T’is the season to be marketed to

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We definitely love to hate the run up to Christmas. Or do we hate to love it? Either way, there’s no escaping the endless advertisements and promotions that promise us we’ll have the most amazing festive season to date. Are our complaints completely sincere, though, or do we take secret delight when DFS’s Christmas adverts appear on screen, enticing us with their post-production sofa sparkles and cunningly placed decorations spattered around the set?

A main grumbling point for many people is that the fluffed-up, snow-drizzled adverts start creeping onto our televisions far too early. I for one can agree with this. Turning on the TV during my post-Halloween hangover, I was met with an array of snow, discounted sofas and reindeers, all crammed onto the screen, vying for my attention (and my money). My headache was no longer simply alcohol induced. However, it is the mundane, cliché, sugar-coated advertisements that receive most negativity, rather than the classics we’ve come to love and anticipate, such as John Lewis’s and Coca Cola’s ever-imaginative productions. This year’s batch of ‘traditional’ Christmas advertisements has not disappointed. John Lewis get it right on point with a nostalgic, emotional tale of family and inclusiveness – Simon Cowell even rescheduled the X Factor so that it could take over an entire ad break – whilst Sainsbury’s have gone one step further and pulled out all the stops with a 50 minute feature film created by customers and their own home video footage.

However, for some unknown reason, there is almost always a great controversy surrounding at least one Christmas advertisement. Last year Morrisons’ offering was investigated by the ASA for sexism and cruelty to animals, and there is current debate around the morals of Boots’ message. The advert’s soundtrack, Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beats, covers the issue of homosexual abuse and several viewers have complained that its use in the ad trivialises an important track for the gay community. With these negative receptions, it is difficult to see how anyone can enjoy their presence on our screens, yet there is something about advertised festivity that slightly excites us. It’s as though we can almost smell the turkeys and Yorkshire puddings paraded in front of us for 30 seconds at a time.

Putting the spangly, emotional adverts to one side, can it also be true that Christmas itself has become a commercialised train wreck? I know for a fact that my six-year-old cousin will be receiving an iPad this year. Evidently during my time in the Lancaster bubble I have become out of touch with the real world and it appears that primary school children are now required to wirelessly send emails, use FaceTime and access their vast library of music. What happened to the good old days of being satisfied with an overload of chocolate and an interesting toy that frustratingly required eighteen AAA batteries to function? I’m not trying to sound like a bitter cynic, but we can all agree that we are bombarded by products that seem to emanate a message of “if you don’t have us, you don’t have Christmas.” So many stores have catalogues specifically devoted to the Christmas period – even though the majority of products featured in said document are available all year. It’s the shameless promotion of goods, using the Christmas period as a profitable crutch and is really quite sad.

There’s no denying that it’s almost impossible to avoid the huge plastic illuminated displays, tacky music and Christmas specials on TV. Obviously it is incredibly easy to criticise and complain about these elements of the festive season, but surely Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them? Who doesn’t love driving home at night and laughing at the houses that have gone overboard? And there’s nothing like scooting around the supermarket of your hometown accompanied by the soundtrack of a “Crimbo Classics” CD playing overhead. Yes, as soon as Halloween is over, we are thrust straight into the world of tinsel, wrapping paper and baubles, but there’s something quite homely and familiar about, no matter how much we grumble at its initial presence. There are so few bank holidays that we seem to need the festive spirit to occupy our minds, and we need it for as long as possible.

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