Christmas Commercials: Please, Someone Give Us a Break

10/11/2015 17:41 GMT | Updated 08/11/2016 10:12 GMT

For my sins (I've atoned for them now) I used to be in advertising.

One of the very first ads my brother and I ever created (the responsibility M'Lud wasn't mine alone) was a TV commercial for Boots. It was their festive extravaganza of 1985. Or was it 1895? It's so long ago, I can hardly recall.

Anyway, the advertisement in question featured 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. In the unlikely/likely event you've never come across it, all you need to know is that by the time we'd had our way with the lyrics, "6 Geese a Laying" had been replaced by "6 Shavers Shaving", accompanied naturally enough by the visual of a werewolf sitting in front of a mirror hacking away at his beard. Meanwhile, "And a Partridge in a Pear Tree" had (in)appropriately become "And a Classical Collection CD", which was held up to the camera by a ballerina as she did the splits.

2015 is officially its 30th anniversary, something it has in common - perhaps the only thing it has in common - with other film making masterpieces of the same year such as Out of Africa, The Color Purple and Back to the Future. Many of these movies have had theatrical rereleases, allowing a whole new generation of fans to enjoy and appreciate them.

How you might wonder is the nation's favourite high street chemist choosing to celebrate this most auspicious of occasions? Are they showing it again during one of the X Factor's many interruptions? Are they putting it online, certain in the hope that in the Internet age, it will go viral? Or are they perhaps considering a remake?

The answer is none of the above. They're doing absolutely nothing. I can't begin to tell you what a huge disappointment, alright, relief that is. Because it was indeed a glorious load of tommyrot. Not forgetting, tummy rot from eating too many cookies. Did I mention that "4 Calling Birds" found themselves substituted for "4 Biscuit Packs"?

OK, it wasn't exactly my greatest accomplishment. On the other hand, I do believe it adequately qualifies me, more than many cultural and media observers out there, to comment on the creative efforts of others. To put it another way, I've been there, done that and bought the short-sleeved article of casual clothing. And before you ask, yes, it did read: 'My Art Director went to Lapland and all I got was this lousy T-shirt".

For many people, particularly if they're called Aunt Maude and reside in Cheltenham, the barometer by which they judge all Christmas paid for massages is the John Lewis seasonal spectacular.

As soon as Easter is out of the way, it becomes the subject of fevered debate within the marketing world. This year was no different as rumours quickly began to circulate as to who would perform the song. Presumably Sam Smith lost out, which is why he had to settle for the runner-up prize of the James Bond theme. We all wish him better luck next time.

The chosen one was Aurora Aksnes (who?) singing 'Half the World Away' by Oasis. Ah, the bad boys of Britpop linking up with middle England's favourite middle class retailer. Their journey really is well and truly complete.

The condescending advert's story is titled 'Man on the Moon' and treads the familiar path of sentimentality that we've unfortunately become all too used to. The puppet like pulling of our heart strings, only with a twist. Forget snowmen and penguins, we're now being asked to feel sympathy for an actual human being. Not just any human being mind, but a sad, lonely, old, neglected and forgotten gent who's prepared to be exploited in the name of commercialism. Only he's not because he's an actor and comedian with a flourishing career in his native France. Of course, we might have guessed. That patterned shirt and those braces are a little too stylish. More hipster than hip replacement, I'm afraid.

As with last year's Sainsbury's ad which used the most brutal conflict ever seen and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of young innocent men, distilling trench warfare down to the flogging of a chocolate bar, you can't help feeling that a bandwagon is being jumped on here.

These stores are behaving no better than an Oscar hungry actor chasing a part they think will win them a golden statuette.

John Lewis claim they're bringing an important issue to the public's attention. And in a sense that's kind of true. However, if the so called face of fair and equitable commerce, genuinely were intent on following such a cause rather than offloading a few containers of telescopes, why didn't they anonymously donate the entire £7 million - the cost of the campaign - to Age Uk and allow them to do what they wanted with it?

The company's management stress that if even one extra elderly person ends up being visited, then it will have all been worth it. Imagine though the amount of organised shindigs up and down the land such a large chunk of cash would pay for. The simple fact is that the older generation don't want our pity. Instead, they merely want to be like the rest of us this Christmas and to PARTYYYYY!

As for the offerings from other retailers, they're what you'd expect and are pretty much par for the course. Half hearted attempts at humour (Lidl and Curry's PC World), more wide-eyed and annoying children of all ages (Waitrose and Very) and quite a lot of dancing and prancing (everyone else).

Heaven's above, I thought M&S were meant to be having a tough time of it financially, yet there they are paying Elton John, Julie Walters, James Corden, Lady Mary Crawley (minus her new motor-racing hubby) and Romeo Beckham to leap about. Oh, sorry, apparently it's Burberry. Funny, looked like good old Marks and Sparks to me.

From where I'm sitting, maybe this is an opportune moment for me to get back into the ad game. What was that strap line again? We've got Christmas all wrapped up? On second thoughts, maybe once was enough.