Sunday, November 16, 2014

Penguins and Chocolate for Christmas

Christmas adverts are a unique phenomenon to the UK - there really isn't anything like them in the States.  Since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving across the pond, there isn't an event in the calendar to formally kick off the holiday season, and fervor starts building in early November.  I've already gotten an email about the opening of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and my friends on Instagram are posting photos of London in its full twinkly glory.  The real launch, though, at least commercially, are the Christmas adverts that the major department stores and grocery stores put out.

Jon calls it a competition; every ad tries to make viewers sob without making them feel like they're being manipulated.  Of course, every ad is selling a brand along with the story and, often, a specific product that's created solely for the purpose of the ad.  Case in point: the penguin in the John Lewis advert below costs £95 and sold out within days of the advert's launch.  And every hour Sainsbury's sells 5,000 of the chocolate bars featured in its advert, which benefit the British Legion.  There's a fine line between cynical commercialism and sentimentality - Jon mocks both of the below ads mercilessly, but they make me weep.  How about you, dear readers?  Do you feel played, like Jon does, or are you moved?






18 comments:

  1. There is a lovely song about that Christmas truce. Here's a link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTXhZ4uR6rs

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  2. I'm with you Betsy - certainly teary-eyed :)

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  3. I like the Sainsbury's one just because it's one of my favorite WWII stories, and not for the sentimentality. I think too often when discussing WWII and its place in history we're quick to condemn all Germans as Nazis, when, in fact, many of the young men and boys fighting in the trenches were just that- young men and boys, trying to keep their families from being targets (as they would have been should the young men have refused to fight) and following their country's lead, even if ignorantly and blindly. It's easy to sanctify the ones who stood against the Third Reich and powers that were, but (even if you want to call it cowardly), some could only keep their heads down, follow the crowd, and try to survive.
    I don't in any way ever defend the SS, Third Reich, or Nazis- but after my 8th grade German teacher told us about his father hiding their little family at a distant relative's farm in the middle of the Black Forest when he was forced to enlist, I realized that a lot of those men were just individuals, trying to save themselves and their families. And the Christmas story is the most humanizing one we have by which to remember that.
    Anyway. That's why I don't think it's cheesy or sappy. Maybe Sainsbury's using it is, but donating the proceeds from the chocolate bars is a poignant way of reminding us times haven't changed all that much.

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  4. The Sainsbury advert is placed during WW 1. It clearly states 1914 right at the opening.
    I personally find both ads pretty lame.

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  5. so... yes, it is WWI :P but I take your point!

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  6. huh, lame I haven't heard before! manipulative, yes, but not lame. why so?

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  7. MONTY JUST WANTS A PENGUIN TO LOVE. WAHHHHHHH.

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  8. so much about WWI is heartbreaking - have you read All Quiet On The Western Front? destroys me every time.

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  9. I think the Sainsbury's ad is beautifully filmed, well acted and certainly emotional. The only thing that makes me feel a bit icky is that WWI is an immense tragedy and I feel strange about it being used to sell groceries? On the flip side, it's for charity and it had the British Legion's approval so I guess I should shut up.


    Monty, however, makes me weep. WEEP. Seriously. Sam now flips the channel if it comes on because I get so teary. It's my favourite of all the emotional John Lewis commercials since they started owning Christmas commercials a few years ago. I have a panda bear that was like Monty to me when I was little (okay, I still have him. He might live in my room) so I guess I really identify with it. And also now I want a Monty penguin. This ad works on every level for me. x

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  10. Yeah, I acknowledged that error on Twitter, sorry I didn't comment back here and admit my mistake.

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  11. I thought they were both very sweet! I'm definitely holding back tears over here. I'm with Gesci too. That's one of my favorite WWI stories.

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  12. I love John Lewis, year after year. Like, I start the countdown in October to when it will air. Love them. And love the penguin this year. I think the Sainsburys ad was good, emotional, but not sure I loved it.

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  13. My husband worked for Waitrose(under John Lewis) as a kid and always sends me their Christmas advert. He's a pretty skeptical guy too when it comes to these things, but he was treated well by them and always likes to shop their and support them. I think they're really sweet, but I also know I am buying into something. I think a company can sell something in an advert and still be genuine about the sentiment that they're trying to convey, don't you? (:

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  14. Haha...I realized that writing 'as a kid' makes Peter sound like a child labor sob story... He was not, in fact, a child at the time.

    Also, I used the wrong there ... I need to stop commenting via my iPhone!

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  15. There has been a lot of controversy over the Sainsbury's advert, but I have to say that it is a beautiful reminder of humanity during such a horrific and tragic time.

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  16. I'm way too into the John Lewis advert every year, but I'm a sap! I think last year's is my favorite but he penguin one is pretty darn cute. I think the Sainsbury's ad is quite a tear jerker but cute animals get me every time.

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  17. Both had me in floods of tears! I have to say the UK kills it when it comes to Christmas adverts!

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