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Holidays Are Coming: The Evolution of the Christmas Ad


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It may only be November, but we know that it's now officially Christmas. Why? Because the Christmas advert elves are out in full force, gracing our screens with the battle of the advertising campaigns that compete for the most tears, smiles and Christmas cheer. 

Christmas ads are as old as television itself, and the Christmas advert has now become a British tradition as common as the Queen's speech and rain on Christmas Eve. 

But it seems that much has changed over the years, with retailers choosing to move away from the hard sell of stocking fillers to cinematic masterpieces which could be films themselves. The annual premiering of the John Lewis Christmas advert has become the pinnacle of British Christmas traditions, as the latest heartwarming tale now marks the start of the Christmas season, and gives festive fanatics the excuse to start wrapping presents in November. 

Companies now battle it out to become the most talked-about ad, measuring success in tears, laughter and the fall of silence as another competitor pops up in the ad break of I'm a Celeb. 

You could even argue that the focus has shifted a little towards a more thoughtful message, with companies often attaching a charity appeal to their latest creation, and reminding viewers to think about those who deserve some Christmas cheer, such as war heroes, endangered animals and the elderly. Stories about real people, that real people will remember. 

So this seems like the perfect excuse to travel back in time with the ghost of Christmas adverts past, and realise how far we've come.


Who can forget the magical Coca-Cola truck, the first sign that holidays are coming.

But back in 1958, things were very different for the Coca-Cola corporation, who spread the festive cheer with just a few black and white cartoons.



Heinekin's 1980 contribution certainly had a very different feel, with that snowman looking more at home in The Nightmare Before Christmas than a festive scene. 



Woolworths didn't disappoint with their all-singing, all-dancing, pantomime spectacular adverts, complete with TV stars and Quality Street in a jar. So very British. We miss you, Woolworths. 


Mince pies and biscuits are so last season. In the 90s, Christmas ads claimed that what Father Christmas really enjoys after a long night of delivering presents is a bowl of Kellogg's Cornflakes. 

Terry's Chocolate Orange

The 90s saw the likes of Dawn French bring a little more honesty to the coveted Christmas ad, with the famous strapline: "It's not Terry's, it's mine!" 

West Jet

As we entered the 21st century, ad campaigns switched their focus to spreading Christmas joy, rather than selling a product. This American airline's contribution is a cracker. 

John Lewis

And thus began the mighty reign of John Lewis - a company who arguably set the bar for British cinematic pieces that each year compete for the biggest sprinkling of magic. 


Nick Jab

John Lewis' adverts have become so highly anticipated in today's lead up to Christmas that A-Level students endeavour to recreate the magic, like this one which, for a second, fooled us. 



Sainsbury's is a new competitor in the race, with a debut that turned heads, to look back towards Britain's fallen heroes of the Great War. Last year's effort, featuring Judith Kerr's loveable cat Mog, further established the orange supermarket as a contender to watch.


And this year Burberry took Sainsbury's efforts one step further, creating a 'Festive Film' which could even be a movie trailer, featuring stars such as Sienna Miller, Domhnall Gleeson, Lily James and Dominic West. The repeated message "he can imagine the whole world in his head" seems to be the hook for Burberry's clothes, however slightly lost in all of the drama. 


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