'Bah humbug. And worse, yawn' – PRWeek Christmas panel on Asda, Lidl and Argos

With festive campaigns dropping as thick and fast as snow in a blizzard at the North Pole, PRWeek's Christmas panel casts its critical eye over the next selection.

 Clockwise from top left: Kim Allain, Nick Woods, Rachel O'Malley, Greg Double, Janelle Feliciano, Jo Chappel, Charlie Coney and Sasha Marks (centre)
Clockwise from top left: Kim Allain, Nick Woods, Rachel O'Malley, Greg Double, Janelle Feliciano, Jo Chappel, Charlie Coney and Sasha Marks (centre)

Read the panel's views on Christmas campaigns from John Lewis, M&S and Boots here.

Asda, 'Asda on ice'

A family manoeuvres through all its big Christmas season moments on ice skates in Asda's festive spot.

Set to a new imagining of Ravel's Bolero, the 60-second ad by Havas was choreographed by Dancing on Ice associate creative director and three-time winner Daniel Whiston.

Kim Allain, creative lead, MSL UK

And that’s why mums shop at Ice… Oh, sorry, Asda. From the skating fridges to the finger foods to the yummy mummies drinking on the photocopier machines, all it was missing was Peter Andre. Now, I don’t think this is a bad ad. Not in the least. I audibly said "Awww…" when the Christmas pud and the flame (was it a flame?) held hands. It just wasn’t an Asda ad – it was an Iceland one. Defo the right ad, just the wrong brand.

Charlie Coney, creative strategy officer, UK and EMEA, Ogilvy PR

As someone who once accidentally skated over a colleague’s finger at a Christmas party (cue lots of blood and a trip to hospital), I can’t watch this without grimacing. It’s well-choreographed and visually impressive, but it left me as cold as the ice they’re skating over.

I get wanting to ‘evoke a feeling of Christmas’ and tapping into the cultural appeal of anything ‘on ice’, but not sure we needed the photocopier riding or dad getting stuck in the loft. And the two-and-a-half seconds of food footage (yes I counted) was about as appealing as an ice-skate manicure.

Janelle Feliciano, creative director, The Romans

Every single creative – including me – has pitched a “What if we turned (fill in any supermarket brand) into an ice rink for Christmas?” And every single one has been turned down by their well-meaning CD. But not this time!

Somehow it has glided into existence and now we know what it looks like. Unfortunately, it’s not spectacular; just kind of OK.

I was watching this one with my partner and he asked why the ‘Skip ad’ button wasn’t coming up. He said it, not me…

Nick Woods, partner, Sunny Side Up

Asda's campaign feels cliché-ridden and lacking any kind of identity – no clever script, no cute characters, no heartwarming story. WTChristmasF? I can almost see the Asda marketing execs hanging around on the edge of a studio in West London in July, bored senseless, watching filming. I don’t even like the script – who talks about “all the little days in between”? Bah humbug. And worse, yawn.

Jo Chappel, creative director, Fever

What’s more Christmassy than ice-skating? Ice-skating through the veggie aisle of your local supermarket. Iceland did it a few years ago, and now Asda.

Whilst Argos focuses on going big, Asda celebrates all the little moments that make up Christmas – on ice.

It’s a simple, if not hugely imaginative creative, that evokes the child-like wonder of Christmas. Icely done, Asda.

Sasha Marks, board director, Brazen

Asda’s done what Asda does best. There are no fancy aliens or futuristic spaceships and A-
lister actors have been replaced by Aunty Anne from down the road… it’s no-nonsense, no-frills and 100 per cent relatable.

Christmas is so much more than that one day. It’s two months of build-up and excitement,
with so much to enjoy along the way, and more so after last year’s shitshow – the school nativity and watching your child expertly playing the part of ‘the Christmas pud’; the office Christmas party where colleagues take turns to photocopy their ass(ets); festive decs, fireworks and food – and they’ve captured those occasions well.

Cute use of the Bolero tune and ice-skating theme – a sure-fire way to engage the Dancing On Ice audience. I can’t help but feel it’s missing Asda’s usual cheeky sense of humour, though.

I can see this campaign being amplified with Asda-sponsored (green) ice rinks up and down the country, with Asda Alpine cabins serving festive food and drinks.

It hasn't made me feel all warm and fuzzy, but maybe that’s just the ice?


Lidl, 'Big on Christmas you can always believe in'

Christmas in the distant future might take place on the Moon, when immortality is an option, and when households enjoy mod cons such as lightsaber carving knives… but some things remain the same. Namely, Christmas turkeys, and Lidl reassuring customers it is "Big on quality, Lidl on price".

That’s the premise of the German discounter's new Christmas ad, by Karmarama, which takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how a family might celebrate Christmas dinner decades into the future.

Nick Woods

Lovely insight: there is so much about Christmas that feels routine each year – same food, same guests, same jokes. But it’s presented with a Christmassy over-the-topness and reinforces the core proposition: good food and always at a price you can afford. Nice.

Kim Allain

I just dunno. I. Don’t. Know.

OK, big on quality, 'Lidl' on prices. I got that. And then after that I didn’t get it. Well, I did: time travel and always being good on price, but after that – no. Also, are we glamourising the slightly racist joke that uncle might say at the table? Not sure if anyone got the hint of it with the “Careful with that thing!” about the knife, but… I did. What the actual F? Embarrassing and just no.

Sasha Marks

Have the creative bods at John Lewis and Lidl been talking? What’s with the futuristic, outer-space theme running through both? Or have we all given up with life on earth and considered moving to another planet? Possible, TBF.

Either way, I quite liked this one. Upbeat soundtrack and the first one to make me chuckle, it struck the right balance of products, price and personality. Lidl has carved a place in the market for delivering consistently great value for money and that’s the clear message you take away here.

That and “That’s the best, worst Christmas jumper I’ve ever seen – how can I get me one of those?” According to Google Trends, searches soared the day the ad was released. Job done.

A great ‘Lidl’ Christmas ad.

Charlie Coney

A few weeks ago I read a rather peculiar article about creatives microdosing LSD and thought: "Nah, not for a decade or so."

Then I watched the Lidl Christmas ad and realised it’s already happened.

Jo Chappel

Fun and silly, in true Lidl spirit this ad isn’t trying hard to be too earnest or convey a meaningful message.

The fantastical picture of Christmas future is straight out of The Jetsons/a child’s imagination and serves up a welcome slop of escapism and futuristic festive fun.

If you were reading more into it you could ask why, in the future, the man carves the turkey from the head of the table whilst the woman pours the drinks and fumbles around with tech. But let’s not and instead appreciate the Jacobim Mugatu-inspired clothing we’re destined to wear.

Janelle Feliciano

I freaking love this – borderline bizarre, but super-coherent and simple. It’s all those little time warp details that make you want to watch it over and over again.

Scrap Tom Holland – this is where I’m going for my food shopping forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

Bravo Karmarama, you’ve tapped into a cultural Christmas truth, made me smile and reminded me that Lidl sells food. Now this is a Christmas ad.


Argos, 'Baubles to last year, Christmas is on'

Capturing the pure jubilation of Christmas, Argos is depicting all the ways British families across the country "go big" together, after the disappointment of the pandemic restrictions that were in place last year.

Created by The&Partnership, 'Baubles to last year, Christmas is on' features several vignettes. From the neighbour who’s always first to put decorations up and the person at work who starts wearing a Christmas jumper in October, to the promising sound of the delivery man at the front door, signifying the arrival of special gifts for loved ones, the ad is devised to reach out to families that love the festive period.

Sasha Marks

I’m not really sure where to start with this one.

I loved the Home Alone-house opening scene and the movie trailer format, which immediately made me think of The Holiday (best Christmas film ever?) And I loved the nostalgia of seeing the little boy circle items in the Argos catalogue (them were the days). But that’s pretty much where my enjoyment ended.

There was a lot going on, wasn’t there? Something about going big and saying "baubles to last year"?

Nice idea. Execution was messier than my little boy’s attempt at decorating the tree.

Kim Allain

Bloody hell, that was a lot. I feel like I watched it three times just to catch it all because it was like Christmas on steroids. And so it should be. It is exactly what everyone wants to see when Christmas was so shoddy last year – so, basically, just do the most. Even still, do way too much!

I will say, though, that the “this Christmas” action title bit made me look for the 'Skip ad' button in the left-hand corner and then realised… it was the ad. Also, viewers at home – don’t have 10,000 people turn up to Nana's this Christmas, as the ad suggests, because we are not out of the woods yet. Thinking about it: this ad could age horribly and we could all be (God forbid) back in lockdown. Let’s hope not, and hoping it is baubles to last year.

Janelle Feliciano

I love the tagline, but it just didn’t get the payoff it deserved. They could’ve gone cheekier with a line like that. Really giving last year the big fa la la la la.

Also, this line shape art direction needs to stop. I tried to stand up for you guys, but the pub consensus is that no one knows what these red boxes are for. Does it represent the catalogue, the logo, or is it a nod to how social media is everywhere and we watch everything on our phones? Whatever it is, that’s too many existential questions for a TV ad.

Jo Chappel

After the damp squib that was 2020, even this Christmas curmudgeon is going BIG on festive frivolity this year. Christmaaaas anthems on Shuffle. Sequins galore.

And I’m not the only one.

Argos leans into the nation’s collective need to blowtorch the memories of last year away and raise an eggnog to all those comforting/annoying Christmas rituals we missed out on.

I’m fully behind the ad’s "go big" mantra when it comes to putting in more effort this Christmas (the neighbours bringing a party to the old lady’s house is sweet), but what it really means is "buy more stuff", and that’s where it jars with what’s going on in the world right now.

And the execution is just a bit odd.

The Argos catalogue-inspired frames, Microsoft Clip Art-style confetti graphics and plodding “Na na, na na na” lyrics make the ad fall flat. (Re-used) baubles to that.

Charlie Coney

Having watched Elf at the weekend, it’s already Christmas in my head. That makes me a prime target for the Argos ad, a joyful celebration of everyone who likes going big at Christmas – from turkey flamethrowing to baubles in the beard and impromptu house parties round at grandma’s.

They’ve managed to weave products (and the catalogue – is that still a thing?) into the narrative in a way that feels in keeping with the brand. It’s fun, over the top and got me reaching for my Christmas playlist way earlier than usual.

Nick Woods

Love this. From the TV montage at the start to the "baubles to last year" line at the end, this is a picture of Christmas I know and kind of love. And yes, having had a Christmas canceled, this will be a Big One for most. The self-appointed chief Christmas officer at work that everyone else thinks is a twat, the nostalgic circling of *everything* in the Argos catalogue, the use of filters as mum gets the camera. Big high fives to Argos. Only them, only this year.

Greg Double, creative director, Engine Mischief

While a lot of brands have gone for a ‘don’t mention the pandemic’ approach, the same cannot be said for Argos. It's put its baubles on the line, stuck two fingers up at sentimentality and shamelessly prioritised the loosening of purse strings over the tugging of heartstrings. The message is clear: last year sucked, go big this year.

This approach may not be popular in the Whitty and Vallance households (especially the scene that suggests an army of unmasked townsfolk pop into Gran’s house) and its bombastic excess feels at odds with the collective bollocking the consumer received at COP26, but it also undeniably speaks the truth. People want to go big this year, because last year sucked.

Lockdown skewed household finances both ways. There was no shortage of hardship, but for a fifth of the population there is more disposable income available this year than last, and these people are especially pumped for Christmas this year. But regardless of income, 35 per cent of the population intend to go all out this Christmas to make up for what they missed in 2020.

This ad does a great job of showcasing not just a prevailing public sentiment, but a decidedly spenny and extensive product range. Argos hasn’t just got something for everyone; it’s good quality, techy presents for a reason. Argos has long been courting a more affluent audience and it’s for them that this rallying call feels most appropriate. Bore off caution, let’s buy cool stuff.

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