Tis the season to be jolly… and go all-out spending that marketing budget. Year-on-year Christmas becomes a battleground for the big retail players, and this year is no exception. With the likes of John Lewis, Boots and Heathrow Airport stopping at nothing to reduce us to tears, and M&S, ASDA and Argos determined to wow us with festive razzle dazzle, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller players. So, let’s take a break from Moz the Monster and cast our eye over some alternative campaigns determined to give you the feels.

Matalan: Creating Value in Every Moment

Portrayals of the authentic family Christmas are definitely in this year with supermarket giants Tesco, Morrisons and Lidl all keeping it ‘real’. Matalan plays it conventional (unlike many other advertisers) as it follows the exploits of a busy white middle-class Mum and her white middle-class family as she rushes around in the lead up to Christmas.

Simon Lee, national marketing director at Matalan, said: “We wanted to capture a beautifully shot, humorous and realistic representation of a family who are having their version of the perfect Christmas – creating extra special memories and moments out of the festive commotion and excitement that unfolds.” Harnessing about as much realism as the likes of ‘Love Actually’, Mum dashes from nursery teacher day-job to school play director to, you’ve guessed it, Matalan. All the while Dad grapples with lovable Dodger the dog as he attempts to gently hijack the festivities. It’s a fine ad, but we can’t help but feel that it would have been more fun if they’d laid off the slow-mo and tightened up the edit to create a greater sense of commotion and really milk the humour. And does that music sound familiar? You may recognise it from Skylark Media’s very own showreel.

Talk Talk: This is Christmas

Speaking of real families, Talk Talk follows on from last year’s ‘This Stuff Matters’ campaign with another visit to the real-life family at 9 Merwick Street. Using purportedly unscripted fly-on-the-wall footage from the Gogglebox family’s 2016 Christmas, Talk Talk attempts to bring us the true spirit of Christmas, which consists mainly of sitting around the TV and using the internet.

“Focusing on how real people live their lives we’ve captured the little moments that make Christmas special”, said David Parslow, group marketing director at TalkTalk. Micky Tudor, executive creative director at CHI Partners, adds: “We hope this totally unscripted spot delights viewers and reminds them about what really matters, setting TalkTalk apart in amongst the glitz, tinsel, artifice and tear-jerkers that will probably dominate the ad break this Christmas”. Micky isn’t wrong, this low-key offering is certainly a break from glitz. Whether this rough and ready ad is a little ‘too real’ for those of us that enjoy a warm Christmas glow is another matter.

Herringbone Kitchens: #LeroytheLamb

Canterbury-based family business Herringbone Kitchens decided to give John Lewis a run for their money this year with their very own lovable Christmas campaign, complete with catchy hashtag. The ad, which features an eager little girl whipping up a couple of morning pancakes for her lay about parents whilst being followed by a toy lamb, found itself featured in The Sun and The Mirror. 14,000 Facebook views later Herringbone is proudly flying the flag for independent businesses this Christmas.

Owner William Durrant said: “When the John Lewis advert is released we grab a cuppa and watch it together in the studio – it starts the Christmas season for us. It was just for a bit of fun but we’ve always wanted to do it and we could finally afford it this year.” It’s a cheesy ad, overlong and with some slightly ropey effects, but the sweet story is sure to win the hearts of viewers looking to shed a few happy tears this season. But did you actually look at the kitchen? Nope, neither did we.

Shape History: #FirstChristmas

This poignant advert for children’s hospice, Shooting Star Chase, pulls no emotional punches with this heart-wrenching story of a family coming to terms with their first Christmas without their son. Based on the true story of a family from Surrey who lost their son to cancer in 2011, the advert actually features his real photos and belongings.

Shape History executive director, Mike Buonaiuto said: “Retailers are annually pumping budgets of millions into Christmas advertising and it can distract away from the true meaning of the festive period. We wanted to essentially hijack that and remind the British public that the festive period is about looking out for the most vulnerable in society and being there for your nearest and dearest.” We wonder whether a slightly less obvious approach would have done more justice to this story, but with over 30,000 views on Youtube and 400,000 views on Facebook this emotive video is certainly making an impact.

Greenpeace NZ: Coca Cola

 When you think of your all-time favourite Christmas adverts we’re willing to bet a figgy pudding that Coca Cola’s ‘Holidays are Coming’ makes the list. For years the sight of that brightly lit red truck driving through the trees has evoked almost as much excitement as the big day itself. But this year Greenpeace have taken it upon themselves to hijack the soft drink giant’s big PR push by releasing this effective ad on the very same day.

The ads begins with the familiar scenes of fairy lights in the snow, happy family gatherings and of course a child gazing through the window as the iconic truck passes by. But all is not as it seems. In a darkly comic twist the truck pulls up onto the beach, only to dump it’s cargo into the sea. Greenpeace said the film, produced by creative agency Weekend, would be sent to its supporters, as well as being “dotted around the internet for a number of Coke enthusiasts to stumble across”. With over 1 million views on Facebook so far this clever campaign certainly seems to be making some waves. A polished production that takes a strong concept and runs with it, this video has a ‘Like’ from us. But it sure has made us thirsty…

Middletons: The Most Magical Time of Year

And finally, we couldn’t resist including our own festive offering. This feel-good ad for mobility furniture showroom, Middletons, is a guilt-free celebration of glitz and tinsel (sorry Talk Talk) as we follow various happy customers’ journeys through the store, including Santa himself. And no Christmas ad is complete without some canine antics threatening to steal the show courtesy of our favourite pug elf, Rolo.

“I’ve never seen a reaction like it” says company Founder Ricky Towler. With the focus firmly on products rather than tugging heartstrings this fairy-lit treat is guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Mince Pie anyone?


So what can we take from this years’ offerings? With some of the biggest players failing to make an emotional impact, could this be the beginning of the end of overblown Christmas TV marketing budgets? One thing’s for sure no other season sees so many consumers not only talking about adverts, but actively seeking out content. We predict that social media campaigns will play a more active role in campaigns in 2018.  Whatever the format, Christmas will remain the most magical time of year for marketers everywhere.

What’s Skylark Media’s opinion of this year’s biggest Christmas players? Watch our vlog to find out.


James Nov 23rd, 2017

About James Sampson

James is Creative Director at Skylark Media. He was assistant director for the likes of Casualty and Doctor Who, where he honed his knack for combining compelling storytelling with stunning visuals alongside production management. In his spare time he draws and paints, as well as storyboarding, editing and directing music videos for up-and-coming musicians.