of the best work our industry creates is released at this time of year. It’s a hard place to compete but on the whole, these ads deliver a decent ride. 

Aldi 

Ebanana Scrooge joins Aldi Christmas regular Kevin the Carrot in a pun-laden journey to rediscover the joy of Christmas. A Dickensian classic with a fruity twist and a clever VO appearance from Marcus Rashford, the animation is nice and while the story is an expected one at this time of year, I can see what they are trying to do with it. 

O2

O2 is on a mission to connect the disconnected and help people that don’t have access to data. While giving away the data as part of a promotion doesn’t feel quite as much within the Christmas spirit, it’s a nice initiative, with a genuine purpose, and I’m always in favour of brands taking an action beyond words to actually help those that need it. 

McDonald’s 

This is a lovely story about a little girl and her imaginary friend. I have a younger kid and this really rings true. I’m into the simplicity of the narrative, it feels warm and human, which is something McDonald’s does really well. Clever to keep using the reindeer treats as a way to make them feel relevant during the festive period. A story that feels right for everybody, not just the brand.  

Amazon 

I really like this. It feels modern, it’s beautifully crafted and is more aligned with our real lives now, by tapping into the anxiety of the pandemic. It shows more tenderness than recent Amazon spots, and its focus on the spirit of generosity and kindness doesn’t feel forced or pretentious. The characters feel real and relatable. It’s everyday storytelling done well.

Tesco 

The best thing about this is Santa reminding people they need a Covid jab. It’s kicked up more of a fuss than any other ad this year – so hats off to them for raising the issue. Though the execution is a little broad and jumps about a bit, it’s good to see a famous brand like Tesco making an impact by giving a proper point of view. 

Saffron Renzullo 

O2 

What a brilliant purpose-driven campaign, I rate O2’s mission and its pay-it-forward scheme but I wonder what the ad would have looked like if it showed us what it really means and who it would make a difference to. It lives in an O2 meets James Bond meets Peter Pan playful world but in these times spent apart, I would have liked to have seen fewer robots and more humans to really show the power of being connected, especially this Christmas. I needed that pull of emotion to show the hope and scale of possibilities that connection offers.

Aldi

If you want joy, Aldi brings it. Cuthbert the Caterpillar getting arrested is all I needed to see to know Aldi would definitely be that family member at the Christmas party cracking jokes, while everyone loses their head over expired sprouts. It feels like this animation was built for everyone, both the kids and the adults, giving us a moment to reset and be reminded of what Christmas is about, now it’s back. It isn’t always ordinary, but what makes it accessible to all, is being kind.  

Sainsbury's  

Sainsbury’s said if you want Christmas, you can have it. It gave the small, the big, the Prosecco, the crumbs, the rhythm, the gravy. A captivating execution, that screams "Let’s GEDDIT". You really do get to breathe in Christmas for 60 seconds. I just wonder what it would have looked like if we saw the not-so-generic Christmas moments. "It’s been a long time coming," so we know people are going to do Christmas different this year? And we already know people from different communities Christmas different. I would like to have seen more of the unexpected.

Tesco  

If it’s not people crying over a black cast, it’s going to be people crying over a double-vaxxed Santa Claus. Well, Tesco gave me a double-vaxxed Santa and opened on a black man in a durag, so, checkmate – I’m happy. It gives BIG Christmas feels, making me almost certain Tesco will be playing the Xmas bangers in stores. I appreciate its honesty and not shying away from "everything that’s happened", aka Covid. It’s OK to be overt about it, just look how excited it can make you feel knowing it’s not going to stop us this time around. 

Amazon  

Black female lead, black supporting actress and Adele’s new song? This one really hit different. Not only did I feel seen in this space, it really spoke to all of the feelings of anxiety many of us have felt, which felt so human. It acknowledges that even though Christmas is back on, it can all still feel too much. Life doesn’t suddenly get better because your brain has activated festive mode. This gave me the power of together and took me back to the feeling of Christmas day, when you’re in that moment surrounded by love, everything makes sense again.

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