Monday, November 13, 2017

Commercial Christmas

'Tis the season of Christmas adverts.  I sometimes think that's what Christmas has turned into in modern Britain: a celebration of rampant capitalism through a series of seasonally-themed commercials.  They've been honed to a fine art: often the name of the retailer isn't mentioned until the very end, there is no obvious attempt at selling specific goods or services, the ads being instead concerned with evoking the spirit of the season.  It's all about family values, togetherness and joy.  But in all of them there's an underlying message: that the basis of the season is actually materialism - the key to a happy Christmas, it is implied, is you having all these accoutrements to the season: the booze, the turkey, the expensive gifts (all bought, preferably, at whichever supermarket is behind the particular ad you are watching).  It seems, though, that it is no longer enough to co-opt Santa to promote your wares at this time of year.  Oh no, all manner of other cultural icons are now roped in.  I've found the sight of Paddington Bear starring in the Marks and Spencer advert more than a little disconcerting.  For one thing, it is presented as a short film rather than a commercial - the first time I caught it, I was channel surfing and thought that I'd come into a showing of the original film, part way through.

Another reason for my unease is that the bear from Peru was a huge childhood favourite of mine and I still have an enormous soft spot for the books and there's a part of me which feels the harnessing of a beloved character in the service of commerce somehow debases him.. Which, I know, is foolish, as just about every fictional character you can think of has been pressed into service selling stuff in recent memory.  (It's not a new thing by any measure,  I remember that when the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express was released, that Christmas there was a Cockburns Port advert featuring what was obviously a parody of Albert Finney's Hercule Poirot.  I look forward to seeing Kenneth Branagh and his remarkable moustache doing something similar this Christmas).  But at least the Marks and Spencer ad has a bit of class.  Unlike the Sainsburys' commercial which tries to get us to sing a long and praise the 'virtues' of Christmas.  Just fuck off.  Please, fuck off.  It's as ill judged as allthe other ads in its abysmal 2017 TV campaign.  Is it any wonder their sales are down?  (That said, their outrageous prices might have something to do with it, too).  I know, I know, I'm not getting into the festive spirit, am I?  But, for God's sake, we aren't even half way through November yet!  But still these commercials try and manipulate my emotions into feeling 'festive'.  Some things never change.

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