Christmas adverts tug at the heartstrings of the nation year after year and the touching stories and emotive music have us reaching for the tissue box time and time again.
But just how do they do it? With all kinds of spectacular Christmas adverts taking over our tellies, we look at the formula behind the most memorable – and remember a few favourites from over the years.
What makes the perfect Christmas advert?
Cherishing friends and family, showing we care and a sense of humour are all part of the festive spirit and often key elements for a successful Christmas advert.
An advert for Quality Street chocolates in the Nineties was one of the first to tug at our heart strings in this way, with their endearing Magic Moment adverts. Remember the adorable little boy seeing his lollipop lady on the way to school every day and at Christmas giving her a tin of the chocolates? It was the story of the little boy came first, wrapping us up in the sweet tale before the name of the product towards the end.
It’s this story-telling tactic that has grown in popularity over the years as more and more companies catch us with heart-warming tales.
John Lewis are of course one of the big names on the Christmas advert front. Since 2007, they’ve managed to make a name for themselves for creating memorable and captivating Christmas adverts that tell a story. Like many of the household-name shops, months of planning go into creating the ideas and making the ads and it’s almost a tradition in itself waiting for the big unveiling.
Just think back to their lovely advert, The Long Wait with the little boy who counts down the days until Christmas, not so he can get his presents as we all think, but so that he can give gifts to his parents. Or Buster the Boxer who can’t wait to get outside and have a go on the new trampoline his owners have bought for their little girl, after seeing all the neighbourhood animals having a bounce. And, of course, who can forget the Man on the Moon which highlighted loneliness, making us think again about the meaning of Christmas being to do with family and togetherness precisely because it was so absent in this advert.
But it’s not just John Lewis adverts that have a knack of getting it right. In 2014 Sainsbury’s created one of the most talked-about Christmas adverts when they recreated Christmas Day 1914 when the British and German soldiers called a truce to play football and share Christmas together.
Big budget ads
Far gone are the days when small studios, simple product shots and low-budget campaigns would do for a Christmas advert. According to the Advertising Association, brands spent upwards of £6bn on Christmas advertising now as the competition to have the best Christmas ad has reached a new high. Today brands are often looking to create something more worthy of a big blockbuster film than a short TV advertisement. Just take Sainsbury’s Oliver Twist inspired ad of 2019, for example, which was a mini movie in its own right.
With an increased pressure to deliver a brilliant ad, it’s no surprise that the story they choose must be perfect – it's reported that last year, the John Lewis marketing team sifted through around 300 scripts before choosing the Elton John ad of how one gift can change a life forever. We doubt there was this much endless planning when the late Lynda Bellingham starred in the Oxo adverts!
Brands have always known the power of a big name and have long been keen to get famous faces in their adverts. Just look at Woolworth’s who had a string of celebrities popping up in their Seventies and Eighties adverts, from Bill Oddie to Harry Secombe.
2021 Christmas adverts
John Lewis & Waitrose
John Lewis are celebrating Christmas by showing this unexpected guest what Christmas is really about!
Aldi have brought us a very adorable advert inspired by the classic Christmas Carol story.
A real heart-warmer of an advert from Coca Cola this year. Prepare to grab yourself a tissue for this ad that shows that Christmas is all about those special moments spent together.
Lidl bring us a real funny Christmas ad this year, transporting us through space and time for a Christmas from the future.
This heart warming ad from Disney is a real tear jerker. It follows Nicole, the granddaughter from 2020's ad. She's all grown up with a family of her own.
Asda have created this very festive ad to get us in the spirit for all things Christmas.
We love this magical ad from Argos that's all about things being bigger and better than last year's gloomy Christmas!
The 14 best Christmas adverts ever
We've all got our favourite Christmas advert. In recent years, the anticipation for the release of the big Christmas adverts grows year on year. And although we love the likes of Monty the penguin and Paddington bear, we remember when brands first began to produce big Christmas ads.
Here’s our pick of the best British Christmas ads that bring back memories of Christmases gone by.
John Lewis - Buster the boxer, 2016
Who doesn't love seeing a dog and a whole host of nighttime animals bouncing on a trampoline? This might just be our favourite Christmas advert ever from John Lewis.
Quality Street, 1992
It is the time for giving. This 1992 Quality Street advert shows a lollypop lady helping a little boy cross the road through all the seasons. It then reaches a snowy winters day where he gives her a box of Quality Street for Christmas.
John Lewis - Man on the Moon, 2015
It's impossible to watch this ad without shedding a tear. Made with the charity Age UK, the advert shone a light on those who might be feeling lonely at this time of year during the festive period.
Sainsburys - 1914, 2014
Made in partnership with The Royal British Legion. This emotive video was inspired by real events from the First World War to mark 100 years since the start of the war.
Yellow pages, 1992
There was once a time before the internet when the Yellow Pages were thick enough to use as a step! This 1992 advert sees a little boy use a copy of the Yellow Pages to stand on to make him tall enough for a Christmas kiss underneath the mistletoe.
Sainsbury's Nicholas the Sweep, 2019
At a whopping 2 minutes 30 long, this advert could qualify as a short film! The special Christmas advert was created to celebrate 150 years since Sainsbury's opened their first store.
John Lewis - Elton John, 2018
John Lewis Christmas ads are brilliant enough without adding a very famous face to them, but we loved this one starring Elton John. This advert shows that sometimes, the perfect gift is more than just a gift and it could change a life.
Starring the late Lynda Bellingham, the heartwarming and relatable Oxo family Christmas adverts were a sign to a lot of people that the festive season had arrived.
The 1983 Woolworth's advert was full of Christmas gift ideas as well as featuring a whole host of celebrities to endorse the products, including Daley Thompson and Eric Bristow.
John Lewis, The Long Wait, 2011
Can you remember how long the wait for the 25th felt as a young child? This heartwarming John Lewis ad encompasses all of those impatient feelings in this ad with an adorable twist from the young boy at the end.
Old spice, 1989
The perfect Christmas gift for the man in your life if you're stuck on what to get him! These classic Old Spice adverts are now making a modern comeback.
John Lewis - Monty the Penguin, 2014
Once again, John Lewis tugged at our heart strings with another animal themed ad, this time, in the form of the very sweet, Monty the Penguin who is gifted a very special present on Christmas morning.
The adorable little girl from the 1991 Kellogg's Christmas ad melted our hearts but not many people know that the part was actually played by twins. Time flies and the twins are all grown up now with children of their own!
Coca Cola 1995
We know 'Holidays are coming' as soon as we've seen this truck! Perhaps the most iconic Christmas advert of all which is still shows today. The famous Coca Cola truck continues to tour Britain in the lead up to Christmas day.
Coca Cola have been producing Christmas ads for decades. The first one, dating back to 1958, was in black and white featured a small Father Christmas doll that looked in danger of toppling over any second. In 1977 there was a twinkly Christmas version of the famous Like To Teach The World To Sing advert, followed in 1995 by the iconic Coca Cola Trucks which coupled with jingle bells and jolly music.