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Sadvertising: generosity or emotional manipulation?

By Gareth Russell | 15 December 2015

Acoustic cover of a classic pop tune? Check.

Emotive cinematography featuring something cute and Christmassy? Check.

Feature of an act of extraordinary generosity? Check.

Well done. You have yourself an award-winning, record breaking, viral Christmas television advert.
Christmas TV adverts have always been high profile, but in the past few years things have gone up
a gear.

John Lewis have led the way.

Whether it be a toy penguin or a snowman coming alive, the Bear and the Hare or, in 2011 the epic
Long Wait, the department store have made their advertising a national event.

This year, John Lewis went to the moon and back.

Man on the Moon has been a great success, but there is competition.

John Lewis has attracted more social media followers than Sainsbury's over the festive advertising
period, as both Christmas ads went viral on social media. John Lewis picked up 22,000 new Twitter

Clearly, from a commercial and PR perspective the millions of pounds ploughed has paid off.
They play at the heart strings. “Sadvertising” has proved profitable.

But is this simply manipulation to encourage more spending of money that consumers don’t have
or is this a genuine desire to encourage generosity?

You could say the ad agencies are just doing their job. John Lewis, Sainsbury's and M&S all have
very clear objectives - they want to grow their business. Christmas is an important season for the
bottom line. These adverts are designed to encourage spending in their stores.

There is a grey area however. As we share these videos across social media, we become
advocates, ambassadors, endorsers of the message. The message we think we are sharing is one
of generosity, family, and love.

We’re not. Not really. We are encouraging consumerism, accidentally probably.

The true stories of generosity, those that are genuinely acted out of selflessness go untold. The
story of the lady with (literally) nothing in a church who gave £10 so someone could attend a
Christmas party, even though she didn’t go herself.

The story of thousands of Ice Hockey fans throwing teddy bears on the rink for kids who would
have not been given any toys at Christmas otherwise.

The story of people giving up their time, homes, and money for the homeless throughout winter so
that they didn’t have to endure extreme conditions on the streets.

These are the stories that should be told. These are the stories that should be celebrated. They
should go viral.

They don’t have marketing budgets. They don’t have a desire to be known. But, unlike the
Christmas adverts, they are real. They are inspiring. They are an example of what it really means to
be generous.


Read more like this:

WATCH: the #AdventWonder film for 2015

What to do when Christmas loses its sense of wonder

10 generous things to do with your kids this Christmas


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