In which it really does look like a swell party.

To be printed 17/12/09.

Now, I have been thinking very long and hard about this, and I genuinely believe that the Iceland Christmas ad might be the best one this year. No, seriously. Hear me out.

On first viewing, Coleen and Jason’s musical finger food spectacular was a queasy affair – while they sing about prawns and chocolate coated strawberries, we still have to fight with associated images of the absent Katona, serving up a platter of cold kebab. But after a few runs it had me sold. Partly because Donovan brings such razzy star quality to the proceedings, partly because it’s the only one that bears any resemblance, albeit on a massive, overstyled scale, to anyone’s actual Christmas, and partly, most crucially, because all the other ads this year are cack.

Waitrose’s is a dour effort, all Celtic warbling and scenes of trawlermen trudging through snow. In fact it’s so melancholy that each time I see it, it takes until halfway through to remember it’s about Christmas food at all, and not an advert for a homeless charity (shame too, because I’m always on the brink of giving money to the charity but will never be able to justify shelling out for their venison mince pies). Then Boots have gone all Loose Women on us, will the ill-judged promise that their products will turn you into the screechy office girls in the restaurant people spend all night wanting to slap.

The Sainsbury’s one is boring, just Jamie in a van with some pastry, while Morrisons have stretched both their peppy Take That soundtrack and Richard Hammond’s commercial appeal to snapping point. I can’t even remember the Tesco’s one. Oh yes, Faye Ripley pretending to be married to Mark Addy. Dubious.

Even M&S have got it wrong, largely through the belief that the true essence of yuletide for all of us is watching Noemie Lenoir dance about in her pants. Here’s a tip, M&S: when I’m about to embark on a fortnight of near-superhuman eating, I don’t want to have to look at a semi-naked supermodel. I want to see Dawn French with a sign saying “have another bit of stilton, your hips look fine”.

Meanwhile, After Eights are trying to sell themselves with the slogan ‘Nobody leaves’, surely the most misguided advertising concept since ‘You’re Never Alone With a Strand’. It’s just stupid. Everyone wants their guests to leave. It’s the best bit of the party. However much you love your friends and family, however abundant your social spirit and burning desire to be the hostess with the mostess, there’s still nothing better than waving them off at the door and retreating into an empty house to undo your waistband and attack the leftovers.

So, After Eight, you want to crush that dream? You’re saying that if I buy your chocolates, my party will escalate into some sort of mad reverse-hostage situation, with guests taking up residence in my airing cupboard, eating all my cheese and never contributing to the water bill? Are you effectively reminding us of the rarely-evoked Mint Chocolate Clause in the Squatters’ Rights Act? Are you?

To conclude, then, Christmas has gone a bit deluded this year. Amidst all the snowy roadtrips, pushing trollies through fields and dancing through cardboard forests in your scanties, Iceland has managed to come out as the only option that looks like something approaching fun. If Coleen thinks that the best cure for the winter blues is a mini duck’s nest, who am I to argue otherwise?


A left-field choice for X-factor, then, in picking a winner’s song all about reaching for your dream, overcoming obstacles and never giving up. Personally my money was on a cover of the Ramones’ Teenage Lobotomy, but I guess I underestimated Simon’s creative vision. Anyway, well done Gareth! I mean, Leon. I mean, Joe...