Store wars in battle of festive adverts: Watch the top 10 Christmas ads of all time

Entertainment | Published:

Aaaargh! It's CHRISTMAAAS! Slade's Noddy Holder didn't quite sing it like that but, as the nights draw in, the countdown is under way to seeing your first Christmas ad on the television.

If you've managed to avoid them until now you've done well, because in a world of consumerism the longer the retailers can make the lucrative festive season last, the better for them.

Their purpose is, of course, to sell stuff. But amid a sea of naffness, there are some adverts that aspire to do more, and have elevated themselves to something approaching works of art.

In doing so they have achieved the seemingly impossible – becoming eagerly-anticipated Christmas TV adverts.

It's only fairly recently that it has gathered pace as a cultural phenomenon. It is just five years ago that John Lewis cemented its place in this storytelling, emotion-grabbing genre with The Long Wait.

Irn-Bru: Snowman (2007)

A cheeky parody of the classic cartoon. The lyrics end: "I'm falling through the air. I wonder where I'm going to land. He nicked my Irn-Bru and let go of my hand."

Sainsbury's: Christmas is for Sharing (2014)


Some loved it, some hated it. Using World War One as a backdrop, the store used the famous Christmas football match scene to flog chocolates. Brilliance or poor taste – it depends on your point of view.

Yellow Pages: Mistletoe (1992)

Good old Yellow Pages. It was a useful directory in its time and this young lad also found it doubled up as a step to a kiss under the mistletoe. The image became a classic.

Ferrero Rocher (1993)


'Ambassador, with this Rocher you're really spoiling us...'. The famous party had a Christmas spin in this advert, which turned the chocolate brand into a must-have for households across the land.

Warburtons – The Giant Crumpet Show (2015)

This was voted best Christmas ad for 2015 by market research company Millward Brown. Hot crumpets mixed with the Muppets. What isn't there to like? Sales soared as a result.

Coca-Cola: Holidays Are Coming (1995)

They seem to have been here for ever, but it is actually 21 years this year since Coca-Cola's Christmas trucks first appeared on our TV screens, and the annoyingly catchy Holidays are Coming jingle have been a fixture ever since.

John Lewis: The Long Wait (2011)

The Long Wait was where it all started for John Lewis as the TV event of the year. The 2011 advert shows a young boy who can't wait for Christmas Day to arrive so he can give his parents their present.

M&S: Not Just Christmas Food (2006)

The sultry voiceover in this M&S ad got everyone talking. It oozed luxury and sexiness and was great for food sales at the store. It wasn't just a Christmas ad... it was an M&S Christmas ad.

Quality Street: Magic Moments (1992)

One of the recurring stars of Woolworths festive ads, Quality Street broke out into its own ad in 1992. A boy gives the treats to the lollipop lady who has seen him safely across the road through the seasons.

Toys R Us: Magical Place (1989)

"There's a magical place, we're on our way there, toys in the millions, all under one roof..." It's the jingle that was the soundtrack to Christmas for a generation of children who grew up in the late 80s.

Can you remember what John Lewis merchandise was featured in it? No, you won't, because none was overtly shown.

You may remember though that it was about a little boy waiting impatiently for Christmas.

In a heartwarming finale, it turns out that he just can't wait to give his parents their present.

Since then John Lewis brought us The Journey in 2012, in which a snowman overcomes various obstacles to buy his snow girlfriend a scarf to keep warm (music: The Power of Love); The Bear and the Hare in 2013, featuring Lily Allen's version of Somewhere Only We Know; Monty The Penguin in 2014 (music: Real Love); and last year the Man on the Moon, (music: Half The World Away), a bit of "sadvertising" which drew some negative response on the grounds that it was too bleak.

So it's no surprise that this season's John Lewis campaign is more upbeat with a family dog larking about on a new trampoline. This four-legged star of the show is Buster, played by Biff from Bedfordshire, a five-year-old Boxer.

The music is a cover of Randy Crawford's 1980 hit One Day I'll Fly Away, by London electronic group Vaults, who recorded it at Abbey Road studios with a 70-strong choir and 66-piece orchestra.

There is a notable first, as John Lewis has cast a black family for the first time.

The Wildlife Trusts are this year's charity partners for the campaign, and will receive a donation from every £15 soft Buster or £12 soft wild animal toy sold in connection with the advert.

Other major retailers are not taking all this lying down. So you can look forward to masterpieces from some of the best brains in the advertising business as the likes of Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's pile in with their telly ad campaigns shortly.

Many think Sainsbury's pipped John Lewis two years ago with its campaign, timed to mark the centenary of the Great War, which depicted a Tommy and a German soldier getting pally during the famous Christmas truce of 1914.

That had a traditional festive message of peace and goodwill.

But for the retailers, there's an advertising war to fight at Christmas.


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