'The Christmas ad winner by a country mile' – PRWeek Xmas panel on Aldi, Amazon and Coke

PRWeek's panel of creative comms experts cast their eyes over another trio of festive campaigns.

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)

Aldi, 'A Christmas carrot'

#JusticeforKevin, #NoKevinNoChristmas and #BringBackKevin are but a few of the hashtags that have circled the web since Aldi dropped the bombshell that its lovable 3p carrot had been put to bed.

But that's precisely the reaction the supermarket and McCann UK were after. For five chapters, the British public has followed Kevin's antics, whether he be riding on Santa’s bike, saving his lover from a rumbling train, producing baby Chantenays or taking on a bunch of villainous sprouts, aptly named The Leafy Blinders.

Kim Allain, creative lead, MSL UK

I think this is my favourite Christmas ad. It really is.

Ebanana Scrooge. Marcus Radishford feeding the kids. How can you not love it? The puns throughout the story are great. Fairytale of New York as the backing – always a stellar song choice. And the ever-relevant message of just be kind. Bringing Christmas nostalgia and empathetic sentiment of the current day together in one beautiful ad.

Janelle Feliciano, creative director, The Romans

'A Christmas carrot' is basically one big dad joke. And I’m usually bah-humbug to that type of wordplay. But I guess that freakin' cute Pokémon-looking baby banana was enough to melt my icy Cynical Director heart and so I just rolled with the puns.

Aldi, you’re not my favourite four-letter supermarket this Christmas, but I’ll take note and just be nice for a change.

Jo Chappel, creative director, Fever

The rest of the Christmas ads can beet it: Kevin’s back and on a mission to show the bruised and bitter Ebanana Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas. Forget porky Percy running amok, Jenna and Adele – a bunch of animated fruit and veg are the real stars this year.

I love this ad. Packed with punnets of puns and star cameos from Aldi-verse, this is pure festive joy. Marcus Rashford serves up the star power as the voice of Marcus ‘Radishford’ (A* punning) and, unlike the pairing of Marks & Spencer and Tom Holland, the relationship isn’t just for Christmas.

A modern twist on a classic story; The Pogues, poignant words voiced by Jim Broadbent and a significant charity partnership. The only thing missing was Cob Cratchitt.

Greg Double, creative director, Engine Mischief

If you get Marcus Rashford in your Christmas advert you’re winning… if you get him to voice a philanthropist vegetable called Marcus Radishford, you’ve won. It’s not the first reimagination of A Christmas Carol, but with elite punning throughout, a cameo for long-time favourite Kevin the Carrot and a genuinely lovely cause showcased, this was really good. Ebenezer good.

STOP PRESS: I’ve just been alerted that Cuthbert the Caterpillar features in the advert too… getting arrested. This isn’t just Ebenezer good, it’s Ebenezer great. An Easter egg for Christmas? Take a bow.

Sasha Marks, board director, Brazen

Oh Kevin, the carrot that keeps on giving. Six years in and still going strong. The clever people at Aldi kept us guessing as to whether or not he’d had the chop, this year,
in its teaser ad featuring new character Ebanana.

But Kevin’s back and joined by possibly the only person on the planet who is more loved right now: Marcus Rashford MBE – another point for its well-timed release.

It’s fun, festive and filled with personality and purpose in equal measure – the use of The
Pogues soundtrack was the icing on the (Christmas) pudding.

Did anyone spot Cuthbert the Caterpillar getting arrested? Pure genius. M&S should totally offer to bail him out, in the spirit of kindness and Christmas 'n' all that.

Relevant, timely, cheeky and charming. The Christmas ad winner by a country mile.

Rachel O'Malley, senior creative, FleishmanHillard UK

Nailed it. Eighty seconds of comedy Christmas brilliance. A classic Christmas story retold with CGI Aldi fruit and veg products, puns galore, the pure genius of Ebanana, possibly the best Christmas song ever playing in the background, and a brilliant reference to a bit of internet-breaking brand rivalry as we see Cuthbert the Caterpillar getting arrested in the background. Actually felt a bit like being at a pantomime. Loved.

Nick Woods, partner, Sunny Side Up

I began by thinking the rehashing of an almost 200-year-old story felt lazy. But Aldi’s partnership with Marcus Rashford and Neighbourly to donate 1.8m meals to families in need this Christmas is both real and hugely admirable. I also really like that it’s a banana at the heart of the story – who says fresh, healthy fruit can’t play a role at Christmas? The whole thing feels like this is a brand with its eyes and ears open, aware of its role in the world and to the world many of its shoppers live in this Christmas.

Amazon kindness campaign

Amazon launched its global Christmas push on 8 November – a 60-second spot centring on the theme of kindness and the difference it can make to people's lives.

The spot follows a young woman going about her everyday life, returning to a somewhat normal routine after nearly two pandemic-ridden years. Frequently, though, moments of should-be happiness are tainted by anxiety and worry. Through chance interactions, her neighbour notices her distress and sends her a gift – a small gesture, which allows for a moment of connection. The ad underlines its message with the line: “Kindness. The greatest gift of all.”

The ad was created by Lucky Generals, directed by Trey Edward Schults and produced by Jacob Swan Hyam through Academy Films. A snippet of the Adele song Hold On provides the soundtrack to the ad.

Janelle Feliciano

I wish this wasn’t an ad.

I was really enjoying this short film. The sound design and camera work really makes you realise the communal PTSD we all, to some degree, have acquired.

But then I get reminded that this isn’t a Sundance write-up and I work in comms when I hear the unnecessary background kitchen radio explain the cultural insight the strategist put in the brief.

The payoff isn’t great, nor very natural. Was a bird feeder really what she needed? Surely Bezos offers a blow-up therapist on next-day delivery?

Sasha Marks

Continuing the theme of kindness, Amazon’s ad definitely pulled on my heartstrings and that
"Thank you" at the end tipped me over the edge. But it was all a bit depressing, wasn’t it? And I don’t want to feel sad at Christmas. We’ve had enough shit to deal with all year; just give us a giggle and make us feel good!

I did smile at the similarity to Home Alone and the friendship Kevin struck with ‘pigeon lady’ in the park. But other than that, it left me feeling flat rather than festive.

Amazon + Adele = award for the most depressing Christmas ad, ever.

Nick Woods

How Amazon has the gall to run a campaign about kindness this year when last Christmas it was reported it took on thousands of temporary workers but breached its own policy and put them on zero-hour contracts is astonishing. And how the ad agency didn’t recognise that a company that reportedly still isn’t kind enough to pay corporation tax in the UK isn’t really in a position to come out with this guff is beyond me (Margaret Hodge MP, May 2021: “It seems that Amazon’s relentless campaign of appalling tax avoidance continues”).

Trumpian in its cynicism.

Rachel O'Malley

I spent the first half of this thinking she had a hearing problem and struggling to see how Amazon could help with that, and the second half rolling my eyes when the pandemic-induced anxiety theme came through. Also, it looks like it was shot in summer. And there’s zero Christmas in it – even the parcel was just an Amazon parcel. And it seemed really really long… did I watch the right thing?

Jo Chappel

A relatable story of Christmas present; readjusting to life after the pandemic and coming through the other side with a little help from a kind neighbour and a dose of nature. Managing to strike a more nuanced chord than I’d expect from a Christmas ad, it’s a simple and sweet story cinematically shot.

Featuring a preview of Adele’s latest song brings attention to what is otherwise a very (maybe too...) low-key ad. Using this prime spot as a platform to shine a light on the anxiety many of us are experiencing as we face this ‘normal’ Christmas is noble. But without any clear partnership, or wider campaign with a mental-health charity, the ad ultimately feels as empty as an Amazon box come Christmas Eve.

Greg Double

When Asda’s 'Delivering kindness' campaign cleaned up last year, it was because of this exact insight – Christmas can be lonely, the best gift is kindness. A cynic may suggest that Amazon might not be the right company to be delivering this message (in fact, even Amazon seem to know this, given it turned off the comments on its YouTube channel), but I’m not a cynic – as a piece of content it’s heart-warming, topical and moving.

Also, they got Adele.

Coca-Cola, 'Real Magix at Christmas'

Coca-Cola is celebrating the magic of community with the tale of a young boy who brings his apartment block together at Christmas time. Created by DentsuMB UK, the campaign will run in more than 90 markets. For the first time in Coca-Cola's history, its long-running Father Christmas character is making a real-life debut on Cameo, with virtual appearances and personalised videos.

Janelle Feliciano

At the 2:13 mark, the only thing my brain was yelling was: please don't be a Coke bottle – and you delivered!! So no coal for you guys.

I bet you the Amazon creatives wrote a similar ad that is now sitting in their bottom drawer (aka The Bin of Dreams) because the clients said something about their sustainability credentials being at risk. Even though making creative use of the unsightly number of Amazon boxes makes more sense than Coke doing it, but whatever.

It’s got that right amount of nostalgic '90s Christmas film magic, plus I do like that Coca-Cola has moved on from being so self-serving. Wait, does this mean the Coca-Cola Christmas Trucks aren't a thing any more?

Rachel O'Malley

Went into this one fully prepared to hate it because it’s Coke. Anyway, it’s another one with a Mary Poppins theme (Chim Chim Cher-ee is the theme tune, just in case you weren’t a hardcore Poppins fan as a kid) and not only did I like it, my eyes started stinging halfway through, and by the end I had to go and get a tissue. FINALLY. The whole thing tied beautifully into the brand's purpose of sharing, no one referenced COVID-19, the theme tune was nostalgic, there’s an old lady and a young kid making friends, people are supporting each other, and it’s beautifully shot. There’s nothing not to love.

Jo Chappel

As someone who saves every cereal box and egg carton ‘just in case’ and loves her glue gun, this ad spoke to my unrealised crafting aspirations.

With only a couple of nods to the product in question, for me the story and execution came together beautifully to deliver against the new ‘Real magic’ brand platform; eschewing the (whispers) made-up magic of Christmas for the messy real-life stuff that can happen when you bring a community together around a shared creative vision.

The ad chimes perfectly with the current mood and the emotional pay-off at the end isn’t overly fizzy without falling flat. Why the little boy didn’t just knock on his neighbour’s door to invite her round I don’t know, but where would the fun be in that? The little boy brought the whole building together through the medium of crafting. Real creativity.

Sasha Marks

Another ad with kindness at its heart. Very similar to Amazon in sentiment, tapping into the
importance of local communities and connections in a post-COVID world.

Cute characters, nice narrative and will no doubt really resonate with the family audience.

Is it even Christmas without the Coca-Cola red truck and ‘holidays are coming’ jingle,

Greg Double

As a kid who didn’t have a chimney growing up, interrogating Santa’s delivery methods was an annual pastime – so the core idea of chimney construction really made me smile. My only ‘bah, humbug’ moment is that the same core creative could have been shot with tower blocks in Brixton, Birmingham or Bognor Regis and immediately felt more relatable. Instead it felt like a global advert with a very all-American steer, when just a smidge of regionalisation would show the audience that you ‘get’ how they do Christmas. Lastly, for the older millennial, surely there could have been a cameo for the truck and the 'Holidays are coming' jingle? Unbelievable.

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