As the major retailers showcase their 2016 Christmas ads, we reveal our pick of the festive delights…

Playing to the British love of animals, and apparently conscious that last year’s Man on the Moon ad may have been a little too bleak, John Lewis has warmed the nation’s heart for 2016 with its Buster the Boxer campaign. The bouncing dog (and assorted wildlife who got to test the trampoline first) definitely score high on the ‘aaaahhh’ factor, but where John Lewis has been particularly clever is in the amplification of its (eye-wateringly high) ad spend. There have been Snapchat filters featuring Buster, Twitter stickers and behind the scenes wildlife footage from TV presenter Patrick Aryee on Sky. John Lewis also created a virtual reality version of the ad in its flagship Oxford Street store and avid fans can buy everything from plush toy foxes and badgers, to animal themed children’s books and of course trampolines. In the spirit of goodwill at Christmas it has also agreed to donate 10% of all its toy sales to The Wildlife Trusts charity.

Rather than tugging on our heartstrings, Lidl chose to continue its 2016 theme of #lidlsurprises which has sought to challenge people’s perception of the brand. Following a tweet in which she imagined a ‘prison of turkeys’ at Lidl’s turkey farms, shopper ‘Debbie’ is given a tour to see for herself by farmer Tony Kerry who has been rearing poultry in Norfolk for over 20 years and supplies Lidl with its turkeys. The advert shows Debbie’s surprise at discovering the birds grazing free range, proving the provenance and quality of Lidl’s food, before ending on a cheerier note with her joining the farm’s Christmas party and a table laden with festive goodies.

Sainsbury’s pulled out all the stops with a whopping three-minute animated film and a soundtrack supplied by James Corden to give a moral message that among all the seasonal craziness, Christmas should be about remembering family time above all else. While some might argue the ad is a little too long, it’s a strong animation with plenty of humour and memorable moments and you can even stream James Corden’s song on Spotify. Sainsbury’s also stuck with their theme of previous years that ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ and have chosen a strong charity to share with too in Great Ormond Street Hospital. The children’s charity will receive profits from sales of a stop-frame animation kit and gingerbread men, creating further depth for the campaign.

So who was the winner? Lidl and Sainsbury’s have sensibly used the Christmas ads to support their existing campaign themes, cementing the sentiment in the  minds of consumers in the process. John Lewis on the otherhand has probably been the most talked about and the most parodied across social media (our favourite was the disappointed Hilary Clinton and Obama version). But overall the winner has to be Lidl – in an age of sophisticated CGI and animation, it’s pure simplicity and celebration of British farming leaves the greatest feeling of festive cheer.