A very COVID Christmas reflected in ad land

Like everything else in 2020, advertising has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and this is especially clear with the Christmas ads now screening says Michael Klaehn, an educator in communication and social media with QUT College.

“People expect to be entertained by Christmas ads, and brands and agencies pull out all stops with their use of animation and star power but this year there is definitely a different Coronavirus-tinged tone,” Mr Klaehn said.

“The best of 2020 focus less on asking you to buy something and more on how to share love, bring community together and give to those in most need, although humour is still prevalent and we sure need it. Mind you, we still have celebrities popping up and Oscar-winning directors involved.

The Greatest Gift ad by Xfinity probably sums up the 2020 workplace best of all; plus it stars Steve Carrell as Santa Claus.

“There are so many great moments in this one, starting with a conference call with the elves; a wonderful insight into the workplace with so many of us working remotely and how we had to ‘pivot’ to make it all work. Having Santa not realise he is on mute is inspired and very relatable.

“Christmas ads from the UK’s John Lewis and Partners are always hotly anticipated. This year they have teamed up with Waitrose on Give A Little Love, which uses a range of live action, still frame animation and 2D animation to create a lovely little story. Even better, they don’t mention the obvious dramas but focus on the idea of sharing love and the importance of community.”

Closer to home, Mr Klaehn compares the efforts of Australian department stores and other retailers, including David Jones: The Home of Christmas for 182 Years.

“Ah the Christmas windows in the department stores, such a wonderful little look into the world of elves workshops making presents, Santa and his reindeer and the wonder of a white Christmas despite it being full Summer,” he said.

“David Jones taps nicely into the nostalgia of our childhood visits to see these department store displays although we probably won’t be kissing them in 2020 or possibly ever again. The beautiful song adds to the dreamy feel of the crisp visuals.

“The Bigger than Christmas Myer ad, meanwhile, is a smart summary of the year and what we should do about it. It has clever lyrics and I like the orchestra – it has a very Tim Minchin feel to it without the hair. I’m not sure the link to Myer is overly apparent but it’s an entertaining and different Christmas ad nonetheless. Insert a logo at the end and it could have been anyone.

“We’ve come to expect something special and definitely quirky from Aldi Australia and this year is no exception. Forget sentiment; enjoy the humour and #GoFullChristmas with its Synchronised Santas.

“It’s entertaining with not a snowflake in sight; it captures the feel of an Australian summer and those Santas are pretty good with the synchronised swimming too.”

Other Christmas ads that Klaehn believes hit the mark include Australia Post, Greenies, Coca Cola, Air New Zealand, SodaStream, Lego, St George and Xfinity.

Spread the Merry with Australia Post is just beautiful, an utterly charming story of how a little girl thinks outside the delivery box to create a truly Australian Christmas tree. It’s a great insight of how beautiful our native birds are and using that to create the Christmas tree was really smart,” he said.

“Possibly the cutest Christmas ad of 2020 is Greenies Snowman, a short stop-motion animated masterpiece from Isle of Dogs puppet-maker Andy Gent. I loved how the dog just doesn’t care and the surprise of the snowman yelling was awesome. The messaging is also really strong, making it a really good link to the brand which a lot of Christmas ads don’t actually manage.

“SodaStream have jumped on the Snoop Dogg bandwagon with The Small Things 60”. Is there anything this man can’t advertise? Although he has long been associated with Christmas – last year he teamed with Anna Kendrick to do a mash up of Winter Wonderland / Here Comes Santa Claus which has had more than 12M views.

“This year’s ad is weird, funny and memorable. It’s a strange combination, Snoop, SodaStream and Christmas but nothing is really strange anymore so why not.

As for Klaehn’s favourite Christmas ads for 2020, it’s a close call between Air New Zealand and Coca Cola.

‘Twas the Flight before Christmas from Air New Zealand is just beautiful, especially when you remember these rides have been covered up but are still in shopping centres so it would seem even more strange that kids could have a go,” he said.

“I love how it is focused on the kids’ wishes and family. To top it off with actually giving the tickets away is awesome. This is cute, emotional, and smart advertising at its best.

“However, the Coca-Cola Christmas Commercial 2020 probably takes the crown although it still has a strong New Zealand connection in that it was directed by the brilliant Taika Waititi who last year won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Jojo Rabbit).

“It’s not your typical Coca Cola Christmas ad but that’s also what makes this great. There is drama, emotion, trials, and tribulations. It’s ridiculous and hilarious – I got totally caught up in the story and I love the twist at the end. It’s a brilliant spin on the typical Christmas but also single minded on what is actually important – family.”

/University Release. View in full here.