Christmas ads need more sugar.
I’ve been accused of being furiously unsentimental. I toss away cards like confetti. I leave family heirlooms on the loading dock of the Goodwill. But, despite that, I’ve always had an inexplicable love for Christmas and its direct connection to my childhood. I’m not alone in that feeling. I imagine most people connect this time of year back to their youth.
And advertisers know it.
The best Christmas ads tap into our pasts. The candy-coated memories of our childhood drive us even today. It's a bit melancholy actually. The tinseled innocence, the wide-eyed Christmas morning reveal—they’re gone. Sure, when you have kids, you get a taste. But let’s be honest: it’s methadone. Great holiday advertising understands that. It banks on it. It expects that we’ll do our best to buy back a little piece of our holiday memories, one Xbox game at a time.
So they reel us in by transporting us back. They capture the feelings we had in easier times. They help us forget about four-dollar-a-gallon gas and 24-hour news cycles of recession and depression. If we squint, we can practically see Christmas Past in every frame. And there’s no coincidence that many of the ads unfold from the point of view of the child. What better lens to gaze at the magic of Christmas through than that of a kid? No sarcasm. No cynicism. Just an unwavering, unqualified love of Christmas Eve, Santa – and a haul of toys under the tree large enough to cripple a pack mule.
The newest spot for UK-based John Lewis department stores nails it, capturing that nuclear-grade anticipation that little kids have leading up to the big night. Plus, it throws us a Christmasy curve at the end for bonus points.
Notice there’s no technology marking the era. It could be today. It could be 50 years ago. It can apply to anyone. And that’s why it grabs my heart strings and jerks me around like a misty marionette.
And the result: It’s all I can do to keep myself from hopping the QE2 for England, walking into a John Lewis, and wind-milling my way though the checkout line with a credit card in each hand.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for this stuff.
So what does it take for holiday advertising to get to you?