The festive season and the Life Energy Experiment

Although the John Lewis Christmas promo’ is arguably the most eagerly-anticipated television advertisement of the festive season, it’s the Marks and Spencer one that has made the bigger impact on me. With its film-quality production values and multi-layered messages, it works on a number of levels and is a very clever piece of advertising.

If you haven’t seen it, simply check out #MrsClaus on Twitter and you’ll find it.

Actually, the particular advert I’m referring to appears to be one of a little series. It depicts the wily Mrs Christmas providing a last-minute gift solution in answer to a letter from a little boy whose tearful sister has lost her best shoes… to the dog.

The advertisement is clearly aimed at women, who are still the most likely members of any family unit to be doing the bulk of the Christmas shopping (even in 2016). There’s the clever product placement in the clothes Mrs Claus wears and the mince pies she eats, as well as in the gift she delivers. Let’s face it, Mrs C is stylish, sophisticated and she would probably have a trolley if she shopped in M&S (the ultimate sign for my family that you had “made it” when I was growing up in t’ North).

Further, there’s no need for traditional methods for our heroine, unlike her bearded husband who departs in the usual way on Christmas Eve with sleigh and reindeer. With a magical vault of ready-prepared gifts (ready-meal, anyone?), Mrs Claus moves fast, using skidoo, helicopter and fast car to reach her destination. She eschews the chimney in favour of a more magical entrance and beats Father Christmas back home to the North Pole, her secret kept safely to herself. As the advertisement mirrors life (and gift-giving), we have a tension between ‘tech vs. traditional’ where technology wins hands down. We also see the savvy woman beating her man at his own game, but letting him think that he’s done it all himself.

In spite of evoking the spirit of Christmas, I can’t help feeling that, for some, this type of advertising might not resonate quite as much as intended. In 21st Century Britain, the nuclear family has evolved. It now takes many forms. The formulaic 2.4 kids and dog is still prevalent in my part of the world but I would wager that this wouldn’t be the case thoughout many cities and towns across many parts of the UK. Hard-working partners will also remind their spouses that whilst they might not be doing the actual shopping, they’re certainly contributing to the actual paying.

Yet, as I watched the advertisement, it still brought a tear to my eye, as I remembered Christmases past with loved ones no longer with us. Will it make me rush out to Marks and Spencer to buy presents? No, of course not. But as my own husband reminded me, we give and receive gifts as tokens of love. We shouldn’t be so cynical if we remember that the John Lewis and Marks and Spencers of this world do perform a service for weary workers who appreciate a quick gift solution this Christmas.

As for Minimalist me, I have written about gifting here before. I’d urge you to think carefully about your Christmas shopping this year. Who made the gifts you’re buying? Will the presents on which you spend your hard earned cash bring you or their recipients value, fulfilment and satisfaction? Join me in my Life Energy Experiment this month, as I continue to ask this question of everything I buy.

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