So, the embarrassing month of Movember has passed and I can finally go back to pretending my lack of facial hair is a choice and not an affliction. But December brings with it a much more pressing matter – Christmas – and, in particular, Christmas advertising.
For all those miserable bores getting up in arms about how the festive ads are popping up sooner and sooner each year, find a new line. For as long as I’ve been alive the media has encouraged me to plan my series of demands as soon as my mid-September birthday has passed (a request the younger me found quite insulting – as if the birthday presents I’d just received weren’t up to Christmas’ standards).
It’s always been ridiculously early and it’s not going to change by you whinging about it. And nor should it – I love Christmas adverts. And don't get me wrong, I'm not the type to scream my socks off at the sight of Christmas itself. I like it for the dinner and the subsequent best leftover breakfast of the year but, as for the season as a whole, I could take it or leave it.
Except for the adverts. The modern adage that it doesn’t really feel like Christmas until you see the Coca-Cola advert may have become a cliché the world over, but there’s some truth in it. Since I watch considerably less television than I did as a child though, in recent years I’ve been left feeling obliviously un-festive until the 25th is just on the other side of the weekend.
And it isn’t just the Coke ads that lift the public mood year on year. Marks & Spencer’s, Boots and John Lewis all run high profile campaigns showing a depiction of Christmas “as it’s meant to be” – i.e., with snow and big smiles, a world away from the bitter chill and harried grimaces of high street shoppers trudging against a bitter wind.
Now you may protest that these adverts, as fun and glossy as they are, are just the works of cold, despicable corporations with no admirable agenda; that these ads are the manifestation of their insatiable need to ruthlessly push their products on you. And you may even be right. But that doesn’t really bother me.
I’m not all that interested in the ethics behind these festive marketing campaigns. If you get sucked into the ideal they’re selling you, the fault is yours – they're just doing their job. And doing it well. What I care about is simply the aesthetic quality of the pieces, and for the most part they look pretty spectacular. It’s nice not to resent the ad breaks every time your favourite show is interrupted. Besides, anything that reduces the amount of mis-sold PPI claims and insurance ads can only be a good thing.
As for what these adverts are selling us though – the dream of a perfect consumerist Christmas – we should indeed be a little wary. Maybe we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get sucked into this constant flux of stress, indulgence and regret. Maybe we should step back from it and observe the festive season from a safe distance, enjoying the Christmas adverts and blossoming festive lights with a reassuring sense of detachment.
But alas, the festive period has become too ingrained in people’s habits to be anything other than a commercial season of exchanging gifts and over-eating. With that in mind, do me proud, Santa.