Your Granddad died so you could buy our rosemary foccacia you ungrateful fucks, so get out there and start shopping.
Around this time last year I wrote a piece about adverts and specifically the John Lewis ad “The Bear and the Hare”. Here it is if you fancy a quick shufty- https://jamienory.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/the-bear-the-hare-the-bucket-of-brain-parasites/
This year though things have stepped up, like they’re a part of some shitty dance based film franchise. I just had to google the “step up” movies to make sure I got that right, so you better have appreciated that reference based joke. If not, we could be in for a badass dance off to settle matters.
I do not know if they actually do that in the films.
Not only do we have various newspapers, a host of TV shows and an endless stream of websites harping on about how we must watch the new John Lewis advert because it will allow us to experience emotions. There is now competition for the role of “feels generator”. Sainsburys have brought out a Christmas ad in a similar mawkish style. Social media is now full of people saying that one ad made them feel warm and tingly inside, much like the Ebola virus; whilst the other made them start seeping bodily fluids in an uncontrollable way, much like the Ebola virus.
It seems the Christmas advert as a cultural event is a fully entrenched part of our society now. I know there are many worse problems. But still, think about that for a second. Adverts being cultural events. What the fuck are we coming to when people genuinely consider this to be a cultural highlight of their year?
The adverts in question are just as nauseatingly saccharine on the surface as last years Bear&Hare nonsense. Designed to push certain buttons in the hope you’ll walk into the shop, throw your wallet at the tills screaming “Thank you for the emotions!” whilst you fall to your knees, weeping openly as twenty pound notes fall around you like snow. The ambition is that eventually you won’t even want any goods in return, just the privilege of paying to be emotionally manipulated by a baked bean merchant.
This year, John lewis have brought us the tale of a love sick penguin. They figured the animated animals with a tinkly piano cover song worked for them last time, so they warmed up that turd for another year.
The penguin in question is palling around with a young boy. The kid is into the usual childhood things and this increasingly bores the penguin, who keeps being distracted by adult couples and stares longingly. There’s a real sense that they are growing apart and the boy starts to realise this.
So he does the natural thing that anyone would do when they realise that their friend is lonely and wanting a more meaningful relationship. He goes out and buys him a wife. Or his mum does, it’s not very clear. Nothing really says ‘romance’ and ‘love’ like a mail order bride. Shipped in from the Antarctic, the female penguin is alone in an alien culture and stranded in a climate that’s not ideal for penguins for most of the year, forced to shack up with some guy she’s never even met before. Awwww, adorable…
Sainsburys, meanwhile, seems to have edged them this year, tying their ad in with everybody’s favourite feel good event of the last century- the First World War.
They depict a rather idyllic front line. A flurry of snow flutters down amongst the lamp lit soldiers, all handsome, well nourished young chaps in spotless uniforms, who join together in a bit of Christmas Eve karaoke. Even the Germans are at it. Isn’t Crimbo wonderful? There’s not a severed limb hanging from barbed wire in sight, let alone ghastly corpses lying about messing up the battlefield. It’s important to have the place clean at Christmas, especially if you’ve got guests coming.
I’m not saying the advert should have gone all Saving Private Ryan, that’s WWII. It just shouldn’t have been about the war. Any war. War is horrific, not a thing of hope and joy as depicted here, and definitely not a thing to be used to sell more mince pies. As Harry Patch, Britain’s last surviving soldier from World War One said- “War is organised murder, and nothing else”. In a way, I’m glad he’s not around to see it.
But Jim and Otto do the unthinkable, they climb out of their trenches and meet in no man’s land, joined tentatively by the massed ranks behind them. Except it wasn’t really unthinkable, it was a common occurrence throughout the war. The soldiers in both sets of trenches had far more in common with each other than with those ordering them to shoot or face being shot and labelled a coward in death. But let’s not let that get in the way of a sentimental Christmas advert with the intention of getting you to buy from a specific retailer.
Jim shows Otto a photo of the woman who he’ll likely go home to and abuse, as he’s unable to cope with the mental trauma of surviving the war. Then a football game breaks out, and just before the fourth official holds up his electronic board to indicate how much injury time is being added on, the war rumbles back into swing. The soldiers return to their respective trenches, but not before good ol’ Jim can slip a bar of chocolate into Otto’s coat pocket. “Christmas is for sharing” fades onto the screen. Someone should have told Otto, the selfish prick didn’t get Jim anything.
It’s all a bit horrendous really, the exploitation of an event that killed more than 16 million people, and injured another 20 million. But we’re told it’s all ok, as the advert was made in partnership with the Royal British Legion and their red poppy appeal. An organisation that is so committed to looking after soldiers affected by war that they have one of the worlds biggest weapons manufacturers, Lockheed Martin, as a key sponsor. They want to provide help and welfare to the serving and ex-Service community so much that they will help create more dead and injured soldiers to look after. And in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?