It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time when agencies and brands treat us to some of their best and most emotional storytelling. In the past decade, we’ve seen holiday commercials that reimagined WWI, reunited us with E.T., and blessed us with a menagerie of memorable characters who rekindled our Christmas spirit every year. We’ve been moved by a fire-breathing dragon, a lovable monster, a bouncy boxer, precious penguins, a sensitive snowman, and the Man on the Moon, and that’s just from British stalwart John Lewis.
If there was ever a year we needed extra holiday spirit, it’s 2020, and looking at this year’s spots, brands are certainly feeling that too. While some years are just ok, the humanity and storytelling in this year’s commercials are outstanding. As an advertising agency and students of creativity, we’ve seen a bunch. But these 10 caught our eye and really stuck with us as the best of the best among 2020’s holiday fare:
No. 10 – Aldi – “Kevin The Carrot”
Aldi continues the holiday adventures of Kevin the Carrot with this beautifully animated “gotta get home for Christmas” story with musical nods to “Home Alone,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and a quick visual homage to “E.T.” toward the end. Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent narrates and plays a wonderful Santa.
No. 9 – McDonald’s UK – “Inner Child”
From “A Christmas Carol” to “The Polar Express,” holiday classics have explored our penchant for losing and rediscovering the childlike belief in Christmas for decades. This moving little spot from McDonald’s in the UK follows a tween and his Mom as he fights to grow up while she hangs on to the happy little boy she knows is still inside him. Backed by a beautiful cover of “Forever Young” by English singer/songwriter Becky Hill.
No. 8 – Disney UK – “From Our Family To Yours”
Few brands have the generational staying power or international relevance that Disney does and that is on full display in this touching spot from Disney UK. With echoes of Pixar’s “Coco,” this precious spot about thoughtfulness, family, and love packs the wallop of a 2-hour film into three minutes. Beautiful soundtrack from British singer/songwriter Griff.
No. 7 – SuperValu Ireland – “We Believe”
During the holidays, nothing is more important than family. Thanks to COVID-19, that will be put to the test for many of us this year like never before. This fantastic little spot for SuperValu reminds us that sometimes just believing is all that’s required for magic to happen.
No. 6 – LEGO – “And I Think To Myself”
This year’s award for holiday production design goes to this delightful spot from LEGO. Set against a kid-sung arrangement of “What A Wonderful World,” a group of young boys and girls imagine a world filled with dragons and princesses, astronauts and dinosaurs, cops and robbers, and Star Wars Stormtroopers, all made real by LEGO.
No. 5 – John Lewis – “Give A Little Love”
While less story-focused than years past, this charming spot from John Lewis seamlessly blends live action with 2D and 3D animation to create a touching portrait of love and paying it forward. The spot is backed by a memorable original song by British singer Celeste called “A Little Love.”
No. 4 – Hobby Lobby – “Christmas Is What You Make It”
This year’s addition to Hobby Lobby’s beautiful “Christmas Is What You Make It” campaign finds two twenty-somethings who live next door, but who haven’t really met. That changes thanks to a series of homemade Christmas ornaments, but it’s not until the final reveal that we see how special the connection really is.
No. 3 – Amazon – “The Show Must Go On”
Among all of this year’s spots, to us, three stood out above the rest for their humanity, their relevance, and their emotional punch. This stunning spot for Amazon is a Master Class in storytelling. The performances, direction, and editing are fantastic. Even the minimal product placement at the end adds the perfect crescendo to a beautiful story of love, thoughtfulness, and perseverance.
No. 2 – KOHL’s – “Give With All Your Heart”
This intimate little spot for Kohl’s beautifully captures how many of us have felt this year in isolation, quarantine, and lockdown. While a number of spots have included COVID-19 as an element of the story, none did it better than this commercial about an unlikely friendship. Great performances, a moving ending that’s simply perfect, and Willie Nelson singing “The Rainbow Connection.”
No. 1 – Coca-Cola – “Letter To Santa”
It was really close among our top three, but our vote for best holiday spot of the year goes to this epic hero’s journey that shows just how far we’ll go for those we love. The 2:30 minute spot is an emotional rollercoaster with pitch-perfect timing and a product placement that’s both integral and restrained. The emotional ending right down to the final frames captures the spirit of Christmas beautifully!
Here’s to getting what you most want for the holidays this year!