A recent article on the BBC website took advertisers to task for their inaccurate depictions of the contemporary Christmas. I think they had the annual John Lewis ads (which I love) in the cross hairs. The article argues that advertisers consistently portray the typical Christmas in the following seven ways…
- It always snows
- Mums do everything
- Everyone is happy
- Nobody spends Christmas alone
- Everyone has a real Christmas tree
- Everyone loves their present
- People give to charity at Christmas
On closer inspection, however, the truth is somewhat different
- It doesn’t always snow. In fact it rarely snows. We’ve only had a white Christmas four times in the last fifty one years. It’s statistically more likely to snow on Good Friday than Christmas.
- Not everyone is happy that Mum is expected to do everything. This year’s Christmas advert from ASDA focusses on a frazzled Mum singlehandedly masterminding the family festivities. It’s already attracted 191 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency for being sexist. Writing in the Independent, Becca Preston, said ‘it’s insultingly retrograde and simplistic’. But Siobhan Freegard, the founder of Netmums, said the supermarket has got it spot on. And I agree with her. It shouldn’t be like that. But it usually is. As the voiceover in the advert says ‘behind every great Christmas there’s Mum’. It also then says ‘and behind every great Mum there’s ASDA’. And I thought ‘not in Balham there’s not’. Mums in Balham don’t tend to shop at ASDA if they can help it!
- A significant majority of people will not be happy this Christmas. Relate, the Counselling Organisation, report that 68% of people expect to row over the holidays. And 39% of people anticipate the biggest argument will take place on Christmas Day! Probably over whether the Christmas special of Downton Abbey should ever have been allwoed to be made.
- The charity ‘Friends of the Elderly’ predict that 500,000 elderly people will be alone this Christmas. That is a terrible statistic. There’s nothing funny to say about that. Half a million pensioners will ‘celebrate’ Christmas on their own. That’s miserable.
- Somewhat more light heartedly, only a fifth of people will enjoy the pleasure of pine needles dropping onto their carpet this Christmas. At the other end of the taste spectrum, the same percentage go for a coloured artificial tree. Half of the population will be self-deluded since 50% of people in recent years have opted for a ‘realistic’ artificial tree (which I think is an oxymoron like pretty ugly, Microsoft Works and wise men).
- If everyone loves their presents, then why do charity shops expect what they euphemistically describe as an ‘uplift’ in donations in the days after Boxing Day? The most popular present purchased last year was reported to be the DVD of Mamma Mia. The most popular donation to charity shops was the DVD of Mamma Mia. Coincidence?!
- Wonderfully it’s true that charitable donations increase by 19% during the month of December.
But apart from the last one, I think we probably ought to conclude that Christmas advertising isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
But it’s not always been that way. The first ever Christmas advert was spot on. No one complained to the Advertising Standards Agency about the content of what must have only been a thirty second slot. An angel simply told a bunch of Israeli farmers ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
I am a sinner in need of a saviour. And I’m not alone; there are others like me out there! And God sent Jesus Christ as a saviour for sinners. That’s very good news. It causes me great joy. And it can do for all kinds of different people.
There’s nothing misleading in that Christmas advert now, is there?