It’s that time of year again! Just like Santa’s elves in the workshop, marketing departments around the world have been busy working away on something spectacular. Each Christmas advert has been carefully wrapped and placed under the tree, ready to be opened and enjoyed. For this year’s roundup, we’re going to take a look at some of the classic Christmas ad clichés, and how 2022’s contributions stack up.

1. The cute character

From the adorable John Lewis penguin to Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot, cute characters are a staple in the world of Christmas ads. As well as helping to boost the warm and fuzzy feelings, they’re also a great way to flog a bit of extra merchandise. This year, we’ve seen the return of a few old favourites, as well as some new additions to the gang.


Rather than the usual emotional tales we’re used to, Lidl’s 2022 Christmas advert tells the story of Lidl Bear and his accidental rise to fame, forsaking the little girl who loves him and gifted him the tiny Christmas jumper that made him famous. It’s a lighthearted commentary on how fame can change a person (or a bear) and make them forget about the important things in life. Of course, Lidl Bear comes home on Christmas Day and everyone is happy.

In a refreshing change to the norm, Lidl has chosen not to merchandise the character, despite being inundated by requests from customers. Instead, the supermarket chain is encouraging customers to donate to Lidl Bear’s Toy Bank in their local stores, helping to ensure that every child has something to look forward to this Christmas.

2. The unexpected cover version

The Song is one of the quintessential types of Christmas ads, with plenty of festive favourites, big-budget performances and irritatingly catchy parodies making an appearance each season. However, it’s starting to feel like the Christmas cover version trope is morphing from sentimental reworkings of well-loved songs to straight-up tonal whiplash.

John Lewis

Let me start by saying that this advert is very sweet, featuring a father’s painstaking efforts (emphasis on ‘pain’) to learn how to skateboard in preparation for the arrival of his foster daughter, who is a keen skater. The unexpected part is the baritone lounge band cover of Blink 182’s 1999 pop-punk classic All the Small Things.

While intended to echo the importance of seemingly small gestures, the song choice does feel like a bit of a tonal mismatch. Particularly once you learn that this version, released by Postmodern Jukebox in 2017, features a clown named Puddles Pity Party on vocals and is titled “All The Small Things (Blink 182 Sad Clown Cover)”. I highly recommend watching the music video below so you can really appreciate the jarring juxtaposition of a sad clown crooning late-’90s pop punk with the heartwarming story of a loving foster family.


A special mention for the unexpected cover cliché also goes to this year’s ad from Sainsbury’s, which features, inexplicably, a Renaissance version of Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus on a flute. Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

3. The pop culture reference

A parody song or pop culture reference can be a quick and easy way to ignite a spark of recognition in the viewer that makes them connect with your brand on a more personal level. It’s also a great option if your creative team has run out of ideas and wants to take it easy by rehashing an existing story…


Kevin the Carrot returns once again, this time in the form of a Home Alone-style Christmas caper. Now, I’m sure it’s not actually a case of laziness and more an appreciation of classic Christmas stories, but considering Aldi’s ad last Christmas was a carrot-based retelling of A Christmas Carol, I’m starting to question their dedication. And while 2021’s offering was packed with silly puns and a fun Caterpillargate Easter egg, this year we got poor poetry scansion and a dick joke… which feels pretty low-effort to me.

4. The Christmas party

Whether with friends, family or Freddie from Finance, the Christmas party is one of the staples of the season. It’s something we look forward to, giving us the chance to let our hair down, dress up in something sparkly and drink an amount of alcohol that we will politely refer to as ‘festive’. The glitz and glam offer beautiful visuals, so it’s naturally a popular topic for Christmas ads.


This year, the Christmas party looks a little different, with Tesco giving their festive offering a political twist by spreading the Christmas Party’s campaign message. With policies including more pigs in more blankets for more people, and a referendum to see if Love, Actually is the greatest Christmas film, I’m not sure I’d trust them with repairing the economy, but it’s a clever angle for an ad.

5. The gift that’s more than a gift

The consumerism of Christmas can get a little too much, and there’s a lot of unnecessary waste at this time of year. Many brands therefore choose to encourage customers to spend their hard-earned money on something with real meaning to the recipient, rather than just buying them ‘something to open’ that will end up at a charity shop, or regifted in 12 months’ time.


While M&S released a Christmas ad specifically for their food range, they’ve also created a campaign to highlight their festive charitable donation. It’s a great twist on the ‘gift that’s more than a gift’ trope, which we saw represented well last year by Etsy’s Christmas campaign, literally titled Give More Than A Gift.

This Christmas, M&S is donating £1 million to The Neighbourly Foundation. This means that any gifts you buy from M&S support community causes near you, so you don’t have to choose between buying your wife the sparkly shoes she wants and helping a local school to build a new football pitch.

6. The real meaning of Christmas

Of course, Christmas is about more than parties and presents. While for many it’s an important religious festival, it’s also a time for families to come together, and might be the only time of year that some people see each other. Celebrating the small things that bring us joy, doing good deeds and generally spreading festive cheer is therefore a key element during the Christmas ad season.


In Amazon’s 2022 Christmas ad, we see a father initially frustrated by his daughter’s love for a snow globe, which she carries everywhere with her. Eventually, he realises how much joy this small item brings her, and chooses to embrace it, using a paper shredder delivered by Amazon to create a life-size snow globe in the greenhouse.

One thing that I like about this ad, which is very similar to Amazon’s 2020 Christmas ad, is that the ‘buy things from my company’ angle is fairly small. While they could have chosen to show the father purchasing hundreds of pounds’ worth of goods from Amazon to make his daughter’s Christmas memorable, he borrows most of the items for the snow globe experience from friends and neighbours. This adds a lovely community feel to the marketing message from a $975-billion global conglomerate with a penchant for unethical business practices and violating workers’ rights.

7. The “REAL” meaning of Christmas

Let’s face it. Christmas is all about the food. Whether you’re carving a turkey or plating up a nut roast, we’re only here for the food (and the booze) if we’re really being honest. Understandably, the main event is a huge focus of Christmas ads every year, particularly for supermarkets and food retailers.


The choice to set this story in some kind of Renaissance fantasy land is a bit of an odd one, but it’s a choice that ad execs at Sainsbury’s made nonetheless. We see a line of servants bringing samples of exquisite Christmas fare to be taste tested by the Countess, and she’s very pleased by what her loyal subjects have brought her… for the most part.

Apparently the Countess hates Christmas pudding, and orders something else to be made instead. Roll ye olde R&D montage, as the chef toils to create something more to her taste (accompanied by the aforementioned inexplicable rendition of Teenage Dirtbag). The final reveal comes and it’s… a Christmas pudding?! What insolence is this? But of course it’s a fancy caramelised biscuit one, so the Countess is happy. Christmas is saved, I guess? Never mind the fact that other people in attendance might want a bit of classic Christmas pudding. As long as whoever’s in charge has what they want then Christmas is a success.


Waitrose has also focused on festive fare this year, although the emphasis is less on the gluttonous reverie of a Christmas feast, and more on appreciating the hard work that makes it possible.

The ad celebrates the care and dedication that goes on behind the scenes at farms, orchards and development kitchens throughout the year to make sure every ingredient in your family’s Christmas dinner is the best it can be. From expressing an appreciation for the year-long efforts that culminate in a single meal to the selfless sharing of pigs in blankets in the closing moments, this ad fills you up with warm, fuzzy feelings instead of stodgy Christmas pud.

8. The elaborate opus

Each year, a subset of marketing execs choose to put on their directors’ hats and try to outdo each other with a memorable mini movie. One of the all-time classic Christmas ads is the 2014 offering from Sainsbury’s. Just shy of 4 minutes long, this epic ad was inspired by real events on Christmas Day 1914 and produced in partnership with The Royal British Legion, setting an impressive benchmark for other brands to follow.


This year, Asda has pulled off something truly impressive by cleverly splicing footage of Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf into their Christmas ad. We see Buddy applying to become a Christmas helper at the store and, while he has a little trouble fitting in, Asda’s editing team had no issues seamlessly integrating moments from the classic Christmas movie into the familiar setting of the British supermarket.

It’s really well done, both in terms of the visual editing and the scenario they’ve crafted, culminating in a great little ad that probably took a lot of time, effort and budget to get just right. There’s no emotional message and they don’t really try to flog their products; instead, we just get to enjoy a fun and creative project that shows off the imaginative and technical capabilities of the team behind it.

Let’s wrap up

These are just some of the Christmas ad clichés that brands return to each festive season, and a small selection of the many adverts released this year. As soon as I hit ‘publish’ on this post, I’m sure I’ll think of more tropes to talk about. There’s always next year.