If you turn on your television at this time of the year there’s a good chance you’ll contract a mild case of dyspepsia as you’re assailed by tinsel-bedecked commercials featuring portly incarnations of Santa Claus exhorting you to spend money on stuff you don’t need.
Festive season advertising in South Africa is, by and large, a horrible and terrible thing. It’s as if all creative and strategic thought has been put on hold as brands resort to cliché after cliché punctuated by big font price offers and whirling logos.
Agencies and their clients should be ashamed of themselves and perhaps take a leaf from the UK where department stores outdo each other to create work that is meaningful, powerful and memorable. Sainsbury’s – Christmas is for Sharing has been made in partnership with the Royal British Legion and in a moving narrative commemorates the events of the first Christmas Day spent at war in 1914. It’s a retell of a well-known story where opposing armies downed their weapons and met in no-man’s land to exchange gifts and play football.
While there has been some criticism of exploiting the war for commercial purposes, the ad is still a powerful reminder of the true purpose of Christmas and positions the Sainsbury’s brand as one that cares deeply for its customers.
For many in Britain the festive season officially begins when the John Lewis Christmas advert first airs and this year’s effort has the hallmarks of a classic. A cute child, a melodic cover of a famous song, snow and a penguin called Monty. The ad creates a glow and a feeling of excitement and expectation.
And after last year’s surreal Alice in Wonderland campaign, Marks & Spencer has erred on the side of caution this year as it follows two fairies, Magic & Sparkle, on their daily cheer-spreading rounds. Another example of commercial watchability.
Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, Harvey Nichols' Christmas film tells the story of Snow White and Rose Red, sisters bound by an unconditional familial bond. It has a happily-ever-after ending in what has been described as a super-chic pantomime.
Now we all know television advertising in South Africa is going through a crisis of confidence and budget, but surely some of the better known brands can flex their creative muscles and unlock a little budget at the busiest time of the year and where customers are more likely to be influenced and ready to open their wallets.
Right now if one more Santa grins at me and rings a bell, I’ll throw a frozen turkey at the screen.