/ Shopping, Technology

Littlewoods ad puts crass into Christmas

Children dressed up as stars in Littlewoods ad

In their attempt to convince us to shop in their stores, Littlewoods advertisers have, in my mind, created a crass Christmas campaign that champions commercialism. Doesn’t anyone buy board games anymore?

It must have been an interesting discussion at Littlewoods’ HQ when its advertising planners – misty-eyed with hoped-for profits – came up with its Christmas advertising campaign.

Imagine the high fives and whoops of joy as Littlewoods ticked off the components of its latest ads. School Christmas play? Check. Cute-as-a-button, bright-eyed kids in costumes? Check. Singing? Oh yes. Catwalk model parents? Check. Unbridled, utterly unashamed, gadget-laden, gimme gimme gimme commercialism? Double check that.

Barefaced Christmas commercialism

Littlewoods’ Christmas Gift Ideas advertising campaign (embedded below) is a triumph of barefaced commercialism that to my mind chucks aside any Christmas spirit in an attempt to pester parents to splash out on expensive techno toys.

The result is adorable children thanking their mums for buying £1,000 laptops, cameras, Xbox consoles and smartphones. Or, as Littlewoods humbly puts it, ‘the things they really want this Christmas’. Mum just looks on with glowing pride – presumably because her credit card statement hasn’t arrived. Here it is, in case you’ve been lucky enough to miss it so far:

That Christmas and advertising go hand-in-hand is nothing new. Even that red-clad, chubby image of today’s Santa complete with white trim is itself a mere product of Coca-Cola’s 1930s advertising genius. But as families are being squeezed financially in the run up to Christmas, advertising is getting more blatant – and desperate.

Can Santa deliver?

Worryingly, the expectations being set around Christmas toys and gadgets for kids are sky high. Consoles, cameras, phones, tablets and PCs are now making the lists to Santa at the expense of more traditional – and arguably more fun – gifts, such as board games, crafts, books, puzzles and models. The increase in Christmas expenditure on toys – an average of £168 per child in 2010 – is a huge challenge for many families.

To me, this ad from Littlewoods flies in the face of its corporate claim of having ‘something for every family and home’ – because viewers will be left cold at the staggering costs of the products it is pitching. One YouTube commenter reckoned it would cost over £2,000 to mirror the generosity of the Littlewoods’ mum.

Sure, we can’t escape cheesy Christmas ads that desperately seek to exploit the season of goodwill. But, I believe, companies like Littlewoods would be better to reflect the genuine challenges families face in gift-giving this Christmas, rather than piling on the pressure to splash out on gadgets.

Tracy says:
21 November 2011

Also don’t forget the fact if my children catch wind of this advert I’ll have explaining to do. Thanks a bunch Littlewoods…my children still believe in Father Christmas!

Jeremy says:
21 November 2011

So you’re saying a retailer has gone to lengths to glamourize holiday spending and influence people to buy gadgets? Atrocious.

I think the main point is about this *specific* ad – of course we wouldn’t expect retailers to recommend giving children homemade gifts, or avoid presents altogether, but this ad itself is so blatant.

I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing when I first saw it – it essentially implies that if the Mum wants to show her children she loves them then she had better cough up for an Xbox. Slightly more out-there than the general messages of ‘buy this and your life will be better’ that we’re used to with Christmas ads.

My initial gut feeling was that Littlewoods had decided that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ and planned an ad so horrid that people would talk about it, as we’re doing on this convo =)

This is little short of sad.

It’s time for Which? to take a stand against consumerism. Thank goodness they don’t use their official name of the Consumers’ Association nowadays.

OK, I can’t resist. The Littlewoods website offers a buy-now-pay-later deal of up to 12 months. Repay the bill in full within the 12 months and you won’t pay any interest. Repay the whole amount a day outside the 12 month period and they’ll backdate the interest to the day you bought the item and charge you an APR of 32.9%.

The back of my fag packet says that on the £2,000 purchase mentioned above:

Repay within 12 months and the interest = £0
Repay a day later and the interest = £658

Yes, an extra £658 in interest for delaying by ONE DAY. Happy Christmas kids.

Good point Martyn. Maybe credit providers should be required to provide conspicuous warnings like those we see on cigarette packets.

Ah, but Christmas comes around again in 12 months. If you haven’t repayed last year’s loan, how are you going to buy even more presents next Christmas? One way or another they will get your money!

But seriously, who in their right mind would spend money on Christmas presents that they can’t afford now, or at least to be able to repay before next time? I think it is right that people have an incentive not roll over their Christmas and holiday loans, although it would be far better if this came through regulation, rather than punitive interest rates from greedy retailers.

Chris says:
21 November 2011

I agree that this advert is awful for many of the reasons people have already said:
Crass is just the right word for this advert. It’s appalling for so many reasons:
The gifts are all ridiculously expensive
…but it’s ok if we can’t afford them – we should just get into crippling debt
Santa’s out the window
My mum is “lovely” only because she bought all this stuff. I know we live in consumerist times, but do we need to revel in it!

In fact, it’s made me so mad that I’ve voted for it as the Worst Christmas advert. Maybe if enough of us do, Littlewoods will realise they’ve scored a massive own goal and pull it?

(and Martyn’s APR calculations are perhaps EVEN more shocking!)

If you’re interested in how the £2,000 figure came about, Citywire’s Victoria Bischoff has priced up the items in the Littlewood’s ad – and yes, it does come to at least £2,000: http://citywire.co.uk/money/should-mums-spend-2000-on-christmas-presents/a539300

I’m not even going to go into what I think about this ad, but I thought I’d comment to say that Littlewoods has been accused of removing complaints on Facebook about its Christmas TV ad, following a consumer backlash: http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1105469/littlewoods-censors-facebook-backlash-christmas-spot/ I think that might make the backlash worse…

Let me add to the backlash bit… damage limitation is vigorously under way [sources] and someone’s already hinted to it being ‘pulled’… A “Wow” indeed!! However, got a feeling they might persevere with it, groans all round! Even if modified…. more groans!!

Ad wise.. well, it’s not going to win awards – at least I hope not. AND very serious questions need to be asked over ‘unsaid’ content. RATING… Avoid.

Perhaps we should ignore what is written on Facebook. I’m sure that I am not the only one who regards it as of considerable unimportance.

Just a note, Littlewoods has denied that it has deleted negative comments – it only deletes comments which are ‘abusive or offensive’. It says that some comments were marked as spam by Facebook, which takes Littlewoods time to approve.

Its time we went back to having a satsuma and a handful of nuts in stockings and nothing else – and that includes the kids. All this stuff doesn’t make people happy, it just makes them greedy, spoilt and discontented. By the end of Christmas morning we’ve cast our presents aside and are either arguing, eating, drinking or sleeping. Bits of plastic, even with lots of technology inside, are hardly life affirming gifts. Lets all give vouchers for a walk in the countryside or a game of Scrabble with family and friends.

Sounds a grand idea Sue, but it does not fit in with boosting the economy, which seems to be a high priority.

I feel sorry for those who are religious and have had Christmas and Easter hijacked by consumerism.

Continuous growth based on rampant consumerism is costing the Earth. In time we will all have to get used to a different economic reality with fewer goods and services, less money and more homespun living if we are to avoid destroying our planet and ourselves in the process……and I think we’d all be happier for it.

I completely agree Sue, but what we think is not going to make much difference. Consumerism is alive and well among contributors to Which? Conversation and any suggestion that we should be more responsible is likely to be met with criticism by those who demand their right to personal freedom in all matters.

The best chance we have of breaking out of consumerism is if consumerism becomes unfashionable and those who behave irresponsibly are subject to ridicule.

Have a good Christmas!

Congrats to both Sue and Wavechange for being in this week’s comment round-up. But also to Wavechange for passing 1,000 comments! For this, you’re our commenter of the week! https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/this-week-in-comments-cycling-showers-wonky-veg/

Thanks very much. I find the contributions fascinating, and for me it is a substitute for watching TV. Thanks to you and your team for providing a diversity of topics for discussion.

So, the Advertising Standards Authority has received 456 complaints about Littlewoods’ ad, but not about how crass it is, but because it ruins the tradition that Santa brings presents by revealing mums do all the shopping. Most complaints want the ad to be played later, but the ASA has said:

“After careful consideration ASA council has decided that, as the ad did not make reference to Father Christmas or suggest Father Christmas did not exist, it was unlikely to cause distress to children and therefore we won’t be launching an investigation,” the regulator said.


Don’t shop at Litttlewoods–its always been a dreadful store , a mix of Woolworths and a Pound store, and any business that hopes to improves its share of the Christmas Spending Bonanza by implying that there is NO such thing as Father Christmas is abominable. Our children are allowed very little time to BE children and surely we should encourage them to believe in the magic of Christmas for that time! Mothers don’t just do the buying, they do the cooking, the cleaning, and the thinking, for Christmas, and they love to see to look of wonder on the faces of small children when they see Christmas Lights, the Christmas Tree and believe that Father Christmas WiLL visit them if they have been good. Bah Humbug to Littlewoods-I hope they LOSE business ove rthi!

Mickey D says:
30 November 2011

This one ad encapsulates all that signifies where our destiny as a society is going inexorably and vertiginously down into – the drain. Want want want shiny shiny things, speaking ‘proper’ is uncool and ‘urban’ culture rules – more riots and looting, wow can’t wait.

Vertiginously? I probably won’t be the only one to resort to a dictionary. I will add it to my list of deprecatory terms.

Careful, Wavechange–you’ll get your wrist slapped for straying from the thread of the topic–THEY don’t like it–and almost certainly won’t print this!