Curates: the best festive TV ads of all time

It’s now a universally recognised fact that the first airing of the Coca Cola Christmas ad signals the start of the festive season. You know the one… with the trucks and the lights…

In fact, we bet you can even sing the theme tune. Such is the power of a good Christmas ad; they stay with us forever, while the bad ones pale into insignificance. Far outweighing the reach and impact of a shop window, the sheer commercial potentiality and marketing sway of a successful Christmas ad in the lead up to one of the busiest shopping times in the year cannot be underestimated. With the likes of John Lewis now laying claim to a serious ‘appointment to view’ record we think the humble Christmas ad is here to stay.

For CRAVE there have been a few standout winners over the decades. With the makers behind these seasonal classics reading like a who’s who of the Advertising agency world, CRAVE Curates has rounded up our top TV Christmas ads of all time …and revealed who was behind them!


1. Coca Cola ‘Holidays Are Coming’ – Agency: Doner (W B Doner & Company)

Originally created by US agency Doner in 1995, the iconic Coca Cola trucks Christmas advert fell into disuse in 2001 when the company underwent a restructuring of their advertising campaigns, meaning ads were produced locally in each country as opposed to in their Atlanta HQ. The advert was so well loved that many telephoned Coca Cola’s information centre in protest saying they considered it to be the official start of the festive season. 2007 finally saw the return of the campaign and the advert is now universally recognisable worldwide. 


2. John Lewis ‘The Long Wait’ 2011 – Agency: Adam & Eve

Laying the groundwork with their 60 second 2010 offering, 2011 was the year that John Lewis truly went epic, making the release of their Christmas advert a national event. The Long Wait was the ad that launched it all and transformed the annual Christmas advert competition between the high street giants into an out and out battle. So popular is the John Lewis Christmas advert now that this year saw the major channels also competing for the rights, with Channel 4 seeing off ITV for the exclusive first airing.

Honourable mention: This year’s Monty the Penguin


3. Sainsbury’s in partnership with Royal British Legion 2014 – Agency: AMV BBDO

The 3m 40sec film retells the true story of Christmas day in 1914 when British and German soldiers emerged from their trenches to exchange gifts and play football. Pipped to topple even the John Lewis ad in the sentimentality stakes, the advert shows a British soldier hearing the German troops singing Silent Night and leading both sides in what’s now known as ‘The Christmas Truce’. The theme is particularly topical this year, marking the centenary of WWI and Sainsbury’s have tastefully ensured that all sales of a £1 chocolate bar featured in the advert will be donated to the Royal British Legion. 

4. Yellow Pages ‘Mistletoe’, first aired 1992 – Agency: ?

An undeniable precursor to today’s brand of emotionally impactful advertising such as the John Lewis advert (see above). This undoubtedly broke the mould at the time of it’s 1992 release and has remained unchanged since, eschewing all brand slogans and delivering a simple message, ‘Happy Christmas’. Perhaps the very simplicity of the message has ensured it’s longevity and cult family favourite status.  

5. Google Nexus ‘Far From Home’ 2013 – Agency: Joint London

2013 saw a tidal wave of sentimentality sweep the nation with a generation of Christmas ads all designed to tug at our heart strings. The Google Nexus ‘Far From Home’ offering captured what it was like to be celebrating Christmas far from your loved ones and set to an appropriately catchy soundtrack the advert found it’s way into the collective hearts of the nation. 

6. Boots ‘Young Santa’ 2013 – Agency: Mother

A riskier approach to their previous ‘Here Come the Girls’ offerings, Boots joined the Christmas advert big boys with their 2013 take on a modern day Santa. As with all the best adverts, this particular story has a surprising twist, and along with a great choice of music – Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat, it sits reassuringly among the most sentimental, while avoiding an all too common saccharine overtone. 

7. Mulberry ‘Win Christmas’ 2014 – Agency: Adam & Eve/DDB

A new approach for luxury leather goods giant Mulberry, their social media relevant #winchristmas campaign takes a tongue in cheek stab at the secret competitiveness between families when it comes to giving presents. We won’t spoil the ending for you, but we can tell you there’s a unicorn involved!

8. Apple ‘Misunderstood’ 2013 – Agency: TBWA

Holding the highest accolade that any advert can hope for, this Creative Arts Emmy Award winning creation saw off stiff competition from GE, Nike, and Budweiser to win ‘Outstanding Commercial’ in 2013. A 90 second story of a seemingly typical teen, too preoccupied with his iPhone 5S to engage with the family Christmas. If you’ve been living under a rock and you haven’t yet seen this advert, we won’t spoil the ending but it’s enough to say that it won a landslide of unofficial awards for most heart warming. 

9. Harvey Nichols ‘Sorry I Spent It On Myself’ 2013 – Agency: Adam & Eve/DDB

A veritable rebel among the Christmas sentimentality devotees, typically high in ‘shock value’, this Harvey Nichols campaign encouraged shoppers to abandon thoughtful gift giving in favour of ‘spending it all on yourself’. We admit, we’ve been tempted more than a few times ourselves, so we imagine this refreshingly honest approach won brownie points with much of the nation. The work was written by Daniel Fisher, art directed by Richard Brim and directed by James Rouse through Outsider.

10. Stella Artois ‘Originally Crafted for Christmas’ 2010 – Agency: Mother

Set sometime in the golden age of the 1960s, this Christmas themed version of Stella Artois’ familiar brand of sharp humour doesn’t disappoint. A continental European setting is the backdrop for an elaborate ice sculpture competition. Stella Artois say the ad “is a playful take on the care and dedication that go into ‘crafting’ the winning ice sculpture, and relates back to the care and dedication that go into crafting Stella Artois—the beer originally crafted for Christmas.”

Honourable mention – Stella Artois ‘Ice skating priests’