One of the very first signs that Christmas is in the air, is the release of our UK retailer’s festive ads, which, being in the advertising industry, McConnells takes a keen interest in reviewing!

It’s the 15th of November, and so far, we’ve considered a selection of seasonal sales pitches from the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Aldi.

Some ads from key players are yet to be released, however among those currently being aired, there appears to be a common thread:

In their own unique ways, the John Lewis Partnership, Sainsbury’s and even Asda are giving a nod to the past – rather than the fast-paced, tech-driven society in which we live – with heart-warming stories of days gone by, an absence of plastic wrapped product placement, and upcycling adventure!

The annual John Lewis tear-jerker teams-up this year with partner Waitrose to tell a tale of a delightful medieval dragon – Excitable Edgar- who, being different from the crowd, possesses fire-igniting traits that are hard to accept in his village. However, once he is shown the care and encouragement of a friend – through the power of a Waitrose Christmas pudding – his talents are put to socially acceptable use, and his presence is welcomed by all.

The story fits within a Christmas of simpler times and pleasures, and overall the public’s reaction to the advert seems to be extremely positive. After all, the country’s ad-watching majority can’t resist a calming JL festive ad. We’ll never forget the Bear and the Hare.

Also making an historical journey is Sainsbury’s, whose snowy Victorian market of easy peelers – absent of their plastic nets – sets a perfectly emotive Dickensian Christmas scene. We’re being told a story about Sainsbury’s first ever store opening back in 1869. Tables of loose apples, eggs and clementines catch the eyes of shoppers and a young group of chimney sweeps.

One such sweep, Nick is wrongly accused of stealing a clementine and is banished from the town. Seeing the mistake, Mary Ann Sainsbury seeks Nick out and gives him his very own sack of clementines – the contents of which he chooses to secretly drop into the socks of his chimney sweep friends, before heading off into mood-enhancing snowy surrounds and donning his little red Santa hat. Lovely.

What I find interesting about this ad however are the little eco-friendly clues that seem to be dotted around the narrative; not only at the market stall, but via the livery of a horse and carriage, branded ‘zero emissions’.

Of course, going to Sainsbury’s to fulfil a Christmas shop this year will undoubtably involve stacking a trolley with (hopefully increasingly recyclable) single use plastics, but at least if the messages are getting out there, maybe this time next year, there’ll be fewer plastic encasements and a more appealing and wider selection of loose produce alternatives?

Now to Asda, whose ad follows a young girl – Tilly. Having been inspired by her Grandad’s stories about Santa’s leftover magic, she bottles up the northern lights into a pickle jar. Whilst it’s not unreasonable to think of Asda as a one-stop-shop for brand spanking new Christmas toy purchases that may inevitable end up clogging landfill, here by contrast, the retailer shows it’s ad’s heroine making a magic capturing contraption using materials left in a garden shed before or around 1976. It’s an upcycling project of epic proportion that I’m sure most hipsters would be proud to ‘like’ on Instagram.

The point I think is that this is a promotional route you wouldn’t normally associate with Asda, and whilst the ad doesn’t have the direct messages of Sainsbury’s commercial offering, there does appear to be change on the wind (or blustering snow-machine induced blizzard).

Now of course, once you’ve got the idea in your head, that the major supermarkets are creating ads with less packaging, you start to look more closely for evidence.

Perhaps Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot in his period circus tent, reminiscent of ‘The Greatest Showman’ is presenting more of the finished festive fayre than the pre-packaged products; and maybe the product placement in the Morrisons’ ad seems carefully chosen to feature recyclable items in cardboard and glass, rather than plastic films, tubs and bottles.

It’s possible.

Whether I’m dressing up the concept or not, one thing I think is true is that advertisers are choosing to show us less packaging on screen; and if that is the case, let’s hope that the idea filters through to the shop shelves and we start to see a difference in packaging waste when Christmas shopping next year.

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