This season’s 5 worst Christmas commercials

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 11 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 25-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours. 

‘Tis the season when all the brands put on their red and green singlets and crowd into a no-holds-barred cage match to determine who is the champion of goddamn heartfelt spiritually.

It’s getting worse every year, mostly thanks to the Brits embarrassing level of love for the holiday, which has begot John Lewis’ now annual ritualistic “raising” of the Christmas commercial “joy” bar which has inspired forced other brands to step up and make fools of themselves.

Here is the humbuggery, in no particular order.

Apple: “Frankie’s Holiday” (2:00)

“‘Twas the nightmare before Christmas, and all through town, the people ran in terror, crapping their long johns brown.”

Nice Halloween spot, Apple. But shouldn’t the monster have had orange bulbs to screw into his neck sockets?

Apple signs off with the lame line “Open your heart to everyone.” Yes, even to monsters. All monsters? ISIS? Neo-Nazis? Yes, that’s the message, Scrooge.

Admittedly, the ad (via TBWA/Media Arts Lab) is perfectly executed by director Lance Acord, who in 2013 won an Emmy for Apple with “Misunderstood,” a Santa pants-load of cookie crap that featured the unlikeliest teenager in the history of humanity.

Hey Tim Cook? Wanna give us a present? How bout a little less built-in planned obsolescence in your pretty, overpriced products?

Aldi: “Kevin The Carrot” (1:00)

The discount supermarket chain, via their global agency McCann, has produced some of the best recent retail commercials with its “like brands, only cheaper” campaign. (This 2011 “Tea” spot is wonderful.)

Unfortunately, Aldi strayed, badly, from its campaign strategy with this holiday ad featuring an animated carrot named Kevin. (This is a U.K. spot. Why not carrot-topped Harry?)

On his quest to the chimney, Kevin views some of his cut and shredded dead and dying relatives (???), and starts a fire that maybe, later, burns the house down.

He reaches his destination but falls asleep. He wakes dangling in front of fatso’s lead reindeer … so he becomes an animal torturer and — maybe, hopefully, with a hard enough gust of wind — eaten alive.



Lexus: December To Remember, “Forgery” (:30)

There are five spots in this heinous campaign by agency Team One. The linchpin is: Selfish parents manipulate their children to scam a Lexus from Santa. Above, mommy is forging her son’s Dear Santa letter. Campaign copy line: “If you’re going to wish … wish big.” More accurate: “If you’re going to asshole … asshole big.” Watch the other four equally nauseating spots on Adweek. If you’ve been thinking of dropping off the grid or becoming a monk, watching these ads could be the final sign you’ve been looking for.

Mercedes-Benz: “Snow Date” (1:00)

Ah, young, super-affluent love. Set-for-life kids so into each other that nothing can keep them apart. Not the weather, not a rich, lazy-ass probably-alcoholic dad, not even a depressing as death sound track (“Make You Feel My Love” by Sleeping At Last). “Wait, Dad, give me a Benjamin for snacks.” Poor people with crap cars? Stay home, unloved. Untargeted.

Macy’s: “Old Friends”

A stalkery Santa leaves the Macy’s parade and flies north, to the country. He, of course, knows when you are sleeping, and he finds you, dozing. Don’t bother getting up, old man. He can reach you. (I’m not the only one who feels this way about this creepy spot.) Agency: BBH New York.

Lastly, in the spirit of the season, here is a present for you: one (1) holiday campaign that I like.

HotelTonight—”Tony” (:20)

The ads are for mobile booking app HotelTonight (by San Francisco agency Odysseus Arms). They win because they deliver a truth simply that hits home with everyone this time of year. Technically, these are Thanksgiving ads, but whatever. See a second video, “Becca,” and print executions here on Adweek.

OK, sue me, I also liked this holiday commercial via Harvey Nichols titled “Britalia.” It’s a scene from a Luigi Pirandello play with funny, incorrect Harvey Nichols subtitles. It works. Agency: adam&eveDDB.

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