Tearjerkers out as retailers go light-hearted for Christmas ad season

Rick Astley stars in the Sainsbury’s 2023 Christmas campaign (Sainsbury’s/PA)
Rick Astley stars in the Sainsbury’s 2023 Christmas campaign (Sainsbury’s/PA)

Retailers are shunning the tearjerkers and taking a light-hearted approach to their festive ad campaigns this year in an apparent attempt to bring cheer to consumers facing a persistent cost-of-living crisis.

Sainsbury’s has turned to a young girl asking what Santa eats for Christmas dinner in a campaign that brings in some star power in the form of a cameo appearance from singer Rick Astley.

Set in a Sainsbury’s store as customers shop for their festive essentials, a girl steps up to the in-store tannoy to ask the all-important question: ‘Hey Sainsbury’s, what does Santa eat for his Christmas dinner?’

A scene from Sainsbury’s 2023 Christmas ad (Sainsbury’s/PA)

The ad features actual Sainsbury’s employees after a company-wide casting call elicited a “massive” response, the retailer’s head of campaigns, Emma Bisley, said.

As the colleagues share their recommendations for Christmas dinner, the items appear on Santa’s dinner table.

Back in the store, Astley suggests: “How about some cheese?”, before a store employee replies: “C’mon Rick, cheese before pudding? You know the rules,” and another adds: “And so do I,” in reference to the star’s familiar tune.

Astley said: “It was a real honour and so much fun to join the Sainsbury’s store team on the shoot – even if they did pull me up on my cheeseboard before dessert suggestion.”

Ms Bisley said: “We wanted to create an advert that champions our colleagues all over the country, as well as highlighting the innovation of this year’s Taste the Difference range.

“With this year’s advert, we wanted to bring to life the fun of the holidays and the excitement that comes with planning Christmas dinner, while showcasing Sainsbury’s variety of delicious and quality products because good food should be for all.”

The Boots festive campaign shows a mother and daughter travelling north with a sack of gifts after the girl wonders who gives presents to Santa, handing over a Dyson Airwrap to their pilot, a mascara for the train conductor and a pair of travel flight socks for the man himself.

The Boots Christmas ad campaign for 2023 (Boots/PA)

The Morrisons campaign features oven gloves singing along to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now amid scenes of Christmas dinner being prepared.

Waitrose has already debuted its first Christmas campaign from new agency Saatchi & Saatchi with an ad that charts several unfortunate moments at a festive party, such as guests arriving early and others getting locked in the bathroom.

However, the season has already seen some controversy, with M&S apologising for “unintentional hurt” after posting an outtake from its Christmas advert that showed hats in the colours of the Palestinian flag burning in a fire.

John Lewis, widely considered to have instigated the Christmas retail ad season back in 2007, traditionally releases its campaign within the first fortnight of November.