Ah Christmas adverts, the universal signal to start getting exciting about Christmas. Amongst the year-round DFS, SCS (whatever else ‘S’) sales and endless stream of perfume ads – clearly we want to be smelling of roses sitting on a brand new, interest-free sofa each year – big brands compete for the most memorable, heartfelt and viral-ised festive advert.
And here they are. From parsnip-fighting carrots and lovesick penguins to genuinely moving re-enactments of WWI’s Christmas truce, we’ve pulled together the 12 best Christmas adverts of all time.
1. Coca-Cola – Holidays Are Coming (1995)
The big one, the favourite, the absolute classic. Never has a big, red lorry symbolised the arrival of Christmas so much. Driving to the words ‘holidays are coming’, the Coca-Cola lorries light up the streets and fill us with childhood nostalgia. Because there’s nothing more festive than seeing Santa swigging a bottle of Cola on the back of a lorry (apparently).
Although you’ve got to hand it to them, being able to sell an ice cold drink in the middle of winter is marketing genius.
2. John Lewis – The Bear and the Hare (2013)
Ah, John Lewis. The reigning champions of the almighty Christmas advert. In their 2013 animated advert we’ve got Lily Allen singing softly in our ears, as we watch one hare’s pursuit to ensure his friend, bear, doesn’t miss Christmas this winter. Oh no, here come the tears.
3. Sainsbury’s – 1914 (2014)
Sainsbury’s brought real emotion with this WWI ad, working with The Royal British Legion to make it as accurate as possible. Set during the Christmas truce in 1914, it shows the British and German soldiers as they laid down their arms and came together on neutral territory to share greetings, mementoes and a game of football.
Ending with one German soldier discovering the chocolate bar his British friend left for him in his coat pocket, it depicts a touching act of kindness in one of history’s most brutal conflicts.
4. Aldi – Kevin the Carrot and the Wicked Parsnip (2018)
Who knew a squeaky-voiced little carrot could capture the hearts of the nation? The adventures of Kevin the Carrot have put Aldi firmly on the Christmas ad map, and they keep coming back strong. In this Christmas fairytale, Kevin fights to save his family from nemesis Pascal the Parsnip; dodging flying peas and launching off popping champagne corks as he fights his way across the dinner table.
Aldi have officially made veggies cute. And let’s face it, anything narrated by Jim Broadbent is pure gold. Also a shout out to whoever came up with this year’s ‘leafy blinders’ brussel sprouts. That person deserves a promotion.
5. M&S – Not Just Christmas Food (2006)
Yes, this is the start of M&S’s famous ‘this is not just food, this is M&S food’ campaign. Cue the sultry music and bring on the close-ups of succulent roasts carved to perfection; juicy cranberries tumbling over slow braised apples; and golden-hued parsnips (Pascal?) slathered in wild honey and mustard. All in slow motion of course. This must be what it feels like to be inside Nigella Lawson’s head.
6. John Lewis – Buster the Boxer (2016)
Did you really think John Lewis was only going to appear once? Set against perhaps the most rousing cover of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, our hearts melt as we watch Buster the boxer longing to join the Farthing Wood-esque animals jumping on a family’s trampoline.
At last, Buster’s wish comes true on Christmas morning as he beats little Bridget to her newly unveiled present (don’t worry, this family isn’t just providing trampolines for the local wildlife) and starts bouncing on it himself. We wonder how many people put their dogs on trampolines after seeing this…
7. Sainsbury’s – Mog’s Christmas Calamity (2015)
The misfortune of Judith Kerr’s Mog the cat on Christmas Eve had us all wondering if anything would go her way (and how many lives she had after this). After accidentally destroying the Christmas tree, ruining the roast and setting the house on fire, poor Mog kind of wrecks Christmas for the Thomas family – although really the Thomas’ brought it on themselves leaving fairy lights dangling down the kitchen cupboards like that). That’s until the neighbours bring Christmas to them, all squeezing together in the house for a big Christmas roast.
Personally, we couldn’t think of anything worse than eating your Christmas dinner on the neighbour’s stairs, but that’s beside the point. Mog got her egg. And that’s all we care about.
8. John Lewis – Monty the Penguin (2014)
Oh Monty. Dear, lovesick Monty. You’ll forever be the most adorable penguin to grace our screens. Watching the antics of Monty and his best friend – jumping on the trampoline together, sharing fish fingers – makes him the most loveable companion any boy could have.
But when Monty longs for a romance of his own, the little boy finds his penguin pal a mate; revealing Monty is actually a soft toy. John Lewis, what are you doing to us?! Although are we the only ones who are most upset that he isn’t a real penguin? #MakeMontyReal
9. Very – Get More Out of Giving (2019)
A reminder that not everyone has someone to spend Christmas with, Very’s tear-jerker ad hit us hard. This short yet effective scene shows a community racing to pack a parcel full of Christmas delights for an elderly man and his dog. A heart-warming nod to ‘love thy neighbour’ and show someone you care. Whether or not the man received a load of tat that he’ll never use is another question. Let’s just assume he liked it.
10. Kellogg’s – Cornflakes (1991)
Remember the cute, little blonde girl who steals Santa’s famous line? Kellogg’s certainly brought the aww-factor with this one. Greeting Santa with a ‘ho ho ho’ when he arrives at her house and tucks into a bowl of Cornflakes, the golden-haired toddler is the epitome of Christmas cuteness.
On the other hand, the little girl who’s probably in her 30s now reminds us of the cruelty of our parents giving us that awful bowl haircut (shudder).
11. IRN-BRU – The Snowman (2011)
IRN-BRU’s take on The Snowman is nothing short of brilliant. Swapping the lyrics to match a fight between one boy and his snowman over a can of IRN-BRU – love it. As they fly over famous Scottish landmarks, it goes from ‘we’re walking in the air’ to ‘now I’m falling through the air’, as the snowman lets go of the boy and ends up nabbing the can himself.
To be fair, he has it coming. Rule number one kid, don’t annoy the guy that’s stopping you from falling to your death. Never fear, he lands safely in the snow. He will live on to drink another IRN-BRU.
12. Toys ‘R’ Us – Magical Place (1989)
Okay, whilst this isn’t strictly a Christmas advert, we think it deserves a place here. And if not for the giraffe, but for the iconic ‘there’s a magical place’ song. A trip to Toys ‘R’ Us was standard for any kid at Christmas, where aisles were piled high with a dizzying array of games, toys, bikes and stuffed animals. If you wanted a toy dog that was bigger than yourself, Toys ‘R’ Us had it. Luckily we never actually saw a half-man half-giraffe stacking shelves in store. Bit weird.