I’m dreaming of a John Lewis Christmas

November 14, 2010

Christmas is terribly important. And I am not talking about the Season of Cheer and Goodwill to All Men. Oh no, this is something much more fundamental: the rush to get punters into the shops with their wallets open for a last hurrah spending fest.

Up to 25% of UK retailers’ annual business is generated in the narrow period from the Christmas run-up to the end of January. And this year could well be a bonanza. Retail expert Verdict reckons it’s going to be the best time to pluck the goose since 2007, if only because a massive hike in VAT will make all of us feel much poorer by the end of January. Verdict is not alone in this opinion.

So, why do retailers saturate television air-time with so much boring, formulaic, rent-a-celeb advertising that largely fails in its primary objective of distinguishing one brand from another? With so much at stake, you’d think they’d try a little harder than throw lots of money at a small idea with big production values.

Tesco received a lot of stick for its feeble Amanda Holden vehicle. Admittedly the Belcher/Belle Chère gag isn’t that funny, but it’s a smidgin more memorable than Peter and Danii not putting a foot wrong over at M&S; Hester and Delia mouthing off at Waitrose; or the lovely Coleen prancing about like a demented fairy in the Littlewoods Christmas mansion. If you’re looking for meaningful, branded, celebrity, there’s still nothing to beat Jamie at Sainsbury’s. But that’s not saying much these days. Who wants to watch him doling out another stuffed turkey – even if it is in Halton Gill, Yorkshire’s prettiest hamlet?

One or two retailers have taken the hint and steered away from celeb culture. Asda has focused on its suppliers with a well-shot cameo of Young Farmer and Farmer of the Year Adrian Ivory and his beautiful Asda-bound Charolais. Pity he’s so wooden speaking to camera. Morrisons has been trying to teach kids the nutritional value of brussels sprouts; meagre fare – good luck to them with that one. Boots has injected a little more personality into its long-serving ‘Here Come the Girls’ theme with some slice of life stuff from five comediennes. And there’s the twinkle of an idea in Argos’s ‘Crooner’ – extinguished the moment Bing picks up the microphone and attempts to ‘update’ a White Christmas. Dream on. No amount of “Argosing” can improve on a classic; and any way, Volkswagen did it so much better with Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain.

The big present at the bottom of the tree must surely go to John Lewis’ Crimble effort, which just manages to veer clear of the saccharine, while reminding its audience – now here’s a lovely touch – that Christmas is as much about giving as taking. There’s even an oh-so-tasteful nod to celeb culture in there: Critics Choice 2010 BRITT Award winner Ellie Goulding backs the ad with a singalong rendition of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’.

Shame on the rest of the field for allowing that johnny-come-lately to TV advertising, John Lewis, to upstage them.


Watch out sponsors, more sleaze is about to hit the fan

September 15, 2010

I do hope “Roo” has no more skeletons in his closet – or rather tarts in the boudoir. Because something really terrible has happened. No, not Mrs Rooney filing for divorce, though that would be terrible enough for Wayne’s remaining sponsorship deals with EA and Nike.

This is much worse, and has implications not just for adulterous Premier League footballers seeking to protect their sponsorship deals, but celebrities everywhere with peccadilloes to hide from the roving eye of the tabloid press.

And it is? Mr Justice Eady, the high court judge who has done such sterling work in shaping our libel and privacy laws these past few years, is relinquishing responsibility for defamation and privacy from next month. Oh come on, of course you’ve heard of him! The man whose judgements have put such asinine resonance into the phrase the Law is an Ass? Who makes Paul Dacre’s criticisms of him as “arrogant and amoral” seem wise and judicious? Who thought F1’s Max Moseley was perfectly entitled to carry out Kampf-themed flagellation in the privacy of his own sex parlour? Come on, where have you been? It’s all chronicled here, in an earlier post.

The point is this. Eady, whose political views evidently veer just to the left of Judge Jeffreys’, has been the celebrity’s constant friend, interceding with a sympathetic gagging order or superinjunction (can’t say a thing, anywhere, about anything) whenever their, er, vital commercial interests are threatened by the frivolous exposure of some “momentary” lapse of personal judgement.

Eady’s successor, Mr Justice Tugendhat, promises to be much less of a pushover in his interpretation of the Human Rights Act. Tugendhat it was who lifted the superinjunction brought by then Chelsea captain John Terry to muzzle media speculation about an affair with his former team mate’s ex-partner (for God’s sake). Tugendhat has raised the bar much higher for plaintiffs by insisting they prove that media coverage has affected them “substantially” before they can proceed. Watch out sponsors, lots more sleaze may be about to hit the fan.


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