Tuesday 23 October 2018

Season to be commercial

Media names pick the Christmas crackers (and some turkeys) from festive ad land

Guinness always seems to hit the spot with a large budget spent well
Guinness always seems to hit the spot with a large budget spent well
Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

When it comes to the Christmas feel-good factor, most of Ireland's media personalities agree nothing does the job quite like those timeless festive ads that make us go "ooh" and "aah" year in, year out.

But while Today FM's Tony Fenton gets positively gooey about the Coca Cola snowy truck commercial, and RTE's Will Leahy marvels at the nostalgic wonder of "Penneys ... gotta whole lot of things for Christmas", Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff adds a decidedly dissident voice.

"I think Christmas adverts are generally dreadful," says the presenter.

"Knowing that we are all going to spend like lunatics anyway, the commercial makers don't have to be clever or engaging and so ladle on the smaltz -- a prime example of this being the Coca Cola 'trucks' advert depicting a convoy of illuminated lorries trundling through a village while a child watches on in wonder.

"It is the most stunningly cynical advert, and, of course, doesn't even say 'Happy Christmas'. 'Happy Peak Sales Period' more like.

"I'd love to see a 'real-world' version of this ad where the residents are (rightly) furious about all these lorries thundering through their village while little Timmy, or whatever his name is, is still looking out the window -- because it's far too dangerous for him to go out on the road. And anyway, now he has asthma."

Moncrieff's colourful musings aside, the rest of the media personalities tracked down by the Irish Independent all speak fondly of their festive favourites.

Given Ireland's national pastime, it is perhaps unsurprising that drink ads are among the most remarked on.

Coca Cola's efforts, including the iconic snowy truck ad so loathed by Moncrieff, have won the hearts of personalities as diverse as Fenton, TV3's Lisa Cannon ('Xpose') and Newstalk's Orla Barry.

For Fenton, the snowy truck ad was the first "big budget commercial" that captured his heart. "There was something magical about it, the father with the kid standing there, the kid's face lighting up, the whole jingle," he says.

For Cannon, the Coca Cola ad with the girl looking up at Santa made the biggest impact.

"I used to think he was the most 'real' Santa," the presenter admits.

Meanwhile, Barry's vote was won by Coca Cola's festive polar bear ad.

"The little bear doesn't want to put his paw into the icy cold water until he spots daddy bear on another block of ice sipping on a coke and then he leaps in with glee," she enthuses.

"That has to be the cutest one. Polar bears are always irresistible."

Staying with the drink theme, this year's Black & White Guinness ads (the handy work of Irish International) won approval from both TV's Sybil Mulcahy and Fenton.

"The music is amazing, really Christmassy," says Mulcahy. "It's slow paced and visually beautiful with all the images of Dublin in the snow. It always makes me stop and watch even though I have seen it dozens of times because I think they have used it the past two years."

Mulcahy's 'Xpose' colleague, Karen Koster, is similarly enthusiastic about another drink ad.

"My favourite is the one that starts off as a whisper 'Holidays are coming, holidays are coming...'," she says. "That song makes me feel so Christmassy."

Meanwhile, moving on to a more family friendly drink, Today FM's Ian Dempsey is a big fan of the Barry's radio ad. "It's the one where the dad comes home with the train set and the wife says that the kids didn't want that at all," he says. "It really sums up the warmth of the Christmas season, it's as much a part of Christmas as the tree and the lights."

Moving from drink to food, RTE's Pat Kenny says this year's Marks & Spencer effort struck a chord with him thanks to its "nice festive feel", while Orla Barry has always had a soft spot for the Kelloggs ad.

"The one where the children leave out cornflakes for Santa and the little girl wakes up to find him munching in the sitting room just has that awww feeling to it," she says. "Although, if it's shown prior to mid-December, I feel like flinging my bowl at the TV..."

While the old favourites of food and drink evidently still take centre stage, more modern products like mobile phones and sat navs are gaining ground in the creative stakes.

"There is a really Christmassy ad now for Vodafone on Grafton Street, and it's quite atmospheric with everyone skating around happily," says Barry.

Meteor's latest effort, where an elderly lady is ejected from a party for not bringing a mobile phone as a gift, may have drawn criticism for furthering greed and ageism, but it's also found a friend in Ireland AM presenter Aidan Cooney.

"It's the latest in a line of humourous and quirky commercials from Meteor and I love it," he says. "I think most people see the humour for what it is, a joke."

Meanwhile, IAPI chief executive Sean McCrave praises sat nav maker Garmin for their innovative approach this time round with the "gotta, gotta get a Garmin" ad. "It's a very, very good and easy way to sell something, and it hasn't really been done like this before for that kind of product," he says.

Another company leading the way for their industry is Penneys, whose "gotta whole lot of things for Christmas" ad shines ahead of other general retailers' efforts.

"Just in the same way that you know Easter is coming by the arrival of the Cream Eggs into the newsagents, when you hear "Penneys ... got a whole lot of things for Christmas" you know it that time of the year," says RTE's Will Leahy.

Surprisingly, An Post's 'We're Walking In The Air', didn't make it into any of the media personalities' favourites list. But, more surprisingly, the Irn Bru spoof of it did manage to finally put a smile on Moncrief's face.

"This boy goes flying through the air with his Snowman friend, but gets dropped back down to earth when he won't share the Irn Bru," laughs the presenter. "I liked that."

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