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Scenes of different xmas adverts
Image: Time Out / Jamie Inglis

The best Christmas adverts of 2023, from John Lewis to Aldi

It’s that time of year again

Written by
Alice Savile

’Tis the season when festive ads flood our screens, assaulting our eyeballs with a heady combination of sentiment, cinematic production values and naked product placement. Business as usual, you might think. But 2023 marks a bit of a changing of the guard in the Christmas advert stakes. The soundtracks are getting punchier, the punchlines are getting funnier, and the stories are getting less slushy. 

As the mood shifts, new champions are emerging. Former titan John Lewis is floundering at the bottom of the league. Where once, supermarkets Waitrose and Sainsbury’s launched mega budget, hyper-ambitious mini cinematic epics, this year their adverts amount to lists of products to buy. Two big corporations are avoiding each other’s gaze after they both cast Hannah Waddingham – as embarrassing as women who turned up to the office party wearing identical sparkly jumpsuits. Meanwhile, newer entrants to the game are emerging to take the crown of best Christmas ad in town. Read on to see them ranked from worst to very best. Drum roll please…

2023’s top festive TV adverts, ranked

A boy pointing at a xmas tree
Image: John Lewis

John Lewis

Frankly, it’s a shock to see John Lewis coming in at bottom place, since it practically invented the Christmas ad as we know it – 2011’s showstopper The Long Wait initiated a long run of unapologetically sentimental tear-jerkers exploring worthy festive themes like loneliness or foster care. But this year, John Lewis is chucking away that legacy (and its former ad agency) like crumpled wrapping paper. It’s summoned in the talents of French maverick collective Megaforce for a determinedly silly tale of a boy who plants a ravenous venus fly trap Christmas tree called Snapper. It looks right (cute kid, snowy suburbia). But it feels monstrously derivative of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, with none of the bite.

The song: Inexplicably, we’ve got Andrea Bocelli singing Italian song ‘Festa’

Magic factor: 1/10. As limp as a cracker with no bang 

Supermarket worker
Image: Sainsbury’s


Look, I will admit that the purpose of an advert is technically to sell stuff. But not at Christmas, guys! This ad is just a thinly-veiled excuse to list foods you can buy from Sainsbury’s festive range, inspired by a cute little girl asking ‘What does Santa have for dinner?’ Hey, kiddo, I hate to be the one to break this to you: but there’s literally no way he shops at a mid-range British supermarket. He probably dines on obscure Arctic delicacies like rendered whale fat and sautéed puffin livers. That might not be very magical, but the truth rarely is.

The song:
Classic 1978 retro instrumental track ‘Ski Sunday Theme’

Magic factor: 2/10. Minimal, but it did make me crave a no-beef Wellington

Two older women
Image: Amazon


I’ve never seen a company more unabashedly aim for the Grey Pound than Amazon with this rose-tinted nostalgia fest. Three sweet old grey-haired ladies sit on a park bench, watching kids go sledging – then they get in on the act, buying soft bum cushions from Amazon so they too can sledge in comfort. Okay, fine. But surely one of the great things about getting old is that you can enjoy proper grown-up entertainments like bitching about your neighbours over a lukewarm sherry, instead of buying online tat to stay down with the kids?

The song: A rousing instrumental take on The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’

Magic factor: 4/10. As weak as an alcohol-free trifle

People at a Christmas party
Image: Waitrose


As the cozzie livs bites, Waitrose is no doubt finding it trickier than ever to lure people through its doors: yeah, closet poshos everywhere will protest that the staple range is remarkably good value but get loose in the chiller cabinets and you’ll come out with an overdraft longer than Santa’s shopping list. Its Xmas ad is an unapologetic celebration of delicious food and its ability to rescue the lamest party. It’s not massively original but it is fun, showcasing party disasters like getting locked in the toilet or blowing the fuses. Plus: look, there’s Graham Norton, clutching a golden buche de noel!

The song: ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ by Depeche Mode (banger)

Magic factor: 6/10. As joyful as the fizz of popping candy on your tongue

Hannah Waddingham
Image: Baileys


I don’t know who made Hannah Waddingham the official spirit of Christmas but God she’s good at it: this Bailey’s advert has her leading a choir that’s joyfully hymning the creamy delights of Mum’s favourite festive tipple. It slips down a treat, and that tune will be lodged in your brain all December long. But unlike Baileys in your morning hot chocolate, it’s not really a game-changer, is it?

The song:
Peppy vocal stylings by The Gold Vocal Collective

Magic factor: 6.5/10. A little tingle in the fingertips (is it enchantment or delirium tremens?)

A raccoon with a monkey toy
Image: Lidl


This animal-based fable is an ad in the old John Lewis school: soothing girlish vocals, unabashed family-focused sentimentality, and a neat happy ending. And you know what? There’s room for all that at Christmas. Especially when it’s all in aid of getting people to donate toys to kids in need (via Lidl’s new toy bank). But even so, this story of a big-hearted racoon who helps make a family’s Christmas magical doesn’t entirely hang together. Like, where exactly is it set? A place where racoons live in backyards, but that still looks suspiciously English? And why is there a monkey, unless Lidl’s bosses decided it’ll be easy to flog toys off? The trick with this one is to not think too hard. Just look at those cute, furry faces – way different than the mangy foxes locked in eternal power struggles in your own garden.

The song:
A slushy number called ‘Guide the Way Back Home’ by Charlie Holiday

Magic factor: 7/10. Like a puppy gazing up in you in befuddled adoration

Christmas decoration
Image: M&S


Hannah Waddingham’s second festive outing sees her gamely attempting some craft (hot glue gun and cotton wool, combo of nightmares), alongside a bunch of telly names in M&S’s refreshingly down-to-earth 2023 ad. Then the festive rebellion starts. The gang start shredding crackers and declaring war on Elf on the Shelf (plus, in an out-take that sparked a huge online controversy, burning party hats reportedly in the colours of the Palestinian flag). ‘This Christmas, do only what you love,’ declares the ultimate, characteristically M&S message of self-indulgence. How far do they want us to take this? Is M&S giving us permission to sack off the washing up, slam the door in the face of carollers, or kick Grandad in the shins when he asks for more whiskey? Unclear, but it’s all kind of liberating.

The song:
Ray BLK’s moody cover of Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’

Magic factor: 1/10. But that’s the point so I’ll allow it

An animated carrot
Image: ALDI


Okay, this one is fun. It’s a riff on Willy Wonka where anthropomorphic foods visit ALDI’s Christmas dinner factory to goof around in rivers of gravy. ‘Christmas isn’t selfish, it’s not all ‘me me me’,’ the sanctimonious rhyming voiceover reminds them, but only Kevin the Carrot gets the message. His reward? The cheese keys to the factory. Thoughtful children might be concerned by the cannibalistic implications of this story, where foods deemed morally good get to dine on the naughty, doomed little kiwis or rhubarbs. Who cares? There’s no Christmas cosiness without the icy chill.

The song: Adventure movie style instrumental stylings: it’s all about the narration here

Magic factor: 8/10. As wondrous as opening the fridge on Boxing Day morning

People waiting outside of Boots
Image: Boots


No one saw it coming but Boots has become unexpectedly great at Christmas ads, mixing a warm heart with squeaky-clean storytelling. This year’s offering is an indie flick in miniature: a madcap mother and daughter road trip to give Santa a present, full of tongue-in-cheek touches of product placement (they give the brand’s anti-aging serum to a grizzled van driver, and a Soap & Glory gift set to a whiffy looking Arctic explorer). If only they’d invest the same resources in pepping up their limp meal deal sandwiches, huh?

The song: The retro charms ofI’m Gonna Get There Somehow’ by 1960s Irish pop star Val Doonican

Magic factor: 9.5/10. An alchemist’s explosion of pure festive joy

ICYMI: The 16 Best Christmas Events in London 2023

Plus: The best Christmas markets in the UK for magical festive shopping

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