The festive season is well and truly upon us, and with it comes the race to be crowned King of the coveted “Best Christmas Advert”. Over recent times we have seen some absolute corkers from the likes of John Lewis and Marks and Spencer and every year more retailers join the competition. This year is no exception, with stirling efforts from the usual suspects, as well as from several others who have clearly upped the ante.

While watching the ads and seeing some great – and not so great – contesters for the accolade, I’ve asked myself several times “what exactly is it that makes a great Christmas advertising campaign?”.

It’s interesting that retailers and brands take such different approaches when ultimately trying to achieve the same end goal of drawing in shoppers and promoting their festive wares. From the hard sell “come to us, we’re dead cheap” to the warm and fuzzy “spread a little love – oh, and do it in our store”, I’ve narrowed realised that two key components that are essential for that winning formula.

Firstly and absolutely key is the storytelling. The best adverts are the ones that take the viewer on a journey, with a clear beginning, middle and (always happy) ending, awakening anticipation for this year’s celebrations. Adverts that you can get lost in and feel the true magic of Christmas, often seen through the eyes of a child where you become part of the adventure.

The other key element is filling the ad with cultural references. Christmas is all about nostalgia tradition and so reminding viewers of Christmases past really tugs on the heart – and the purse – strings. Sainsbury’s have absolutely smashed it this year in bringing Mog the Cat, a much-loved character, back to life, as have John Lewis with their Man on the Moon, reminding us all to include older relatives this Christmas. Its little things we can all relate to.

Yet how is a retailer to visualise the sparkle and fantasy that make Christmas so magical while also telling a beautiful story?

This is where CGI really comes into its own, allowing ad teams the creative license to reach for the skies (literally in John Lewis case) to produce a festive masterpiece. Put simply, it makes the impossible possible and fantasy a reality, allowing a level of creativity that we just don’t see at any other time during the year.

Let’s have a run-down of some of this year’s best offerings.

Sky Movies Christmas offering is a fantastic example of this. In a stunning 90 second advert, a young girl finds a novel way to get rid of her unwanted sprouts by taking a journey into classic films including Cinderella and Night at the Museum and transforming into the characters. This showstopper reportedly took a team of 532 artists, animators, crew and extras to encourage viewers to “step into adventure this Christmas”.

The previously referenced Sainsburys advert is perfect for all ages. Mog the Cat returns for a final appearance to save his loving family from a devastating fire on Christmas Eve. I challenge you to watch the Thomas’ family neighbours arrive on mass to save Christmas without shedding a tear – and if that doesn’t get you, seeing national treasure Judith Kerr, the 92 year old author of the “Mog” series, making a cameo surely will.


This year’s Aldi ad has it all – show casing Father Christmas, wine, gingerbread houses and a festive feast. It’s your best ever Christmas rolled into 90 seconds, with a good dose of CGI to add an extra layer of magic.

Up-market department store Harrods has married the stores traditional values with a modern take on Christmas in an animated Christmas advert featuring hero mouse Peter Pumpernickle.

Speaking to The Evening Standard, Deborah Bee, director of Creative Marketing, said: ‘We wanted to show a different side to Harrods – one that is more stylish, cool, fun, engaging and innovative.

In this year’s run of Christmas adverts the bar has been raised – yet again – and we’ve been treated to a feast of incredible work, produced by some highly talented CGI artists.

The jury is still out on the overall winner but one thing is for sure. Just for a moment, the magic of CGI has allowed us to embrace our inner child and loose ourselves in the wonder of a season where festive dreams really can come true.

And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?