Some time in the 1980s, I had to come up with a few ideas to help sell phones for BT. The phone market had just been deregulated, and suddenly people were able to buy new-fangled phones as opposed to the old-fangled phones that had been the norm for decades. BT wanted to capitalise on this and were running a Christmas campaign with outdoor as the chosen medium.
One of the 48-sheet poster ideas I came up with featured a boring old brown phone on the left, accompanied by the line ‘Christmas past’, and a shiny new push-button one on the right with the line - and I know you’re ahead of me here - ‘Christmas present’. I never knowingly rip-off or recycle other people’s ideas, so I must honestly have believed that this was the first time anyone had ever used this idea for an ad.
The following year’s crop of Christmas ads disabused me of this notion. And the following year’s.
It’s clear now that in 1988 or whenever it simply became my turn to use the Christmas Past Christmas Present line. Once it had worked its festive magic it went back in the box along with all the other Christmassy lines, only to be dusted off again the following November. They’re like Xmas decorations.
Newspapers do it too, of course. The Daily Mirror was ahead of the game this year with a front page ‘CHRISTMAS CRACKERS’ headline on 15th October (above). The story was about a town that had put its decorations up earlier than the paper deemed appropriate
Now it’s in full swing. In a Costa Coffee the other day I noticed from a take-one that they had ‘Christmas All Wrapped Up’. In what massively disappointing way would that be? Well, they have Brie & Cranberry Paninis, Mince Tarts and Chocolate Cookie Lattes. That’s Christmas Day sorted, then!
Elsewhere we can expect a plethora of annual stalwarts such as ‘Stuff the Turkey!’, ‘Jingle Change this Xmas!’ and variations on the Wise Men riff. Incidentally, my ‘Avoid Turkeys this Christmas’ headline, for a new movie channel, was rejected by my then creative director on the grounds that ‘turkeys’ was an industry expression that no one outside the movie business would understand what it meant.
The ideal Christmas gift
Another perennial treat lies in seeing which dull, everyday products get to be re-packaged as ‘the ideal Christmas Gift’. A couple of examples I’ve seen so far this year have included a garden water butt and laser eye surgery. Feel free to post any others as well as any Christmas headlines I can steal admire.