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Jingle sells

December 15, 2013

I’ve got to stop watching the Christmas adverts on TV. John Lewis started it all, with the bear in his cave being woken up by Lily Allen, and it’s snowballed (to use a festive metaphor) from there. It’s the Sainsbury’s one that gets me the most – the three pyjama’d children recording a video of themselves singing the 12 Days of Christmas to their father, off serving in Afghanistan, only for him to burst through the living room door around about the seven swans a swimming stage (everyone gets lost at that point) to mass hysteria. Gets me every time.

Then you have the Tesco ad, in which a disconcertingly familiar family goes through the whole ‘circle of life’ in one-and-a-half minutes, arguing over Brussels Sprouts and forcing the awkward-looking kid into dancing around the kitchen.

The Boots ad is more nauseating, and significantly less plausible than a hare giving a bear an alarm clock. It features a ‘hug a hoodie’ off out to deliver presents to his teacher, a fit girl in his class, and a nurse. In what version of modern Britain does Boots think any teacher who values his pot plants would be fool enough to let his students know where he lives?

I quite like the KFC advert, especially the full-length version that lasts an entire advert break and must cost a fortune to air. Do that many people really pay a visit to the Colonel for a festive portion of chicken wings and ‘slaw?  I suppose they must.

If the retailers aren’t pulling at our heart strings they’re trying to tempt our taste buds. However, I’ve yet to see a single food product advertised from the likes of Asda, Morrisons, Iceland – even M&S – that looks tasty. God only knows what Asda have basted that beef joint in to make it shine so much – Ronseal garden fence varnish? It certainly looks weather proof – but it’s not inspiring much salivating in these parts. As for Iceland, with its ‘fish, chip and mushy pea stacks’ – it’s no coincidence that this supermarket chain sponsors ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’, and quite possibly supplies the food for its bushtucker trials.

Do people change their opinion of what constitutes ‘food’ come the winter solstice? Is it just that there is so little natural daylight around this time of year that we can’t see what we’re putting in our mouths? It’s quite frightening. If a team of set designers, product artists and C list celebrities can’t make this food look good, what hope will it have when it’s dispensed on to last year’s paper plates by your harried and harassed Auntie Gloria, having been extracted from underneath the weight of the turkey in the depths of the chest freezer? You know it won’t just be the peas that are mushy.

The joy (if there is one) of consuming Christmas food is knowing when to start and stop. Any earlier than about the 16th and, come Christmas Day, you’ll be sick of the sight of anything with the words ‘puff’, ‘dusted’ or ‘spice’ in the title. If you continue past the 29th you’ll forget ‘normal’ food exists, and be incensed when sausages appear without bacon wrapped around them, and mildly surprised that dinner can be served in individual portions, with functional eating implements, rather than perched on the end of a sofa, troughing from a silver foil platter via a cocktail stick. And all hope of getting into your New Year ’s Eve party frock is lost if you leave it any later.

I do genuinely like Christmas, the food and the gifts, even the shopping if experienced in moderation, but the adverts are starting to grate. Maybe it’s this year’s trend of using ‘normal’ pop songs instead of traditional Christmas tunes (I was heartily sick of the Johnny L song almost a decade ago, and Lily’s version hasn’t endeared it to me any further) that has done it. Or maybe it’s all the models’ collective ability to mysteriously shed clothes whilst advertising a particular retailer’s winter ‘range’ (suitable for the weather conditions that lingerie is not). But really, I think my main problem is that I’m distressed to find the ad men can so easily penetrate my fragile, melting heart, and in the space of 90 seconds and some cheap ‘crowd-sourced’ footage, reduce me to a snivelling wreck of sentimental Christmas sobs on my John Lewis sofa. I’m off to retreat to my cave for the duration – if anyone buys me an alarm clock I will not be amused!

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