'I’ve seen more emotion in a Chris Whitty PowerPoint slide' - PRWeek UK Christmas campaign panel

PRWeek UK has assembled a team of creative comms experts to critique some of this year's major festive campaigns, especially those from the big retailers. We start with the new offering from Asda.

Panel (clockwise from top left): Andrew Soar, Sophie Raine, Steve Strickland and Mandy Sharp

Asda has brought back real-life superfan Sunny for this year's price-focused Christmas campaign.

Sunny and his family previously featured in the supermarket’s price relaunch and Halloween campaigns earlier this year. Created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the Christmas spot sees another amateur performance from Sunny as he takes advantage of Asda’s low prices during the festive season.

Our panel give their views below:

Sophie Raine, consumer brand MD, Ketchum

I’m sure the media buying agency were chuffed to bits that they secured the first spot. Sadly the creative is an injustice to these efforts. Is Asda’s ad real and relatable? Definitely yes. Do I want it to be? Absolutely not.

Christmas is supposed to be our light at the end of the tunnel, our beacon of hope, our ray of comfort and that needs to radiate from the first festive ad we see. We should be transported into a magical Christmas dimension where we can escape from our crap reality, where we can laugh and cry at the same time. What we don’t need is to follow an annoyingly average northern bloke as he completes several annoyingly average festive tasks (and leers inappropriately close to a green cake riddled with e-numbers). If you’re going to go first then for God’s sake give us some magic, we are crying out for it.

Andrew Soar, creative director, Ogilvy

We are all back in our favourite couch chill position settling in for Lockdown 2; you know, a bit like Speed 2: Cruise Control - a sequel none of us wanted.

Mix that with the latest series of “What The F Will Donald Do Next?” and I think it’s fair to say we are all in need of some light relief. So, let’s get this Christmas ad season started! *feigns hysteria*

The first of the major supermarkets out the traps is Asda, back with its super fan Sunny and his “real life” family. Spoiler alert: Sunny is actually Burnley actor and funny man Muzz Khan. Hope I haven’t shattered too many hearts.

The ad is safe. It’s not going offend. But it also isn’t going to light up your bonfire night, but it will leave you wondering “what would that ‘Bruce the Brussel Sprout’ cake taste like?”

Steve Strickland, co-founder, Talker Tailor Trouble Maker

I sent this opinion on the Asda Christmas ad quite late in the day and that’s because I opened it, watched it and immediately forgot about it. I get that presenting 'normal' might well be the big idea, and we’ll all find a level of comfort in the thought that Christmas won’t actually look that different but honestly, I’ve seen more emotion in a Chris Whitty PowerPoint slide.

My guess is given the uncertainties in retail performance, Asda may well have asked its brilliant agency to downplay Christmas, to ensure they aren’t running a massive ad one day and a redundancy story the next. It could well be an astute PR-lead decision. And the less said about the Christmas lights that look like a pocket but actually really look like a face-mask, the better.

Mandy Sharp, founder and CEO, Tin Man

I know that this year’s festivities will be different but, wow, this feels a million miles away from last year’s high production and magical Christmassy medley from Asda. On one hand I like the fact it’s stripped back and raw as it feels tonally appropriate for now and for a brand like Asda there is a danger of anything too OTT feeling tasteless in the current environment.

However, that said, this ad feels a bit cringey, the acting is stilted and the whole vibe is reminiscent of the old ‘real people’ Halifax ads of 2001. I was hoping for more. Surely, the pocket-tapping teams at Asda could have still brought some magic to our screens on a COVID-friendly budget. Asda, where is the sparkle and fairy dust? Think we need it more this year than ever.

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