Nice ad, but you’ve stolen Christmas

Posted on November 7, 2014

John Lewis has come out trumps with its Christmas ad, but it’s just another example of a brand commoditising one of the most meaningful times of the year.

The problem with Bonfire Night is that once it’s over brands think it’s Christmas. Six days on and already John Lewis, Burberry, Marks & Spencer, Asda, Lidl, Boots, Argos and Debenhams are on the bandwagon. Hundreds of brands will join them in the next week. There are still 43 days to go….

Every year I complain, and each time I get called a miserable old git. But the thing is, I love Christmas. As a parent, I see how it enchants and delights my children, and I have happy memories of my own childhood. However, this isn’t Christmas, it’s November, and I don’t like it being stretched out and devalued for me or my kids.

I know that brands have to ramp it up at Christmas. Without it, there’s no profit and no future. But now it’s gone too far. We’ve let them own it. We’ve fallen for the spin, become obsessed with their ads and let Christmas become about them. It isn’t just Christmas anymore, it’s an M&S Christmas. Ugh.

I can see why so many people like the latest John Lewis ad.  On its own it’s a cracker, but it’s not on its own is it? It’s just the first of a prolonged campaign of manipulation to make us associate buying ‘stuff’ with Christmas. It’s a one way street of goodwill towards all retailers.

People tell me I’m over-reacting. Why can’t I just ignore the ads and get on with my life? Well, I would if I could, but it’s impossible. TV, mobile, shops, high streets, conversations. These ads are everywhere I look. There is no escape. Even music provides no sanctuary as we build towards the inevitable X Factor Christmas offensive.

And it’s not just Christmas that’s being devalued, but the days we lose by counting down towards it. Websites like tell us how many days there are to go, all year round. These are the days of our lives. Don’t wish them away. Live them, enjoy them, be in them. Life is short and precious. This will be my second Christmas without my young son, who died last year, and I refuse to let the tsunami of commercialism devalue the month and a half of living that precedes it.

I don’t want Christmas ads banned. That’s just silly. But I don’t want to be told how to celebrate it, how to feel and what to do either. Above all, I don’t want a sponsored seven week Christmas. I want a real one that starts in December and actually means something.

The Christmas that these brands portray is not the Christmas I remember and love. It’s contrived, commoditised and too long. The underlying message has been misappropriated by consumerism and lost. Anyone who complains is labelled joyless, but it’s the labellers who have sold their joy and replaced it with sponsored happiness. They’re just too caught up in the brands’ PR, twitter hashtags and Facebook promotions to notice.

I wish you all goodwill, love and peace. I wish this to you 365 days a year, not just at Christmas. And I want my Christmas back.

(The image for this post is by Bart, and used with thanks under a Creative Commons licence)


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