Tony Blackburn

Christmas TV ads: Where’s Tony Blackburn?

Joy to all

Christmas TV ads Aldi, Lidl, John Lewis, all that lot

Or is Tony dead? Never sure about who’s dead and who’s not. Barbara Castle, that was another I got wrong recently. She wasn’t in a Christmas TV ad, but Tony Blackburn definitely was. Took a while to find it though. People think the big celebrity specials started with Marks & Spencer and peaked with Kerry Katona in Iceland, but Woolworths were at it years before.

The MMR podcast: carving up the Christmas TV ads

Internal sub-review 1: Woolworths were retail gods. In the punk era, for example (roughly when this all-star ad was made, you’d think), you could go in and buy a punk record, a school blazer to slash up, safety pins to attach to it, and glue – or nail polish remover for the aficionado – to sniff. Its insolvency was a sad day, at least for its 27,000 employees, who paid the ultimate price for the firm’s crazed profligacy. 

End-of-days attempts to slim the inventory failed as punters lost faith. If you couldn’t get fuses, paint and Pick ‘n’ Mix all in one go, why visit? The madhouse concept had a spell in abeyance after Woolies closed, but nowadays, at the mighty B&M, you can pick up Pot Noodles, a 3-in-1 electric sander and six pairs of socks, back together again. Aldi and Lidl try a bit, but they’re nowhere near. Too focused on food, fresh vegetables and the like.

Back to Christmas, though. Here’s that Woolworths ad. By the way, the music centre Tony is plugging is £169.95, which seems like an awful lot for those days. Price of a decent car, if I remember right.

Internal sub-review 2: Thinking of uploading videos to YouTube? Study the above. Anything that could be wrong is wrong. A long intro before you get to the actual video. Details about the YouTube user you don’t need to know. The YouTube user’s name in idiot’s quote marks. Three unnecessary dots … an ellipsis, in fact. All of that on the screen for so long you could probably go out, track down and meet “IAINLUCEY1972” before the actual video arrives. All of that backed by pointless, cheesy music that was probably meant to be ironic. A ludicrous challenge to name all the celebrities. This isn’t some game, mate. I could go on. He bloody does. Still, you get to the ad after a while. Tony is near the end.

Back to Christmas, though. Talking of Aldi and fresh vegetables, Kevin the Carrot has returned. Remember him? Except he ain’t so fresh now. Kevin looks like he’s been botoxed in a desperate attempt to string out his career.

Aldi put out a cliffhanger (literally) a while ago with Kevin jack-knifing a big rig on a mountainside, like in the Italian Job.

Gripping, but you’ve got to ask why he’s got such a big truck for a little box of carrots. And then, while we were hanging like a ripening bunch of bananas, Aldi released the next instalment – some weak guff about an evil parsnip that doesn’t follow on, even as a prequel.

And then, while we were hanging like a three-toed sloth in a hurry to defecate, they pumped out a few fairytale-based carrot romps. Don’t take us for fools! We want the real story, not a contrived rivalry between carrots and parsnips – surely allies.

But no! While we were hanging like a worn-out parsnip on a reindeer’s antler, they dropped one entitled Finale – which was nothing of the sort. Give them the Veg Dwight, though. That’s good. And the underpants ad. At least, whatever the situation, Kevin and his rootsy pals never cave in to sentimentality. That’s rare.

The big talking point, if anyone is talking about any of these points, is the ‘Greenland’ ad. Now that’s sentimental. Made by Greenpeace, badged for Iceland and getting you all warm and mushy about deforestation, when you should be getting angry and signing some sort of petition. That’ll do the trick.

Iceland have deleted palm oil from their own products and replaced it with wallpaper paste or something, but you’ve got to suspect a commercial imperative and main Iceman Malcolm ‘Frank’ Walker says frankly: “We got permission to use it and take off the Greenpeace logo and use it as the Iceland Christmas ad. It would have blown the John Lewis ad out of the window.”

Probably would, but it’s done the job anyway by being in the news despite being deemed unfit for TV, just like Jerry Sadowitz and Mini Pops. Jerry Sadowitz with Mini Pops. There’s a TV pitch.

Walker knew what he was aiming at. John Lewis are the titan of TV Christmas ads, never knowingly underdone. You can tell that, because they went and got Elton John this year, singing his song about how he’s not got much money.

Titanic. John Lewis are helping you, too – they’ve supplied a collection of gifts ‘inspired by our advert’. It’s an odd assortment, with un-festive albums including Exile On Main St (vinyl, natch, £20) and the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, some Elton tat and an £872 digital piano. You can hear the Christmas lunch calling the marketing department.

The ad cost so much that some dude rustled up his own heartstring-tugging tearjerker for an alleged £50, to prove you can. Mind you, he is a filmmaker so he had a head start. Anyway, it was called Love Is A Gift and he’ll be doing the John Lewis ad next year.

Viewers caught the virus, wailing, keening and breaking out in love sores as a thoughtful hipster listened annually to cassette-tape messages from his absent mum – whose absence, mysteriously, is never fully explained. Weird.

Next weirdest is the Argos one, which has a creepy little git, the Christmas Fool, attempting to ruin it all by stealing Sellotape and ripping open the presents.

Apart from the unappealing Fool, there are a few things out of shape here. For a start, I’ve had a look and you can’t buy Sellotape at Argos, just masking tape. You don’t want to seal your gifts with that. Nor can you buy wrapping paper, at least not by that name. So the idea Argos can help ‘Foolproof’ Christmas is leaky.

Secondly, the Fool will just frighten younger sprouts and, worse, the ad also demonstrates to the youth that there’s no Santa Claus, just irritated parents. Adults only.

Let’s bang through the rest.

Lidl: three shit jokes. Not even putting them up here.

Asda: would-be old-school extravaganza with cheap props, but also with Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) sung by Darlene Love, which helps a bit.

Marks & Spencer: unnecessary ‘must-haves’. Greed and envy, with the usual pants bit.

Currys PC World: chestnuts roasting in an AEG cooker. Nauseating Dickensian dystopia.

Tesco: I think it’s actors, acting out versions of what Christmas is all about, in terms of Tesco products. Nauseating modern-day dystopia. Flaccid, parping version of Go Your Own Way, which doesn’t help a bit.

Boots: have you ever tried buying decent Christmas presents in Boots? You’ve got more chance in Costcutter. Rewritten, maudlin version of She’s The One, which doesn’t help a bit.

Visa: a right disingenuous stinker. A ‘Christmas message from the High Street’ with high-streetly, one-product traders warbling All I Want For Christmas Is You. You bet they do, down at the fruit and veg, labouring in the shadow of the Intu complex with Amazon couriers speeding by. And where are the bookies, charity shops and pawnbrokers?

Sainsbury’s: couldn’t even be arsed to come up with something original, re-chugging John Lewis’s non-Christmas Bohemian Rhapsody school-concert-with-unlikely-Hollywood-style-props riff. Dying.

Amazon: cardboard boxes singing Can You Feel It. Where do they get off with these elderly soundtracks, by the way? Fulfilment centre workers feeling the heat – sorry, the warm glow – and Alexa turning on the lights. It doesn’t matter. We’re already dead.

As are the chickens at KFC. But a lone, escaped inmate features in the Colonel’s left-field entry, facing down a turkey in a spaghetti western-type snowscape. You’d think they’d look surprised to be out and about, especially the turkey, but they just get on with it. Turkey comes and goes, but chicken’s here to stay, they say. Buckets for everyone! Beats 200 Lambert & Butler anyway.

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