While this may be a holiday season like no other, it was still an incredibly important time for brands and retailers. And so, just like any other year, the past two months brought a rush of Christmas advertising to our TV screens.
The tone and tenor of much of the advertising felt a little different this year, and advertisers played with different themes (not surprisingly). But the intent was still the same: capture the attention (and the wallet) of consumers. Here’s a recap of some of the best food and grocery advertising from around the world this Christmas.
When you’re one of the biggest brands in the world you can afford to hire one of the hottest directors in the world and create a two-and-a-half-minute epic short (is that an oxymoron?) for your Christmas ad. In this case, it’s Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) presenting the story of a father who has to leave home for work, but ends up on an extraordinary journey to get his daughter’s letter to Santa. In the end, Santa returns dad (in a Coke truck) to his daughter and we find out the only thing she really wanted from Santa was to have her daddy home for Christmas.
Where Coca-Cola hired a famous director, Kroger hired a couple of famous actors for this endearing, nearly 10-minute “ad.” Actually, Jeff Goldblum has been working with Kroger for some time to produce a branded content series called “Cooking with Jeff Goldblum.” In this newest segment, Glodblum decorates Christmas cookies with Sterling K. Brown whose father, it turns out, worked at a Kroger: “It means something to me to be here, to have products from that store, to be able to give to other people.” The pair cover a number of topics with a focus on the holidays and the unique qualities of the season.
For its Noël ad, France’s grocery giant Intermarché produced this tear-jerking tribute to health care workers. The three-minute long short opens with a man arriving at a hospital by ambulance after having a stroke. A nearby nurse sees the anguish and worry on the faces of the man’s wife and son. The rest of the ad shows the nurse’s dedication to helping the man make his long recovery, calling the family with updates. So what makes it a grocery ad? The wife and son are seen preparing an elaborate meal to thank the hospital staff for saving the man's life.
For advertisers in the U.K., Christmas is like the Super Bowl here in North America with brands competing to produce the best ads that get everyone talking and sharing. This year, Tesco is a contender for one of the best, and it did so with some good natured cheek. The idea is that this year we’ve all suffered enough, so Santa isn’t worrying about a naughty list—everyone deserves treats this Christmas. The ad features people confessing to their COVID-specific misdemeanours: hoarding toilet paper, giving bad hair cuts. “I once forget to sing happy birthday when I washed my hands,” says one. But the narrator, says “It’s fine, there’s no naughty list, so tuck in.”
And if Christmas in Britain is like the Super Bowl for advertisers, John Lewis is the New England Patriots (the Tom Brady version). Every year much of Britain eagerly anticipates the John Lewis Christmas advert. And while John Lewis reportedly considered not even doing an ad this year because of the pandemic, it instead came up with a spot that celebrates kindness rather than shopping and gift giving. Aside from the unique message, the ad also uses an attention-grabbing creative approach, bouncing back and forth between human actors and animation for a series of charming and connected vignettes about giving and kindness.
The next two ads should be presented together or at least viewed sequentially. First, discount grocer Aldi brought back Kevin the Carrot, the featured character of its Christmas campaign for a few years. Much like Coca-Cola, the ad shows Santa bringing Kevin home to his adoring family. (A teaser ad showed Kevin in a jet fighter accident.) In the reveal ad Kevin is first rescued by a hedgehog and eventually delivered by Father Christmas. It’s charming and family friendly with a happy ending. Competitor Lidl on the other hand….
Lidl eschewed sentimentality for some very British tongue-in-cheek humour—including the stabbing of a carrot, which most inferred was Aldi’s Kevin. In the opening few seconds, the animated commercial seems to be following other formulaic festive fair, but turns sharply. The rest of the ad depicts a happy family Christmas dinner, but a woman sings a song about the great prices at Lidl, with lyrics that reference clichés of other Christmas ads. “We don’t need cutesy characters when carrots taste this good,” she sings at one point, as a dish of carrots is passed across a jam-packed table. A face is subtly visible on one carrot, and a tear trickles out of its eye before it is skewered by a fork.