One’s a dragon that breathes fire which burns things to a crisp, the other’s a singer who uses her high pitched voice in order to get some crisps! Yes, Noddy, its Chriiiiiiiistmas again and John Lewis have a rival for the 2019 season’s best ad in the form of Walkers Crisps and yer actual Mariah Carey her very self. Last year to have us in tears John Lewis teamed up with a big star, Elton John , for an ad centred around a piano even though they don’t actually sell pianos. This time though they’re back on more familiar ground while Walkers have somehow managed to persuade Mariah to do an ad you sense just wouldn’t work quite as well with their usual muse, Gary Lineker. And do you know what? Walkers have nailed it with a frothy, funny ad that trounces John Lewis’ (sorry John Lewis and Partners) (sorry John Lewis and Waitrose and their Partners) somewhat mixed up offering.
While John L have assembled an advert more in keeping with their biggest hits this is very much a superficial appearance. Like an artist on their tenth album there is a sense of ideas drying up hence an attempt to replicate past glories. In a medieval setting a dragon called Edgar accompanies a girl called Ava around their village, his excitable personality leading to him incinerating everything he sees. As its Crimbo this includes a kid’s snowman, some ice skating and the village tree. You do feel in such a scenario the villagers would chase him into the hills with pitchforks but they simply look at him with irked expressions. While all this is happening the soundtrack is a stop/ start version of `Can’t Fight This Feeling` originally done by REO Speedwagon. Anyway Ava buys Edgar a Christmas pudding he can set light to in order to atone for his fiery wave of destruction and everyone’s happy. The ad was made in Hungary over two weeks by adam&eveDDB.
Hold on! For a start this pudding is far too modest to feed the assembled throng in the village hall. Also this doesn’t really solve the problem of the dragon’s uncontrollable urge to set light to things in the long term does it? Plus - and I ask this for the second year running- what the jiggins has any of this to do with stuff you might buy in John Lewis? They don’t have a food department so you can probably no more procure a pudding than a piano in there. Oh hang on, the puds from Waitrose then? How come such a small village has a John Lewis and a Waitrose? Combined with the fact the ad’s already generated complaints from enraged children who think Edgar killed a character from Frozen and that the song is the least impressive of any of the ads, I’d say John Lewis and their Partners need to go back to basics next year.
Meanwhile Walkers have truly knocked it out of the park with their ad which stands above allcomers simply by being irreverent and also the fact it stars the actual Mariah Carey. Looking almost unchanged twenty five years after she first released `All I Want for Xmas` Mariah belts out her famous seasonal song in a tv studio before telling us how much she loves giving at Xmas. Cue some outrageously extravagant gifts like kimonos and paintings being distributed to the crew. Then she spots a packet of Walkers festive Pigs in Blankets crisps (to which she’s welcome actually) but an extra dressed as an elf nabs the pack first and won’t hand it over.
After a tug of war and some argument all it takes is Mariah to unleash her signature piercing high note thus winning the packet and cracking an onlooker’s glasses. Then she takes about the tiniest bite out of a single crisp (who bites a tiny bit out of a crisp? This itself is very funny!) before offering one to the elf. Finally just as the latter is about to put it in his mouth a dove flies across the screen grabbing the crisp! LOLs aplenty.
With so many sentimental or over stuffed Xmas ads, this is a breath of fresh air with a superstar willing to send herself up and a cheeky pay off at the end plus a spot on performance from Canadian actor Calum Worthy as the elf. The singer is reportedly earning £9m from the campaign which will also see her image on crisp packets around the world and probably return her song to prominence. The advert was made by the Abbott Mead Vickers BBD agency and directed by Joseph Kahn. Mariah said (not actually to me of course) - “I had a lot of fun filming this commercial with Walkers. I’ve always loved their crisps from my trips to the UK and everyone knows I love feeling festive so it was the perfect collaboration for me.”
Walkers head of marketing Wayne Newton says: “It doesn’t get more Christmassy than Mariah Carey singing All I Want for Christmas Is You and that’s exactly what’s in our new advert. As well as entertaining the nation with our trademark humour, the campaign brilliantly launches our festive flavours for the season.”