Looking at this year’s calendar, I’d say we have two more weeks of normality ahead of us before we will be bombarded with Yuletide cheer. Already the first signs have, no matter how insidiously, started to creep up on us with, as always, supermarkets the first to jump on the end of year bandwagon. Schools count down and slow down, friends and family carefully inquire ‘at whose’ the festivities will take place this year, Lego predicts a huge shortage of bricks, and, my personal favourite, major manufacturers and retailers turn storytellers, trying to melt our hearts and make us spend, using Christmas ads.
Corny, colourful, tear-jerkingly sentimental and funny, Christmas ads perfectly encapsulate our deepest, neediest Christmas wishes.
Coca Cola knows we want joy, Ferrero knows we want Mon Cheri, Sainsbury’s knows we want wars to end and soldiers to shake hands, Mulberry knows every woman wants one of their bags rather than a unicorn and Tiffany instinctively knows that when it is all too red, we want a bit of blue.
They know what we want.
But perhaps we want something else too. Christmas is after all about sharing and giving. In the UK, John Lewis has therefore come up with a different campaign, linking its blatant publicity with raising awareness for AgeUK. Good. So here we have little Lily, looking through her mega telescope as all young kids do, when she spots an old man, living in a shack on the moon. Touched by his sadness and solitude, she tries to get in contact with him and eventually finds a way of floating a gift his way; you guessed it, a telescope.
“Show someone they’re loved this Christmas.”
Oops John Lewis. Oops and oops again.
Let me illuminate you.
Children should not, unsupervised that is, contact strangers. Children should not remain unsupervised to begin with. Furthermore, never spy on neighbours, no matter how far they live, through a telescopic device. Never offer a neighbour, no matter how far off he/she lives a telescopic device, enabling him/her to spy on you. And most of all, John, OLD PEOPLE DO NOT LIVE ON THE MOON.
Old people live amongst, with, next to, above, under and across from us and everybody else. They are part of our families and our neighbourhoods.
‘Old people’ is not a species.
AgeUk and many other organizations worldwide make it their priority to find strategies to help break down generational barriers. Having the Lilys of the world gaze at the stars at Christmas time and letting balloons carry the empathic weight of our bleeding hearts is not one of them.
It is easy, making an ad (slash tear-jerker) to emotionally manipulate and blackmail consumers, pretending to sell them what money can’t buy. At Christmas this is easier still.