Germany wins the war (of Christmas commercials)

by
December 18, 2015

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I always have a problem with the John Lewis Christmas commercials.  What’s the word?  Oversentimental. Mawkish. Schmaltzy.  Cringeworthy.  Crass.  They just set my teeth on edge with their saccharine drenched scripts, cute kids and oh-so-adorable animations.

This year especially so.

First there’s the questionable logic of encouraging young children to give telescopes to strangers.  What were they thinking?  Or not.

Worse, for me, is the lame attempt to give the commercial added meaning by linking it to a very real social problem.  Drawing attention to the plight of lonely old people, and encouraging donations to Age UK, is very laudable.  But I can’t help feeling uneasy about the way they’ve done it.  It just strikes me as a token gesture – I feel they’ve cynically hijacked the issue to win brownie points.

You can dismiss that as me being a grumpy old git (as usual).  But in my defence I’d like to submit the following evidence.

Had they really cared about the Man in the Moon they’d have written the script differently.  The little girl would have organised a team to build a rocket and bring him home to enjoy dinner with the family.  Ridiculous?  No more ridiculous than balloons sending a telescope.  We’re talking magic realism here, and everything is possible, right?  The fact is they chose to leave him up there.

Why?  Because it’s a film by/for the facebook generation.  A generation that solves the world’s problems by posting smug messages to show “I care”.  Paris shootings?  I’ll do a selfie with a “Je Suis Charlie” placard in my hand, or superimpose the French flag on my profile picture.

If you really care about old people, and want to make them feel truly loved, appreciated and included you go get them and bring them into your home.  Instead of that the commercial opts for a “leave them out in the cold – but send them a ‘like’” message.  All the people involved in the making of this commercial, in all those countless meetings they would have had, opted for the token gesture.  They’ve sucked whatever emotion they can from the elderly’s plight for their own smug middle class gratification.  Then blithely moved on, abandoning the object of their supposed compassion for another 12 months or more.  “Oh no, old people, that was so last year darling…”

The end line says it all.  SHOW SOMEONE THEY’RE LOVED THIS CHRISTMAS.  Why not LOVE SOMEONE THIS CHRISTMAS?  Because showing suffices for doing.

Cut this rant and cue a German commercial for supermarket chain Edeka.  It has exactly the same premise about elderly people spending Christmas alone.  But it shows those sanctimonious luvvies at John Lewis how it should be done.  If you’ve got the balls, that is.  These guys don’t pull their punches and you feel that they have really taken the issue to heart.  Even better, it shows the old person setting the agenda, not meekly accepting the weak excuses of the younger generation.

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