What is the most traditional thing about Bonfire night in these modern times, no, it isn’t a penny for a guy is it? The last firework has only just faded from the night sky when we have to look with wonder at the next twinkling spectacle, the premiere of all those bloody Christmas ads.
Once upon a time, the Marks & Spencers ad was the trademark of British advertising quality. But just as their fortunes have dipped on the high street their ad men have also fallen from favour. John Lewis has reigned supreme recently. Proper little tear-jerkers; not only selling the wares but selling us the wonders of the human existence. Every year they hit the double bullseye of heart and wallet.
But not this year. I know it is heresy for a nice middle class woman of a certain age to say this but #montythepenguin is a bit meh. It just doesn’t it do it for me. Yes, the payoff is wonderful, and yes it is so the-done-thing that there is scant merchandise on view, but I am a little fed up of seeing children who look like they might have been shipped off as cute little evacuees in flannelette pjs and dressing gowns. I know nostalgia from Cath Kidston onwards sells home furnishings everywhere but I want to acknowledge the era I live in too instead of looking misty-eyed to a time that didn’t really exist and conveniently brushes under the hand-woven rug, all the repression of those times. Just watch Masters of Sex to remember how little control women had over their own lives in the 50s.
Nope this year the ad that has caught my eye, that makes me feel most akin to the Christmas experience is the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation parody, the Tescos ad. I know this has come as one hell of a statement from me, a life long member of the anti-Tesco club (see here for previous musings on the corporate behemoth ). Their multiple recent financial difficulties do smack of a huge dose of karma to me. But flipping heck I love their ad. We are all becoming a nation of Clark Griswalds, creating ever brighter Blackpoolesque illuminations to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Perhaps we are all trying to recreate the wondrous sight of the archangel Gabriel lighting the skies proclaiming the coming of the Messiah or maybe there is a deep-seated desire to be the shiniest star on the street to compensate for being a sheep (or an ox or a third tree from the left) in our school nativity. But whatever it is, I do love the effects of the lights lifting the gloom of winter.
I do feel guilty criticising St John of the Lewis, but this year I am saying it.. shove off Monty back to the South Pole with your £95 price tag and hello Tescos’ light show; it’s cheesy, feel-good and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Just how it should be. I shall enjoy your take on Christmas cheer but just don’t expect to see me in aisle 5 of one of your stores any time soon!