'How Dua Lipa ended up voicing a Christmas pudding tree, I will never know' - 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. Today: Morrisons and Coca-Cola.

Panelists (L to R): Lotte Jones, Julian Obubo, Mandy Sharp, Steve Strickland and Sophie Raine
Panelists (L to R): Lotte Jones, Julian Obubo, Mandy Sharp, Steve Strickland and Sophie Raine

Morrisons

Morrisons' Christmas campaign, created by Publicis.Poke, celebrates the notion of family coming together, in spite of uncertainty about how the festive season will look this year.

Called 'Making Christmas', it is set to a soundtrack of Levitating by Dua Lipa. The film also makes reference to the supermarket’s food bank.

Julian Obubo, brand strategy director and partner, Manifest

I love that Morrisons' ad starts with what we'd all like to do: completely forget what a disaster 2020 has been and… turn up Due Lipa on the radio?

Apart from the masked Santa bobblehead, this ad could have run in any other year. The quick scene with the kid donating to a food bank reminds us that Christmas will be especially difficult for many this year. I would have liked to see them linger on this scene, or support the rollout of the ad with a call for donations to food banks.

It's pretty standard supermarket ad fare from then on – little hint of the pandemic with the nurse returning home from a Christmas Day shift. I have to say, that slice of turkey was criminally thin, and I do see some household mixing in there. Let's hope we're out of lockdown by Christmas.

Lotte Jones, partner, Freuds

Correct Morrisons, Christmas will indeed be special this year. That is as long as you define ‘special’ as something other than what it usually is. Not sure this ad really tells that story, though. Sure, we have Santa air freshener in a face mask (must add this little guy to my Christmas list) and a nurse coming through her front door, but other than these slightly-too-subtle cues the montage feels incongruent with, and potentially quite misrepresentative of, what Christmas will be like for most of us. Maybe my cynical heartstrings are resilient to the tugging from family scenes and kids doing karaoke, but with no story per se, or particular timely message to take away, it feels too generic to really stick in my memory.

Steve Strickland, co-founder, Talker Tailor Trouble Maker

Do you remember the days when supermarkets used to get X Factor singers to promote their Christmas range? Well, this is a bit like that, but instead of Sam Bailey and Diana Vickers, Morrisons has somehow managed to coax one of the world's biggest stars, Dua Lipa, into lending her tune to its Christmas campaign. How Dua Lipa ended up voicing a Christmas pudding tree I will never know, but it does the job of encouraging people to turn off the news and tune out for a day.

Again, there isn’t a huge amount of storytelling in the concept and, as a PR person, I would be walking the aisles looking for a hook; but it’s quite joyful and there is an argument to be made that we could all do with a bit more of that right now. It serves a purpose, it just doesn’t stand out. I preferred the work from the brand last year, which focused on giving back to the community and the part Morrison’s staff play in feeding vulnerable people – but perhaps that doesn’t feel different enough from every day this year. Maybe they’re right to say 'just levitate above it all, even for a day'.

Sophie Raine, managing director, consumer brands, Ketchum

"Morrisons, making Christmas special” says the end slide of the least special Christmas advert I have ever seen. I’ve had blood tests that have offered me more by way of excitement. Dua Lipa’s song Levitating, although catchy, hasn’t done much by way of elevating this bland-a-thon either. In fact, I’d like to be levitated to the set of Aldi’s carrot-infested Christmas ad to give me that dose of festive magic I so desperately need.

Mandy Sharp, founder and chief executive, Tin Man Communications

Well I, for one, would love to run away to another galaxy with Dua Lipa at the moment. And I suspect most of the country would happily join me. The opening scene of a van driver switching over the depressing 2020 radio news in favour of the happy Dua Lipa track will resonate with us all. This human insight creates an immediate emotional connection, because let’s be honest, 2020 can do one now.

Morrisons has created a simple yet smart ad here. While it's strategically included a couple of key shots – nod to food banks, check; nod to NHS workers, check; nod to TikTok dance du jour, check – the ad still feels real and doesn't try too hard. No shots of tables laden with plastic-looking food, no overt schmaltz; just a trolley full of diverse and nice-looking people having fun and celebrating Christmas together – which, even for a cynical Christmas scrooge PR like me, is surprisingly nice to watch.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola's festive film shows a father’s mission to deliver his daughter’s Christmas wish-list to Santa Claus.

The brand has enlisted Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi to direct the spot, which was created by Wieden & Kennedy London. The global ad was produced through Hungry Man, which appointed Waititi to its team in 2008. Media is handled by Wavemaker.

Mandy Sharp, founder and chief executive, Tin Man Communications

Production and direction-wise this ad does everything you’d expect from the traditional epic-style Coke ads we have become used to. Cinematic filming with blockbuster action and a sprinkling of Christmas magic at the end when dad reads the letter and Santa winks knowingly.

It’s cute and does the job, but it always jars with me when brands feel the need to slap their product into a shot that feels really unnatural. What sane man would take a glass bottle of Coke in his metal lunch box when he goes to work on a wind turbine plant in the middle of the ocean? Maybe it’s the mum in me, but this looks like disaster waiting to happen. However, returning to the magic of Christmas where these practicalities don’t matter, I quite like the ad. Yes, it’s a bit schmaltzy and a bit OTT, but it’s classic Coke and there is a nice feeling of familiarity that comes with that. It leaves you with that fuzzy festive glow we all look for from a Christmas ad.

Julian Obubo, brand strategy director and partner, Manifest

Only Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi could make me forget the blatant commercial nature of Coke ads. Set to some emotional strings, the ad tells the story of a rig-working father fighting the elements to deliver his daughter's letter to Santa on time. We're not quite sure where he departs from, but he journeys through about five different climes before he gets to Santa's outpost at the North Pole. It's then revealed that all his kid wanted was for him to be home for Christmas. Cue the tears.

Such a simple story, executed perfectly – yes, with the production budget only Coca-Cola could afford. I think it truly underscores that Christmas is all about time spent with the people we love most (and that Santa needs an email address).

Your move, Pepsi.

Lotte Jones, partner, Freuds

The simple narratives are always the best! And when they’re brought to life by a world-famous director with cinematic flare, it serves to remind us what Christmas is all about – that’s right, sentimentality and big budgets. The 10-year-old in me really misses the annual Christmas milestone of hearing the ‘Holidays are coming’ truck, but as departures from well-worn paths go, this treads a lovely line between being visually weighty and story-rich. It’s a win from me.

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