The Most Advert-full Time of the Year

Christmas Hordes

The annual John Lewis advert is here. As ever it hits you right in the feels. Unless you’re a cold-hearted cynic. Or just view it as a piece of marketing by cold-hearted cynics, designed to sell you TVs, furniture and soft cushions (bloody cushions).

I remember as a kid liking TV adverts. I still get a slight excitement when I hear “holidays are coming”. And the child-labour espousing evil of Geoffrey the Giraffe on the Toys R Us ad flew over my head to instead be a source of joy. In fact the reflexes of a thousand Christmases take over when you hand me an Argos catalogue.

But this was all when I was a kid. Now I’m a grown up (supposedly), and realise these aren’t insights into a magical world. They attempts to associate a time of year with a sugary drink and consumerism – diabetes be damned!

We’re grown ups. Why are we sat in anticipation waiting for something designed to flog us crap we don’t need, all by connecting their brand to an idea. A feeling. That everything will be alright if I buy more things.

And the latest ad for John Lewis is the worst. I like the idea of an emotive appeal to get older people involved in Christmas. Last year around half a million older people spent Christmas alone. That’s heartbreaking. But has fuck all to do with buying new cookware.

If this ad was asking me to donate my money to Age UK instead of buying a new tablet computer, then fair enough. If it wanted me to donate food for a group lunch so that old people don’t have to be alone, then I’m all for it. Hell, even if John Lewis were donating all their profits for the December period to show that it’s not about the money, then it’s probably OK. But it’s not. It wants me to buy more, and maybe, maybe, give some of it to an old person. Because old people need things too.

Even if we take it as a given that it’s a cash-grab by the company, they could at least get the narrative of the thing right. They want to help this poor, lonely man to feel loved and part of Christmas. Do they bring him into their home and feed him as one of the family? Or do they realise he can’t come to them, so they bring Christmas to him? Or, inspired by The Martian, do they come together to stage a valiant rescue attempt for this poor, stranded soul?

Do they fuck.

They send him a telescope.

“Here Grandad, watch all of us have fun, but you can’t come here because you’re old and smell of stale cabbage. Plus you might die and really ruin everyone’s enjoyment of the listening to a whiny rendition of the Royle Family theme tune on our new surround sound system from John Lewis.”

They might as well send him a brand new photo album, filled with all pictures of the fun and joy they had on their magical day, with a note saying “Maybe next year, eh old man?”

P.S. Really? Using an Oasis song for a Christmas ad? Well, I guess nothing sums up Christmas like thinking your brother is a dick.


Can’t Shop, Won’t Shop

Let's go shopping

Preach it, brother.

When I was 16 one of my friends said she’d take me clothes shopping and make me cool. While I knew that it would take more than some new threads (which is how I understand young people refer to clothes) to make me cool, I agreed. Armed with £120 and the promise of a Burger King half way through, we set forth.

All in all the day was a success. I got a couple of pairs of jeans and some new tshirts, including one from FCUK which I’m fairly sure she recommended just to commandeer the carrier bag once I’d paid. Still, I was happy with the results.

We made our way to the exit, and I was almost home free. The quickest way to the bus stop was through a department store. Before you know it I’d be safe from the need to shop for at least another 6 months. Maybe 8 if my incredibly fussy diet was stunting my growth. Fingers crossed.

“Oh, I just need to quickly stop for one more thing and we can go.” she said suddenly.

I knew right then that it was a lie. It’s never a quick stop. But I knew saying this would just make me sound like a whiny child.

“But it’s never a quick stop!” I said anyway.

“It’s from this shop, on the next floor up. It won’t take long.”

I relented. And I also learnt an important lesson, namely to check where someone is taking me before agreeing to go along.

“Bras?! You’re making me shop for bras?”

“I’m not making you shop for anything”.

My only retort was an exhasperated sigh, but I think I made it eloquently.

“You don’t have to come with me, I won’t be long so I’ll come and find you.”

Result. I used my narrow escape as an opportunity to look at some stuff for myself. Man stuff, not the nambly pamby clothes malarky I’d been looking at all day. Except the 16-year-old male-shopper-with-time-to-kill demographic was drastically underserved by the department store.

After ten minutes of perusing the gifts and gadgets sections I headed off to find her. This is where I learnt my second lesson. Never underestimate how much thought women can put in to their underwear. Almost as much thought as us men put into their underwear.

This was swiftly followed by the third lesson of the day – that women want your opinion, even on something as personal as underwear.

“Which do you prefer?”

Now this is an incredibly odd situation for me. She’s one of my best friends and I’d do anything for her, but at the same time it’s like if one of my guy mates asked for my opinion on their boxers. With the added downside of her having boobs – possibly the only time I’ve considered that a downside.

Since then I’ve learnt a simple trick is to make factual statements about the two options without actually offering an opinion. “Well that one is definitely a more salmon-colour, but this one has polka-dots”.

However, on this day I was young, tired and surrounded by images of women in underwear. My response was more akin to a cry of “please don’t make me choose” before her going to try them on, leaving me to stand outside the women’s changing rooms trying to look as nonchalant as I could without appearing too comfortable there.

This was pre-smartphone days. No checking Twitter to awkwardly remove myself from the situation. I was there waiting for everyone to see.

She was gone so long I can only assume the ones she chose didn’t fit so she made her own. But eventually she came back, and was ready to go.

They say that lessons come in threes (though this was never a “valid excuse” to leave school early, apparently). The saying may actually be that bad news comes in threes, but my experience shows the best lessons in life come from bad news. That day though I actually learnt a fourth lesson.

Online shopping is clearly the way to go.

photo credit: 1236 sn1 via photopin (license)