The Hypocrisy of Christmas Adverts

5 mins read

Christmas is a time for family, friends, food and coming together to watch Christmas adverts attempting to sell you things you do not need. This year is no exception despite zoom calls replacing awkward work parties and masks protecting you from a mishap under the mistletoe.

The hype around this particular tradition has never sat right with me. It perfectly captures how commercialised Christmas has become when we look forward to a marketing campaign more than spending time with the people we love.

However, this year I thought I could let it slide. With increasingly tight restrictions forcing people to stay separated from their families, it makes sense that we are finding excitement for this season in the little things. Where I draw the line is how tone deaf most of these adverts really are.

French Ballerina, Tais Vinolo, Stars in Amazon Advert. Credit: Amazon

Take Amazon’s attempt for example. It shows a student Ballerina performing for her neighbours when her dreams of being the star of her school’s Christmas production are dashed due to lockdown restrictions, sweet right? But when the tag line is “the show must go on” it’s hard not take a look around you and ask how?  Of course, it is probably easy when you are Jeff Bezos sitting in your 165-million-dollar mansion. But if you are one of his 20,000 staff who contracted coronavirus due to the unsafe working conditions in his factory, it is more difficult to pull off.

The millions of people watching this ad are facing unimaginable pressures. These are people who have lost loved ones because of the pandemic, who have been cut off from support networks for their own safety, who have lost their jobs and do not know how they’re going to afford to keep the “show” running this year. But this is irrelevant to Mr Bezos, I mean why would he worry, he has increased this fortune by 48.6 billion during this pandemic.

2015 John Lewis Christmas advert featured Oasis song “Half the world away” covered by Aurora. Credit to John Lewis

To be clear I am not bashing the actual content of the advert, just the message. The advert succeeds in breaking our hearts and stitching them together again in the span of two minutes. Actually, Amazon’s Christmas advert is a beautiful example of representation done right with the incredibly talented Taïs Vinolo, a young, black ballerina, as the adverts star. I just want us to be aware of the hypocrisy that is needed to create Christmas advertising, especially in these high-profile campaigns.

Of course, we need some hope at the end of this contagion (2011) sequel of a year, even if it comes in the form of condescending capitalist cash grabs. There is something comforting knowing there is going to be a John Lewis Christmas advert waiting to creep us out with men on the moon. But when John Lewis spends millions on one advert in the same year they made 14,000 staff redundant, it makes you wonder about what the cost of Christmas really is.

2020’s john Lewis advert preaches kindness in the face of adversity. Credit to John Lewis

Now I am not going to stand here and call for Christmas ads to be banned in the same year hugs were effectively banned, I am not a monster. I just want us to be more aware of the ridiculousness of a company asking us to spread a little kindness when they don’t even pay their taxes. Christmas is about getting drunk on mulled wine and dodgy Christmas crackers, not fattening CEO’s Christmas bonuses.

Featured Image Credit: Amazon

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