M&S and a Paddington Bear Christmas

Marks and Spencer is kicking off the Holiday Season ad campaign overload with an adorable short film involving Paddington Bear. The Guardian ruminates on the ad and on the law of unintended consequences:

It’s a nicely made advert and will surely enhance the reputation of M&S, Paddington 2 and burglars this Christmas. My concern is for the other major, albeit absent, figure in the story: Father Christmas. We’re not going through a phase of unquestioned respect and admiration for patriarchs, so this is a bad time, if Santa’s crucial role in the magic of a child’s Christmas is to be sustained, to remind everyone that fundamentally he’s a big fat guy who breaks into people’s houses. It’s just not a helpful way to think about him if you want to be swept up in the season.

My little brother instinctively thought about Father Christmas that way from an early age, which must have caused severe collateral damage to his sense of wonder. He absolutely did not want any strange beardy mystical old men coming into his bedroom bearing presents, and so diverged from family tradition and, instead of putting his stocking at the foot of his bed, left it downstairs in the sitting room. That was as close as Claus was allowed with his suspicious sackful of offerings. I think, in my brother’s ideal world, it would all have been forwarded from a PO Box.

The M&S advertising team probably reckons the elision in children’s minds of Father Christmas and rooftop miscreants is a price worth paying to push up seasonal pant sales. Particularly as it’s a price they don’t pay themselves. Their own Christmas of CGI bear-induced redemption is yet to come. But all advertisers must surely be aware that it’s not just about what an advert says, but the surrounding mental associations it also conveys.

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